So I finally did it! My very first art showcase ever! I was invited to join Raw Artists Reflect Art Showcase in Sacramento, CA on 03/07/2019. I had to sell 20 tickets to the event in order to participate. I don’t pay a fee for my booth nor do I have to pay a percentage commission for any sales I make. After the 20 tickets, I get to pocket $10.00 for each ticket sold. I was able to sell 36 tickets in total.
I have been doing art since 2004 so it’s been 15 years of me doing art on and off. Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve never shown an interest in doing an art showcase. It wasn’t due to a lack of desire nor not wanting to, rather a fear of rejection and dismissal. As an artist, your work is only as good as your audience will see fit. I have always said art is so personal to me. Just the thought of rejection is so devastating I would crumble into pieces.
We had to include an artist mission statement with our display and here is what I wrote:
My name is Meks Inthavong and I'm from Modesto, CA.
My journey with art didn’t start as a child like most artists. In fact, I didn’t start until I was 22 years old back in 2004. I have had no formal training nor schooling. I am a very detail-oriented person; therefore, my artwork is also very detailed. So it was quite fitting that I would be drawn to specialize in realism using charcoal.
After 15 years of hiding, this is my very first time displaying my artwork in the flesh that is not on a virtual platform. Art is so personal to me. It allows an audience to rummage through my deep thoughts and raw feelings. Exposing the purest form of myself leaves me vulnerable-- definitely not a preference of mine. This is a true testament of my bravery in hopes that I can reach others through my art.
I have not taken a commission since 2010. For this RAW event only, I have opened 5 slots for a charcoal drawing commission of any subject of your choice. I've only given my drawings as gifts in the last 9 years and it's the highest, sincerest gesture you can ever receive from me. 5 RAW event attendees will have an opportunity to own one of my original drawings. Please come find me in my cacti dress if you are interested.
I'm also selling postcards with 5 of my own illustrations (includes a stamp), sticker sheets of all 5 illustrations, and my original designed, handmade carousel box. Each purchase comes with a free gift.
Please enjoy the free candy and grab a promo sticker for my website: desdainart.com
When I was first scouted to join, I sat on it for a couple of days not knowing what to do. I reached out to my nearest and dearest inner circle to get their advice. They all told me this was such a great opportunity and I should really seize it. It’s that fear that made me question and want to protect myself. I was losing sleep and my appetite over it. I had told myself that I will start putting my art out there this year starting with my website. That alone was a huge step. Within weeks I’m invited to do an art show? Now this would be a giant leap! It just happened so fast that I didn’t know if I was ready. After a lot of debating with my own thoughts and listening to my friends and family, I realized that I would regret it forever if I didn’t try. Besides, when have I ever let fear conquer me? So I put on a brave face and accepted their invitation.
The first person I spoke with via email was Mariah, the Curation Specialist that scouted me. She was really sweet and spoke highly of my self portrait. The second person I spoke with via phone was Sid, a Booking Specialist to book me on the event. He also gave me a lot of praises and was browsing through my Instagram to get an idea of my work. He said he was really impressed by my work and said I had a lot of talent. Finally, the last person I spoke with via email and phone was Daniel, the Art Experience Director. He was really great! He said he browsed through my profile and looked at my work, he thought my drawings were actually photos and then realized they were charcoal drawings. When I answered the phone he said that I was doing mind-blowing, high level artwork. He encouraged me to try to have some original pieces to sell at the show, but the only pieces I’m taking will be from my portfolio. I would never sell anything from my portfolio because those are meant for my son as a small legacy to pass onto him after I’m long gone— that way he will always have pieces of my soul with him.
After my phone call, I sobbed and ugly cried by myself for a good hour. It was the validation I had always craved. It’s true, I have a small following that includes my friends and family. Yes, they will always love and support me. So sometimes I question that— are their compliments and praises just love and support? Not how they actually feel about my artwork? Am I not as skilled and talented as I’d like to believe I am? I don’t want to be delusional especially with art. It’s just too important to me.
