There are moments in your life/career, that will always stand out as pivotal.
When I was in college, maybe my 3rd year, I had a project that I was extremely proud of. It was a series of paintings I’d created in the method of the old glass sign painters. I’d seen it demonstrated in an artists magazine and wanted to try it. And because I’ve always been overly ambitious, I couldn’t paint just one panel…I painted 10.
This technique is super tricky because everything has to be painted in reverse on the back side of glass panels. Highlights and little details first, background layers last with all the layers in between. I added gold leaf borders to each panel for a real vintage feel.
But the best part was, all the panels fit together in a wooden framework that my dad helped me build. When put together, it almost looked like an arch stain glass window with 4 panels and two gilded starfish knobs. The panels then hinged opened to reveal 6 additional panels with a Mother Earth & Sea life narrative.
Mother Earth sat in the largest central panel holding the earth, her head tipped up to the moon above. Sounds good, right? Don’t you wish I had a pic?? (I know…I can’t believe I can’t find a pic but this was back when you actually had to develop film, ugh)
Anyway, I was so proud of my labor of love and thought it was a great opportunity to speak with my department head about my direction, aspirations, ya know…my future because this piece was really ‘ME’.
Fast forward to me in his office…I opened up the doors of my piece to reveal the central narrative and he, not so quietly, said…
“SHE LOOKS LIKE A WHORE!!!!”
Now, I added 5 exclamation points there because it really did feel like he screamed it into the ether…banging offhis office walls only to boomerang back into my super self-conscious brain.
What do you say to that? This, from the mouth of an illustration icon who happened to be friends with Andy Warhol and was the head of the illustration department. Everyone looked up to him.
I’m pretty sure he was still talking but I didn’t hear any of it. I have no recollection of anything after that word ‘WHORE’ until I was loading my
‘Brothel’ of a painting into my little silver CRX with my super supportive friend Nathan, who only had the kindest things to say after being stupefied by the one and only Philip Hays.
The truth is, this jarred me for a bit, but what could have been a life changing moment…wasn’t. Because even though I originally went to see my department head because I wanted to know I was on the right path, I realized that it didn’t matter if ‘HE’ thought I was on the right path. It only mattered that ‘I DID’.
There have been plenty of times when someone, another artist, a client, an observer, said something negative that really got under my skin. But eventually it wiggles its way out, like a splinter. They’re annoying, and they hurt for a while, but eventually they make their way out and you forget it was ever there.