I’ve read it in all kinds of books about creativity, design, art and even business: be prolific. In other words, make a lot of stuff (however you define “stuff”). It’s really the best way to make sure your skills improve, your project is seen, your business takes off, you make a living… you know what I mean. But there’s another side to the “prolific” coin: editing. If you’re not producing much then you better hope it’s all great; if you make a lot of stuff, you’ll have choice. If you’re producing tons of work, maybe most of it’s good (but probably not), but not all of it’s great. It’s the great work that takes you to the next level. Art galleries don’t show everything, they edit and select what’s best and what’s suited to a specific show. It’s called curation. Present only the greatest stuff to the world so they don’t have to sift through the crap you’re also creating.
In my experience, hosting art events with open art calls really proves this point. In the first year of Hot One Inch Action we asked for “one submission per artist” and that worked for the most part. A few people submitted more than one piece and we accepted them and made the choice for them. As the shows progressed, we realized that the same people were submitting more than one piece or asking which we like best. At the same time, we were receiving art from 100+ people (for only 50 spots) so we knew it wasn’t sustainable to first select a piece for one person and then choose for the show. We became more strict with our “one per artist” rule and routinely respond with “pick one and let us know what your submission is.” For some, it’s a difficult task. But it’s a valuable lesson: if you’re unsure about your own stuff, why should I care?
But curation is not just about great work, it’s also about what’s suited to the format of the show. “Why wasn’t my art chosen?” Well, it’s good but it just doesn’t suit a 1″ button, or isn’t dynamic enough for the trading card, or just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the show. “It’s not you, it’s me.” The rejection isn’t what the sensitive artist wants to hear but it’s a reality. “No” hurts. I know, you want to play too. There’s a great article about rejection from The Cheaper Show on The Practical Art World. Sometimes it’s just not right for the show. Present what’s best for the situation and it betters your chance. It’s like tailoring your cover letter and CV for a specific job. We don’t want everything, we want the best candidate.
Don’t worry about the “no.” If you’re producing tons of stuff, editing it and putting your best out there, stuff you love, eventually someone will notice.