Sucking Lemons

It really all comes down to the 10,000 hour thing, doesn’t it?

I recently wrote of native Whidbey Island daughter, Aleah Chapin, who, at the tender age of 26, has just won top prize in the British National Portrait Gallery’s portrait competition.  Oh, and then there was the bit about all her existing paintings selling the moment she got on the short list for the prize.  Let me say again, she is a hard working, extremely talented (not to mention humble) young artist.  So why do I feel like I’ve been sucking lemons every time I think twenty-six and 1st place in the British Portrait Competition, at the same time?  OK, this is definitely about me and not her.

Breathing Fire // copyright Anne Belov 2012


I can still remember being in art school and thinking, well, if I’m not famous by the time I’m 30, well, I’ll just have to kill myself.  I was not famous by the time I was thirty; not even close. I’m not dead yet, either.  As I got closer and closer to that magic, tragic number, I began to see that an art career is a journey and not a destination, at least not by the time you are 30.  I am well past 30 now (and not dead yet) and I’ve been supporting myself from my art work for the last 24 years.  Not too shabby an accomplishment, wouldn’t you say?  There have been some pretty high ups, and some very low downs, but all and all, it’s been a fabulous ride, which is not even close to being over.

If necessity is the mother of invention, I think that struggle is the mother of creativity. It is human nature to think that the other person has it so much easier than you do.  I firmly believe that the difficulties of supporting myself as an artist have enriched my creative vision.  When I teach, I always point out that in art school, I was not a star.  What I was, was stubborn.  Every time our professors pointed out that in 10 years, less than 1% of us would still be painting, I would silently pledge that I would be in that 1%.  Had I not had to work so hard to get where I am, if it had come early and easily, would I be doing what I am doing now? Living an artists life with a (really big-ass) studio and a cat?  I’d like to think so, but we’ll never really know, will we?

Early success, and the attention that comes with it, can be just as damaging to a career as obscurity and struggle.  However, Aleah has drive and talent, and if she is stubborn enough to resist the hype and distractions that this award will bring, she will do even more amazing things as an artist. I wish her the best of luck.

Limone #2 //Egg tempera and oil on linen //Anne Belov // all rights reserved


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