I did something at the start of this year that I felt pretty good and maybe a little too egotistical about. I applied for an Individual Artist’s Grant to work on a project that I have been thinking about for a really long time.
I felt like I had a wonderful idea, and I still feel that it is and that it is worthy of my time. I felt like I had a pretty solid timeline, budget, project idea and even public benefit but everything I thought I had they disagreed with. The biggest issue I think was my choice of samples of art to show them… which are displayed on this blog post.
It also didn’t help that I was injured at work around the time I was working on my proposal. I feel that if my mind was working properly I might have made different writing decisions.
Yesterday I listened to the audio of the panel discussion review of my Grant Proposal.
The Project Idea- Over the course of a year to create 14 paintings on a large scale, each representing an aspect of mental illness. Each image would be abstract. I would use colors and movement of paint to suggest imagery. I feel this is a better idea than an actual storytelling image with people or objects as people can read more into abstract images. I also felt that by doing this, the images would be more beautiful thus people might be more interested in purchasing. I find that when you paint ‘scenes’ it might be more disturbing and while it can start conversation what would be the next step of the image? My plan was not to shuffle these images away in my studio. At the end of the project, I would have a show. I would create books with the images of all the art in the show for purchase and a percentage of the profit would go to NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Health) as they do a lot of work for people in Indiana.
My Plan-I would research these illnesses and I believe I would be able to portray them as I have family and friends with illness and I deal with some of my own issues. I would talk to people in the psychiatric profession and even see if I could meet with some patients on a peer to peer level. NAMI (The National Alliance for Mental Illness) has meetings for peer to peer and family to family in my area. I would have loved to meet with them to see if we could have a meetup to do some relaxing art. There are so many places I felt I could take this project and it was dear to my heart.
Execution- I was planning on taking some classes with Tom Tourlemke who is not only an AMAZING Indiana artist for whom I have so much respect, but was also a professor at my Alma Matter- The American Academy of Art. Since I have never compiled such a show I would take classes and mentoring sessions from him to flesh this to a solid display. He has such coherent and impacting shows that I felt that he would be able to help my direction.
Their thoughts—- Everyone views art differently and we were only able to provide 5 samples of our work. They wanted work within the last 3 years and honestly my last 3 years has been filled with watercolor and ink paintings so that is what I showed them. This was my mistake. I should have done some new work to reflect my project as with the work I supplied they couldn’t make the connection on how I could make this project work. They felt that I was a ‘One Trick Pony’ and that again is my fault as I should have diversified my samples but what did I know? This is my first time doing this. Quite honestly, part of my decision of sample was based on my obsessive compulsive disorder. I should have had help picking my samples. I felt they all needed to ‘match’ and not look too diverse.
They wanted me to take classes from a University because they felt I was ‘self-taught’ (again this is my fault because I really should have showed different samples) however said it in a tone of voice that felt demeaning. Honestly, I have seen some people that are ‘self-taught’ that are more amazing than someone that went to a University. I am not knocking anyone’s college (traditional) experience, I DID go to art school… which they might have seen if they would have actually read my resume. I know how to do the standard portrait piece, landscape, life drawing, bowls of fruit…. All of that aside, this work that I showed them DOES have value, honestly out of all the different types of work I have done these types of paintings have REALLY been selling a lot.
Their concern was my timeline and they were shocked that I thought I could do 2 watercolor paintings a month!!! Really? They think that I am overly ambitious. Perhaps my idea is but I used to work in graphic design and with constant creation and demanding deadlines my creative mind actually works pretty well under pressure. Of course, again they would have seen if they would have actually looked at my resume.
1. They are not your friends, they only know you by what you wrote and maybe what you wrote wasn’t enough for them to understand or written well enough. So try not to get upset (you will) and not to take it personal (you will still take it personal)
2. They can only judge you based on the artwork YOU show them so they cannot tell really how much you have grown, how much people love your work or anything else about how awesome you are. They are people and that means what they think is great art you might think is junk and vise-verse.
3. No matter how many times you read and rewrite your grant proposal you will still realize what you should have done better after it is too late to make changes.
4. If it was that easy to get “free’ money, there would be thousands and thousands of applicants and not under 300.
5. Listening to the panel audio is a humbling and depressing experience but you can use it to strengthen your ideas.
6. When writing a grant, they usually will let you submit it prior to the final submission. They will give you some notes on things to check. I was too late in the game to turn this in. This is important. I learned my lesson for next time!
6. MAKE SURE YOU REQUEST PANEL NOTES!!!! The notes, seriously will make you feel better. After typing out this blog post I finally got the panel notes in my email and it doesn’t sound as horrible as it did in the audio.
7. Breathe and breathe some more
8. Look for a new grant even after 100,000 people say “No” someone has to say yes right? I thought it would take forever to find a great guy to marry and that finally happened.