Six years ago, in September 2012, I was judge at the Holy Name Art Award in Toowoomba. It was a competition and exhibition for Catholic primary school children from around the Toowoomba area. Judging this week has reminded me of the importance of putting art shows and competitions into a context where it is a positive experience for everyone.
Judging children’s art is problematic, and I felt that my presentation speech warranted more than the simply handing out of awards. Follows is the transcript of the talk I gave. If you are an artist reading this blog, you may well have stories about your experience judging or being judged. Tell us about how you dealt with the conundrum. It’s an important part of what we do, as professional artists, but it has it’s challenges.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I believe:
that the visual arts have a place in everyone’s life:
that children’s creativity is a precious gift for us all
that the efforts of high achievers deserve to be encouraged
The Holy Name Art Prize fulfils these criteria and I’ve been happy to support this art show. I’ve enjoyed the chance to be part of such an exciting and important event.
Let me tell you about art.
I’m a full time artist. That means that every day I get up, go for a run, then go into the studio and make artwork. All day. four days a week. The print of one of my paintings that I’ve donated for the raffle is one of my works.
But that’s only one sort of art, and my way is only one way of making it.
“Art” is bigger than the pictures we make.
“Art” is more that the people who make it.
“Art” is the one thing that can be all things to all people.
But in my opinion there are three elements to being a successful well rounded artist:
1 The act of creativity. The idea. The spark. The thought that says: “what would happen if I did it THIS way”. The value of the creative spark is immeasurable. I’m here tonight, not to judge that spark but to recognize it in the artwork I see. Many artists simply create without ever developing their skills or exhibit their work. They are still artists.
2 The skills in a particular medium help tell that story effectively. I’ll be looking at the way the artists have handled the media they’ve chosen. Some people are just a little bit further down the road of handling a particular medium than others, it doesn’t make them a better or worse artist. There are many successful artists who have mediocre skills – many artists employ skilled craftspeople to make their ideas. They are still artists.
3 The exhibition. A large part of being an artist is taking that out into the world. All the artists here in this show with their work on display are already artists. Many artists never exhibit their work, but for me it’s important to include the audience in the story telling.
Art and Competitions – It’s only my opinion; it’s not the truth.
The winnerstonight are those who,in my opinionhave handled the challenges set out this year. But it’s only my opinion. which mind you, is backed up with 25 years of industry experience and two university degrees – one in visual arts and the other in education.
My first competition The first time I entered a competition I was in year 6. I was very proud of that little painting. I’d thought of the idea myself. I was happy while I was making it. I’d done the best I could and I’d sent it out into the world for everyone to look at…and I didn’t win. The judge said: “…interesting use of the media”. I had no idea what he meant. I was so disappointed. I wasn’t to know that there would be many more competitions over the years in which to enter my art. And that sometimes I’d win and sometimes I wouldn’t. I wasn’t to know that there’d be many more judges and that sometimes they’d like my work and sometimes they wouldn’t. Oftentimes it feels that entering art shows is like buying a lottery ticket.
Girls and Boys, this is my advice to you:
I was very conscious today, looking at all your artwork that you may have been like a small part of me did when I was in year six, and had your eye on the prize instead of your hand on your heart. If you artwork is yours, and you had the idea, and you felt happy while you were doing it, and you did the best you could. And if then you were quite happy to have that work out here on display in this fabulous hall then you have succeeded. If , in my opinion, I chose yours from any the paintings that could have won, then that is just the icing on the cake. In each section I could have chosen four or five more. Next year’s judge will choose something different. On another day I may well have chosen differently.
remember that art is about making things. So do it at any opportunity and you will get better at it
make things for no reason. But when there’s a reason think about the best way to answer that question.
listen to your feelings. Be happy doing it.
learn to trust your own instincts. Ask yourself questions like “ what would happen if it did it … this way”. It’s your artwork even if it doesn’t look like other people’s.
competitions are just opportunities and opinion. They aren’t the truth. The only truth is what you feel when you are making the artwork
Parents, teachers and carers, this is my advice to you:
What can we do to raise artist of the type of problem solving, independent creators who my or may not end up as painters or printmakers or publishers which is the path I’ve chosen as an artist, but who will be artists never the less? ( think Steve Jobs)
we need to allow them the time and the opportunity to create. For no reason except for the joy of making things.
we need to catch them being creative and congratulate them : even if the end result isn’t as refined or completed as we think it should be .
our children need to develop the same sort of “muscle memory” that emerging Soccaroos start to show at an early age, as they kick a football around in the backyard. If they are really enthusiastic about art, thats when we find them a teacher to show them the skills.
As I look around this room I can see it already happening here !
Congratulations to you all.
In this room I see emerging artists and supportive parents. As your judge for 2012 I’ve chosen the artwork that speaks to me the most. Lets see which that is…