If you are like most artists, you have a clear recollection of how you felt when one of your drawings or paintings was first put on display on a school bulletin board, in an art-school exhibition, or in a commercial gallery. All of a sudden, the artwork you didn’t think much about became the focus of attention among your fellow students, family members, neighbors, teachers, and friends. And if you saved that early work of art, it has taken on even greater significance in the passing years. In fact, the importance accorded that first publicly displayed picture may have contributed to your becoming an artist today.
My first public recognition as an artist came when I was in the second grade at Bienville Elementary School, in New Orleans. My drawing of the classroom with my best friends standing at the blackboard and the clock announcing the 3 p.m. end of the school day was reproduced in the Times Picayune newspaper, along with a photograph of the actual classroom and selected students. That’s the day all my friends and relatives decided I was an artist.
Your experience may have been more nerve racking than mine. After all, most young people are very nervous during their first public speech or exhibition, and many adults hate attending the openings of their art shows. Nevertheless, the recognition can be extremely encouraging to artists of any age because it allows them to see how others respond to their intensely personal, private activities in the studio.
I’d be interested to know if you also have a clear recollection of that first public display of your artwork and the bundle of emotions that came with the experience.