Every year I try and visit the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. It's my favourite annual activity, one where I get to see a wide variety of contemporary art made by lesser known artists and Royal Academicians too. Drawings, prints and works in monochrome catch my attention first, I tend to gravitate towards smaller pieces. I pay special attention to my artistic heroes whose work is generally present; dainty monoprints by Tracey Emin, majestic monochromatic volcano inspired work by Emma Stibbon and swirling coastal landscapes by Norman Ackroyd. I scribble notes in pencil down the margins of the 'list of works' booklet each visitor is given, every time I see a work I enjoy particularly by an artist I don't know I doodle a little star to research later.
While wandering around the galleries I can't help but covet a little space on the walls for my own. The idea of a tiny piece of my creativity occupying space in a gallery that has hundreds of years worth of history, where J.M.W Turner and John Constable themselves have exhibited fills me with a sense of joy. Every year I visit and every year I dream, however, I have never applied to be part of the exhibition, until now. Last Monday after just finishing a small drawing that I was pleased with and after much deliberation and internal dialogue I decided to submit. What has held me back in previous years? Well, a million voices in my head saying "submitting would be a waste of time, you'll never be selected" or "there are so many better artists out there, why on earth would they choose you". Those voices can be cruel, they can constantly tell you on repeat just why you aren't good enough and why you should not even bother. This year I decided not to listen, to at least not listen long enough to prepare my work for submission, take out my debit card to pay the fee and click the button. That was it, a few seconds of bravery was all that was needed. It was done.
I decided to share that I'd submitted on social media. I did wonder if I was simply setting myself up for embarrassment. If I made a big fuss of submitting and then didn't get chosen I might look a fool. Or, I might encourage other artists in some self doubt to be brave and submit their work too. Telling people, in my view turned out to be the right thing to do, though it did give me nervous butterflies to do it. I tweeted my news during #HandmadeHour; a weekly twitter chat to a community that have become online friends and confidantes and the response I got was overwhelming. From well wishes to reassurance and most importantly artists telling me that they had been deliberating but were now going to have a go as well. It become my most engaged with tweet after over 5 years on the platform and encouraged me that by being brave I have given myself a chance and perhaps inspired others too.
Submitting my work was a nervous ordeal and telling people about it was even more nerve-racking. In the week that has passed I've already forgotten about the £35 submission fee and how scary pressing 'submit' was. Now I can't believe I haven't had a go sooner. If my work isn't chosen then it's no big deal, I can try again another year. Of all the artists that were chosen last year for example, I wonder how many were accepted on their first try? Maybe they had been trying for years before being accepted. I found a quote in an article on the Royal Academy website which reassured me;
So there it is, a moment of vulnerability that I hope will remind you to have a little bit of courage with your work. If you've made something that you're pleased with and have wanted to have a go at submitting to an open exhibition but self doubt has held you back then why not have a go? After all, you have to be in it to win it! Let me know in the comments if you've applied or if you are going to and wish me luck!
Entry to the 2018 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition closes on 14th February, if you'd like to submit or read more then please click here.
If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️