The past year and a half has been a real whirlwind when I look back on it. I went from making a decision to focus solely on my own work in the latter half of 2016 and haven't looked back since. That's not to say that I haven't questioned myself. Anyone who knows me would tell you that questioning myself is probably what I'm best at.
Over this time I have been sending work off to be judged and juried by countless people. I have had the great fortune of having work selected, and of course, more often than not, rejected. You take the good with the bad, forget about the bad, and keep trudging forward. Through all of this, though, I have had some wonderful opportunities that never would have happened had I not decided to throw caution to the wind and put myself out there. If you are an artist of any medium reading this and haven't done so, I highly advise you start putting your work out there for a larger audience to see, critique, and question. It can be nerve wracking and painful at times, but in the end it is far more rewarding than asking yourself down the line, "what if?" Listen to those around you when they give you encouragement, even if you don't believe it. As one peer said to me when I questioned the validity of my own work, "You've been looking at it too long." Don't let your own notions hold you back, we are our own worst critic.
I mention all of this because I still have these lingering feelings and self criticisms that are hard to shake. I'm far more confident about my work and the direction I'm headed, but getting used to this being "what I do" has taken time. I'm a lot more reserved than some of the people who know me might think, and as much as I desire to talk about my work, I sometimes have a hard time mustering the forwardness to bring attention to myself. That probably seems odd as you read this since this is exactly what tend to do in this blog; however, you the reader are not sitting in the room with me either.
The mix of confidence and questioning, though, has brought me to a point that I didn't think I would be a year ago. Not only am I going to another opening where I'll try not to hide myself, but I'm traveling. I've done this twice before and found a lot of reward in it, beyond the traveling itself. Last year I went to both Portland, Oregon, and Zebulon, Georgia, for shows in which I had work. Outside of a good excuse to go somewhere new and/or fun, traveling to these places solo can be a good exercise in breaking through one's shell and establishing a confidence you didn't know you had.
What I found from both my trips last year was a fresh and new look at not only my own work, but that of others and how the two play off each other in similarities and differences. Talking to other artists who are outside of your bubble can give you perspective far beyond what you would get at home. I love the community of artists in my own area, but as I've told people before, and was told before by others, you need to get outside of that home sphere.
For the third time in a year I'm leaving my comfortable sphere of home and traveling because of my photography. Trust me when I say that comment still sounds a little foreign to me. What's new and different this time is that I'm going overseas, by myself, to a country that I have no knowledge of the official language, to be at an opening. I will be going to Budapest, Hungary at the end of March. I'm reading what I just typed and still it seems crazy, but good crazy. I'm sure I'll have more to say about this when I get back, and I'll definitely share about it come April, but I expect this to be as rewarding as the last two adventures (they are adventures).
If you have work in a gallery and it's outside of your town, even if its only two towns over, try and make it to the opening. As I mentioned previously, getting an outsider's perspective is something that is indispensable. Make an effort to talk to other artists, patrons of the gallery, and even gallery managers. You never know, you could make some great connections that will help you down the road. The worst that happens is you get to see somewhere new and have the knowledge that everyone there had the opportunity to see your work, people that never would have if you didn't put it out there to be seen.