Monday, March 7, 2011

What I learned at the Art at the Arnold

Ashley- Art at the Arnold
 Last year I blogged about the cathartic effect Art at the Arnold had on me.  (see earlier post 10/14/10 about last year!)  This years experience was not as profound in a sense, but no less a learning experience.  If you'll allow me to blather on I'll get my impressions out of my head!

Any time I participate in a competition and see all the amazing artists crank out this phenomenal art I think to myself "what was I thinking?!!"  It's extremely intimidating and my self doubt whispers - "never again should you put your work out next to these other much more accomplished artists!" And, no, it's not different in that sense at the Arnold. 

What is different are the surroundings and the vibe. The Arnold is very much about Arnold.  Last year only the finalist's had a chance to chat with the "Govenator".  I did get some nice shots of the secret service men holding the artists and the throngs of onlookers back!  This year he came by on Saturday to our competition area and graciously spoke to each of us.  To me he commented that watercolor was the hardest medium, which surprised me, so I asked something like "you know watercolor?"  Yes he had tried it years ago and decided it was too hard and left it alone.  I was impressed.  He told me my work was lovely or something and moved on.  What I learned? : Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has his limits!  This is a man who has been the best and a winner at many things- but decided that watercolor too hard!  I may switch to oil! :)

The Arnold is also about competition.  And there was some stiff competition.  I decided early on I was not in the running and was just hoping to produce something that I wasn't embarrassed to show!   Those whose work I admired had put in many more hours honing their skills than I have!  Just like the athletes competing in any of the other events had spent hours practicing and working to compete, so have these amazing artists.  One artist had spent 50 day's doing 50 paintings.  Another had taken life drawing classes since that was not her strong suit.  And my friends are painting all the time!  What I learned? :  I don't need another workshop or better brushes - I need to log more painting time.

At one point early on Saturday, I was so frustrated and so unnerved that I was completely unable to get it together!  This was a critical point and I turned to my friends for help.  They really saved me!  John said "Too much negative space!"  Ugh!  He was right!  I told my friend Karen that I was unable to get a drawing I was pleased with. (and the clock was ticking loudly in my head!)  She said "just redraw it until you get it right- don't go with something you aren't happy with!  And she was right!  What I learned? :  That I can freak myself out and my friends helped me pick myself up and put my skills to work.  I need my friends!

I was much more pleased with my painting last year than this year.  I felt in "the zone" last year while I was painting.  I loved the subject and had a vision when I began the painting.  While I never made the semi-finals, I enjoyed the process and was happy with the painting and that was enough.  That happens to me often.  The stars align and the gods smile on me while I paint and make decisions (a big part of painting) with ease.  That was not the case this year, AT ALL!  I remember years ago watching a documentary on Arnold as Mr. Olympia.  He would try to get into fellow competitors heads with his comments about or too them and that was very much a part of his plan.  In those same sentences he also told himself and others how great he was!

I had let distractions and intimidation by what I saw around me get in my head.  I listened to the voice that tells me "You're no artist!  You can't paint!  You have no business here!" and I didn't counter it with "you can do this! "  What I learned? : To do anything well, you MUST keep your head in the game! 

The winner this year was a very humble young man from Chicago who also competed the day before in some type of race at the Arnold.  After his award I spoke to him and asked how he had done in his race.  He told me he beat last years time and that was what he came to do.  He achieved that goal.  About his first place art award he said that last year his piece would not have even been considered.  That it's all about the judges.  He was probably right.  What I learned? :  All you can do is your best and on any given day it might be judged the best.  Most often, I won't be!  But I will try to beat my personal best every time from now on because that is really all I can do! 

I love Art at the Arnold!

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