It is easy enough, and not particularly stressful, to send off two jpegs to a public competition. It was slightly more stressing to send them off the the Royal Academy in London, especially at a cost of £15.00 for each submission. The RA were selling 15,000 of these. However, the real ride started once an email arrived, saying that one of the submissions had been short-listed for their Summer Show, so would I please hand the picture in to their Burlington Gardens reception centre. It was slightly awkward too because the painting in question was already at my local gallery. Retrieved, with apologies, reframed, mummified in bubblewrap, it was soon on the train (with me) to London.
There were mountains of bubblewrap, discarded packaging, assistants to clear it away (charming), provide scissors, even a tad of encouragement. Other ‘short listers’ arrived, all looking surprisingly anxious, peering neither right nor left, with creaking plastic mummies, some tiny, some the size of sailing ships, some flat, others bumpy.
And then the wait. Weeks. Days ticked off. What would happen if it got in? What if it didn’t? Fame? Fortune? Fiasco? Well, fortunately, Alec, who had shepherded me from Waterloo to the Royal Academy, has a friend who told him about Failure’s second fiddle. The Llewellyn Alexander Gallery has been running a sort of Salon des Refusés for the last twenty five years, and that folk with refused pictures jumped in taxis and took their bruised egos off to Waterloo.
The fateful email arrived. Refused. Ahhhh….
A few weeks later, another train trip south. This time a modest tube journey to Burlington Gardens, clutching a roll of now battered packing materials. Other folk gloomily repacking their pictures. No eyes met. I expected to see them all in half an hour at the L.A. gallery. Perhaps they hadn’t heard of it or were too disheartened to try somewhere else. After all, even of the refused, the gallery sometimes refused once again. I pressed the bell. And a little while later, left, with only empty wrappings, a slightly less favourable sales commission, and a pink paper receipt. I was in.
So, a London showing of three weeks. Perhaps a London sale. An extra line or two on my cv. And a few less dark hairs. It took a lot of energy away from actually painting. The travelling and other expenses will consume most of anything I make from a hoped-for sale. But should my ego, my finances and myself survive another year in the art, or any other world, then will I try again?