Having to hear the praises from strangers, especially strangers that see art day in and day out including an art director, telling me that my artwork was mind-blowing— I was so overjoyed with happiness that it hurt. Like a stake to my chest kind of hurt.
I had 6 weeks to prepare. I had things printed like a banner, business cards, postcards, stickers, origami paper, anything to promote my new website. I even created a brand new, special favor that I’ve designed 5 years ago, but never had the right opportunity to make it. So I spent the next 6 weeks trying to fit everything in time for the show. I also wanted to try to sell things and my friend, Keira who is also an artist, said depending on the type of crowd is how well my sales would go.
Fast forward to the day of the art show, artists had different call times to report to the venue. Of course, I was in the group that had to come the earliest at 2:00 PM and the show didn’t start until 7:00 PM. I was being obsessive and rearranging my display over and over again until after 5:00 hahaha… everyone was done with their display within 15-30 minutes yet here I am… being Meks per ushe. If Chance, my husband, hadn’t reminded me it was getting late and we needed to eat before 6:00, I think I would have spent the whole time until 7:00 just obsessing.
I did display my original drawings. A lot of people thought they were prints, but they were the real deal. This was the first time ever where people can actually see the drawings without any type of barrier. Usually people that do get to see my drawings, they’re in a sleeve inside my portfolio. I was seriously baring it all— my drawings, my heart, my innards, my soul.
One young lady asked if these were prints of the drawings and I told her no, they were the original drawings. And her eyes widened and rhetorically asked that none of these were digitally enhanced and then printed? I said these were the raw original drawings. Those are all my pencil strokes and brushes. She asked to touch them and I said be my guest! A few other people would try to look at the drawing from the side edge on to see if the surface was flat like a print or if it was raised as the original drawing. I saw a couple of people touching it and then recoiling back not expecting to feel texture. All of my drawings are safe to touch since I spray them down with fixative and fixative has a texture to it. So if you’re expecting to touch a smooth surface, it will throw you off haha…
I didn’t make many sales at all. That’s okay. What I really wanted was the public feedback on my artwork and to promote my new website. I want to know where I stand and if there is even a market for my type of art. I had to refill my business cards and many, many people took my promo stickers for my website.
The response I received was astounding and almost overwhelming. I had so many praises and compliments. So many people impressed with my artwork. People would walk by and do at least a double take even if they didn’t bother to stop. I had a fear that people would think they were photographs especially from a distance or a quick glance so I had my Kindle Fire setup playing loops of videos of me drawing. Many people stopped to watch the videos in somewhat of a trance which is exactly what I wanted. I want you to feel like you’re seeing it through my eyes.
The attendees were amazing! They all wanted to talk to me and let me know that I do beautiful work. There were even times where my display was so crowded that I couldn’t even get to my station. I had to stand back near the bar so that people can take turns looking at my artwork. I even heard at one point they were asking one another if they were the artist haha… I was way back by the bar just observing. I can see people standing across the walkway or by the bar pointing and talking about my drawings even if they didn’t approach my display nor me. Chance and many of my friends said the same thing when they would observe people’s reactions. The many that did approach my display were really mesmerized just absorbing all the details and intricacy that goes into my drawings. So many have told me I should do private shows with a gallery of my drawings.
An older couple came over telling me they were there to support their granddaughter. The lady watched my video for a few minutes and then read my artist mission statement. She teared up a bit and told me, “You do beautiful work, you have a beautiful heart, and you are beautiful. Don’t stay hiding. Don’t let this life pass you by.” She made me tear up too and her words really stuck with me.
I gave away some stickers and some art prints to those that actually stopped and talked with me a bit. Some asked what the illustrations would mean and what tools I use. They asked about commissions and if I would do tattoos and logos. A lot of questions showing that they were really interested and engaged with my work. It was exactly what I really wanted as an artist.
