Over the past week, I’ve received some pats on the back from a few people I’ve run into, in addition to emails from readers and editors congratulating me on my second place for editorial cartooning for the Canadian Community Newspaper Association awards announced recently. This is not about my syndicated work, just the local cartoons that are published each week in the Rocky Mountain Outlook, here at home.
While I simply said, “Thank You,” and went about my business, I’m going to be politically incorrect and honest about how I feel about it. Second place is not winning.
I’m sure an Olympic athlete who has won a silver or a bronze medal would disagree with me, and while they’re entitled to their perspective, I don’t share it. In our current short-sighted cultural climate where every child gets a participation ribbon, competition is discouraged in case our fragile selves be scarred in some horrible last place finish in a potato sack race. When did the topic of winning and losing become so taboo? People don’t celebrate the team that almost won the Stanley Cup or the politician who almost won the election. With the exception of CEOs who get bonuses just for waking up, the corporate world doesn’t reward or function on ‘self-esteem before profit,’ despite what we’re teaching in our schools.
Only one team or individual can win in any competition. Everybody else loses and is invited to try harder next time.
Even though I enter very few competitions, I do like it when I reach the finals. Two of my paintings have qualified for Ballistic Publishing’s Exposé 10 book due out in June. As a digital painter, this is a very prestigious book to be in and I’m thrilled that my work is being considered. It’s also great for business, because of who sees it. I want this, but being a finalist doesn’t mean a damn thing if the book comes out and my work isn’t in it. Aside from the fact that I’ll be encouraged to submit again next year, qualifying or a nomination just means graduating to a higher level of consideration.
In the grand scheme of things, awards are good for two things. One, they’re validation of a sort that you’ve achieved a level of recognition placing you at the top of your profession, if only for that moment, in the eyes of whomever was judging for that year. A panel of people come to a collective opinion that your effort was the best of the bunch for that moment in time, and still only compared against the other people who entered. The other value in an award is that it’s a great marketing tool. As far as the CCNA awards go, it is in the Rocky Mountain Outlook’s best interest to publicize the 2nd and 3rd place finishes awarded to the staff because it establishes a reputation for being a newspaper of achievers. That sells advertising and that’s how a newspaper makes money and stays in business. While I chose the cartoon to be entered in the CCNA awards, I wouldn’t have bothered if the Rocky Mountain Outlook didn’t want me to.
The first awards that I considered significant enough to celebrate were the Guru Awards at Photoshop World in 2010, where one of my paintings won the Illustration Category and another won Best In Show. Regular readers already know about this, I won’t bore you with more details, aside from saying it meant a lot to me only because I consider my Totem paintings to be my best work.
Let’s be honest, though, it was two years ago. The moment has most definitely passed and if I were still posting weekly updates and screen shots of those paintings with the express purpose of bragging about the awards as if they were yesterday, it would be time to consider some serious therapy. That being said, I’ll put the words ‘award winning artist’ in every promotional bio I write from here on out. From a marketing perspective, I’d be stupid not to.
There’s a line I love from the movie ‘Superman Returns,’ where Daily Planet editor Perry White says, “Lois, Pulitzer Prizes are like Academy Awards, nobody remembers what you got one for, just that you got one. ”
That’s how I choose to think of the Guru Awards today. Winning the awards put me in contact with some influential people, resulted in some lucrative commissions, and opened some big doors, but it’s now my job to keep them open. I realized last year that I don’t need to win another Guru Award. While I was nominated in 2011, I didn’t win, and nobody cared. Seriously, nobody really cared that I didn’t repeat the win, including me. Doors didn’t close, and people didn’t suddenly stop returning my calls or emails.
As long as my business keeps moving forward, I keep making decent money at it, and I enjoy the work, then I’m happy. Of course, an award once in awhile will certainly put a shine on the day. I haven’t yet met an artist that doesn’t enjoy an ego boost. But I’m not unrealistic when it comes to their importance. If I win an award, I’ll very likely tell you about it, because that’s what you do when you’re in the business of self-promotion.
Second or third place, however, you’ll most likely hear about from somebody else.