Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Of Paper and Pencils and Pride

Last Friday, through a flurry of postings on Facebook pages, emails and phone calls, many of the artists who made the cut and were juried into the 35th anniversary year exhibition of Birds in Art, proudly proclaimed their good fortune. I have been wondering about many of my friends who I did not hear from over this past weekend about whether they made the cut or not. It was a delight to see a posting this morning on the Woodson Art Museum's Facebook page of the entire list of juried artists for 2010.

Even more delightful, amid those listed, well known to me and not so well known, I found the names of three fellow graphite artists; Ray Brown, Cole Johnson and Ryan Jacque. It was most exciting to see those names as what it said to me instantly was that the jury, who considered more than 920 images, selected at the very least, 4 works in graphite to be among the 115 works to hang in this year's exhibition.

On the surface, this might not seem to be a situation warranting mention, but being one of those pencil pushers myself, it was heartening to realize that three independently thinking jurors came to a meeting of minds about our four drawings.

Why, do you ask this to be of heartened realization to me? Over the years that I have been a professional artist, through trials and tribulations and overhearing conversations at gallery events and art exhibitions, it has become apparent to me that many people will not give a drawing even a passing glance or recognition as being something worthy of consideration for addition to a collection.

When I first turned professional in 1990, I was often taken aback at the realization that some would stop and ponder the oil paintings of a neighbor artist at a large scale group art show with 100 or more artists exhibiting side by side, but meander on by my display panels taking little note of my work or even making comments such as 'Oh, just drawings . . . let's see what's next.' It took a while for me to be able to let such things just roll off my shoulders, and by engaging in conversation about my work with those who did stop and look and speak and show interest in my drawings, it became easier for me to let the others just pass on by. The many who did show interest proved to me that my work had worth and importance and was every bit as viable and strong as those paintings that surrounded my drawings.

Over the twenty years now that I have been showing work as a professional, I have seen a very marked change in the acceptance of graphite as a valid medium. Many collectors who may have a dozen or more of my works in their collection, have that work hanging side by side with canvases of their favorite painters, showing no sign of favoritism toward one medium or the other. Of course this is gratifying to me as is the joy I have in seeing more young artists who have chosen graphite as their medium.

With seeing my fellow pencil guys included in the list for the exhibition this morning, it just reinforces what I have felt for some time now about works on paper and especially drawings, being more and more accepted as important pieces of art. If at least four drawings can be included in such a well reputed, world recognized, juried fine art competition such as the Woodson Art Museum's Birds in Art, the sky is the limit as to what those of us who have stuck with the monochromatic medium of graphite may find open to us in the future.

A final brief note, seeing Ryan's name on the list was extra heartening to me as in November of 2008, Ryan suffered a tragic accident from which he is still recovering all these months later. It is only very recently that Ryan has been able to spend even a limited amount of time at his drawing board, translating the incredible talent that he has with a pencil into the stunning works that he signs his name to. To see that he was able to complete a work for jury consideration for this year's exhibition and that it was honored by the jury's ultimate selection, must mean a great deal to Ryan and his family and I hope indicates his continuing return to strength as the remarkable artist that he is.


Kathy Foley said...

Terry, your beautifully written words touched my heart just as your drawings continue to touch my soul! With sincere thanks for your eloquence and passion for the art of drawing.


Brenda Hill said...

Terry, I have been working in graphite for over 17 years and I have heard it all. It seems we have to work so hard for the recognition the medium deserves
Thank you

Lynda Schumacher said...

What you describe is so true, Terry. I work extensively in color pencil as well, which also struggles to gain recognition as a viable medium. It is wonderful that several graphite artists will be featured in 'Birds in Art'. Congratulations.

Sheona Hamilton Grant said...

I agree with Kathy: beautifully written.
the last few years seem to have seen changes in the perception of pencil: like to think it may have something to do with blogging (and other networking tools). The transparency and insights they offer must have a role in helping people understand our medium so much better.
Congratulations and thank you!