I really enjoyed the responses I received from the Ace of Spades staff. Some would walk by doing their thing and stop like whoa! One of them was like wow! You took a photo of Morgan Freeman and Albert Einstein? Uh… hahaha! I would talk with them a bit and give them free prints. They would then bring back like 3-4 other staff members to come check out my work and get a free print haha… it was really cool. The photographer for the event had setup his backdrop to take photos of all artists’ head shots right next to my display. He was wildly impressed and talked with me quite a bit. I gave him a free print and he was just so happy. He kept coming back in between photos to talk to me just about art and stuff since his wife also did art.
I believe the best responses were from other artists displaying that night at the event. I had so many other artists come to my display just fangirling my artwork. The cool thing about other artists is that they know what it takes to produce art and the intricate details to do hyper realism. It’s not for everyone and may not be a style you’re into, but you can still appreciate the difficulty and process it takes to produce hyper realistic drawings and especially with charcoal. Most of them kept saying how do you keep your space clean? I really don’t, I make a hell of a mess but I just make sure to clean up often so I don’t get charcoal everywhere. They all said that charcoal is such a difficult medium to work with— it’s messy, it’s too soft, the texture, it just requires a lot of patience. They are all correct. I felt the same way too when I first started using charcoal. I just tolerated the issues I had and kept practicing. Now I can’t see myself using any other media but charcoal. Charcoal is the one for me.
I love talking to other artists because they get it. My conversations with artists are way different than a conversation with anyone else. We don’t always just talk about techniques and tools or even marketing. The conversations are always about the thought process and the intimate level you have to dig deep inside in order to produce a piece.
I had left my display possibly to use the restroom or something and I walked back to find 2 musicians performing that night and a photographer just standing there staring at my display. I walk up and they asked if I was the artist. They were all blown away. The photographer said she was actually down on the ground floor and looked up to see my display thinking they were photographs. Then she saw the Edward Scissorhands portrait and was like no way, those are not photographs. The 3 of them rounded up to walk over to check out my work. One musician was like how is your thought process? Like how do you come up with these pieces like what inspires you? He said that he can hear music in his head so he would try to create it with his instruments so in essence, charcoal would be like my instrument? He nailed it! I told him all the drawings that are not portraits are my own illustrations from a car collision of snapshots, ideas, memories, thoughts, feelings— the illustration is what I’ve pieced together from collecting the debris from the chaotic scene. He was like wow! I gave them free prints and we talked a bit more about art and music. Even after the show when we were walking to our car to go home with our arms full of things we brought, I heard a couple behind us say, “Do you see those people in front of us? Her charcoal paintings are the best I’ve ever seen. Seriously, you should have won an award.” Like they even recognized us from behind! Just so many talents appreciating my talent, is beyond belief.
Many other artists also had in depth conversations with me about inspiration, different media types, technical parts of using tools and space, just a wide range of bouncing ideas off one another. It was really cool and very humbling. You can’t truly appreciate everything that goes into an art piece unless you’ve created art pieces. Everyone only gets to see the physical outcome. You don’t get to see the thoughts, feelings, obsession, addiction, both entangling and disentangling, the adding of a new physical form that becomes the art piece, but it’s the losing of one self in order to produce it. What’s created is being taken away from somewhere inside someone. Only another artist can truly understand that.
And that is why art is so personal to me.
I’ve taken away from this experience everything I had hoped for and craved. I’m so happy I did the art show and have met so many wonderful people, but the best highlights of my night were seeing the outpouring love and support from my friends and family. I was so happy to see all of you that came and the ones that were there in spirit! I feel so loved and so, so happy! I can just see how proud you all were. The pride I can see in your eyes was just unbearably heart warming. Everyone gave me hugs and told me how much they were proud of me. Even at the end of my night, we loaded the Honda and really, really sat down for the first time all night. I turned to Chance holding back tears and said, “Thank you for doing this with me.” Chance turned to me and said, “I’m really proud of you.” It made me tear up. You guys will never know how much that meant to me, how much all of you mean to me.
I couldn’t be more grateful and I want to thank everyone, especially my friends and family, that have encouraged and pushed me to be the best version of myself. The best version of myself is not the person you see before you, the best version of me is broken into small pieces I’ve left inside every art piece I’ve created.