Mind, Hand, Heart

Jul 28, 2014 / Photography / overcoming criticism / how to be creative

I’m new to this artist thing: submitting to juried competitions, getting selected, exhibiting the work, hopefully inspiring a viewer, and selling a print. Everything is an adventure and a learning experience.

Recently, one of my images got picked for the Maryland Federation of Art exhibition. Ann Shafer, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs from the Baltimore Museum of Art, was the juror and she had to pick 122 winning entries from over 800 submissions. That’s 15% of all entries. That’s a lot of entries to go through.

In a statement printed in the exhibition program, Shafer explains how she selected the winning images:

I first seek a balance of media: in this group there is painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, and lots of combinations thereof. Second I look to balance the representational and the abstract. After that, I get down to the nitty gritty of the works themselves. I look for accomplished works of art that utilize a personal visual language, express control of the medium, and that show vision and sensibility. Finally and most importantly, I’m interested in work that goes a step beyond simple representation to one that includes some tension point or balance between incongruent elements; something that takes the work just over the edge. If, in the end, the goal is to engage viewers, some kind of dialogue of opposing elements may make viewers pause. If a work lingers in memory after it is gone from view, if it makes one think just a little more about its status and what the artist is trying to communicate, if it surprises and delights or confuses and confounds, then it has succeeded.

During the artist reception on July 11, she gave a short speech that further elaborated on the selection process. She touched on three criteria:

  • mind - does the piece have a clear idea; how meaty is the idea; do you leave the audience with something to chew on
  • hand - how does the idea come out of the artist’s hand; does the artist have control over the medium
  • heart - are you grabbing me; how passionate are you in what you are doing?

I had the chance to ask Ms. Shafer why she selected my work. “I love cyanotypes. There was something about this print that was off, something weird was going on, I’m not sure what the story was, but it made me pause.” In speaking with her, I realized that this was another way of analyzing photographs. I see another mantra worth following. If a photograph has these three things going for it, it will likely be more successful. Mind, hand, heart. I like it.

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, and I create cyanotype art that makes you think and feeds the soul. I also blog about the quest for a meaningful life using art and positivity.

When not shooting photos or writing, I teach myself piano and recommend Josh Wright’s Propractice tutorials (affiliate link).

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