I’ve never liked being judged.

Yet, here I am, an artist, who places my soul on Arches 190 lb. watercolor paper with watercolor paints as my medium and brushes as my tools. These past couple of days have brought on emotions that I haven’t felt since the last time I did something that really frightened me. My nails are chewed, I’ve caught myself grinding my teeth which causes me to have headaches, and I haven’t been sleeping very well.

All this angst! What have I done?! I intend to enter a piece of artwork in “Art Maui,” the premier art show on Maui which brings all the local artists out of hiding. Some artists have been working on their pieces for this show all year. The anticipation has resulted in my self-critic to come out of hiding and give myself a verbal flogging. NOW who is the judge?

It is so easy to be seduced by the sheer physical beauty of the islands. Every tropical plant has already been painted, every beach scene and palm tree has been painted, and every sunset has been captured on canvas, film, or paper. However, it is very important for me to see and create authentically. Although these vignettes have already been captured by others, how do I want to mingle my own interpretation of the world in my work? So, the real question is what do I want to visually convey that contains meaningful content and eliminates clichés?

If I want to sell my work, I have a plethora of subject matter to draw from (pun intended) – red ginger, birds of paradise, palm trees overlooking the ocean, etc. However, while it is important to sell (a necessity when your income depends on it), the purpose of this show is to put my heart and soul into a visual story. It is harder to look deep inside myself than it is to see upon the surface of the world outside and paint what I think other people will like. Self-examination is involved which brings out the inner critic.

Is all this angst worth it? When put in perspective, it’s not going to affect world peace. So I remind myself that a juried show is subjective. What the judge likes and accepts into the show can be more about the judge than it is about the merits of the piece of art. Have you ever been to an art show to see a ribbon on a piece of art that makes you do a double take and wonder “What was the judge thinking?” Or gone to a museum and gravitated to the impressionists work because “that is what speaks to you.” Art is subjective. That’s why there are so many different genres of music, literature, painting – something for everyone, so to speak.

After much deliberation I tell myself what matters most is that I try and that I put my most authentic work forward. I must let go of my ego and recognize my fear for what it is — a sign of discomfort – which is where all growth takes place. I will choose love over fear and allow my response to the fruits of a well-lived life come alive on Arches paper. I will express my individuality with respect to my feelings and convictions, and hold a mirror to the society in which I live.

Through art, we can illuminate and share our most defining experiences, engage powerful ideas, and offer edifying glimpses of subtle realities. Whether creativity arises in response to beauty, outrage, or thoughtfulness, art can enhance our lives and teach us about how others see the world. The arts can help us live together in greater harmony and compassion — if we let them. We must learn to view art as much more than mere decoration, economics, or personal vanity. You be the judge.

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