Confessions, Mistakes, and Editions .....
by Bill Hudson
If “confession is good for the soul,” what about a not-so-good confession? Does that have any value? Well, as a seven-year-old Catholic kid making his very First Confession in preparation for First Holy Communion, I forever learned that even mistakes can have significant value. Mistakes clearly illustrate the consequences of poor decisions and often guide us to a far better approach.
My group of second graders had just completed all the prep classes relentlessly drilled into us by the intimidating nuns of St. Ursula’s in Baltimore. I knew upon entering the dark, wooden confessional booth and hearing the priest slide open the little door behind the screen that it was my time to say, “Bless me father for I have sinned. This is my first confession. I accuse myself of:” And then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah … it was the moment to thoughtfully declare each sin and the approximate number of times you had committed it. After confessing our sins, we were instructed to say “Father, for these and all the sins of my life I am heartily sorry.” The priest would then assign an appropriate penance (such as five
) and ask that you then make a perfect Act of Contrition which we would proudly recite to conclude the event.
As I stood in line for my turn in the confessional, I was right behind my pal and neighbor Dickie Wentworth. I was reflecting on my behavior, trying to recall my sins, but I was having trouble coming up with something of substance … hey, anything. I knew that I wasn’t quite a saint. I mean I was only a kid who occasionally beat up my little brother Ernie and sulked if I didn’t get my way, but even I knew that was just normal behavior for any young boy and couldn’t possibly be helped. No, if I was going in declaring, “
I have sinned
,” then I felt obligated to give the priest real sin, something with some meat on it, something to make this moment memorable for both of us. But I had nothing.
I wasn’t panicked yet because I knew it would require Dickie a half hour or so in the confessional talking to old Father Cronin, dumping his guts out. I even found myself thinking of the things Dickie was in there confessing … things like his cussing, smoking cigarettes in the woods, sawing the legs off his Mom’s dining room table, shooting Mrs. Schaffer in the butt with his slingshot, and peeing on Ol' Man Paleo’s peonies.
As I was waiting on Dickie, I began to realize that I really was a good kid and honestly could not think of any intentional sins, much less put a number on them. Then to my amazement, in less than 5 minutes the confessional door opened and out came a smiling, completely forgiven, almost angelic Dickie Wentworth. I knew that something close to a miracle happened in there. Dickie had just completed a sacrament; he was absolved and now it was my turn. But I still had nothing significant to offer in exchange for complete forgiveness.
I made a desperate last-second decision as I entered and kneeled down; I decided to invent a sin that was near-perfect for the occasion. I told Father Cronin that I stole a dime from my mother (I remember debating to myself whether it should be a nickel or a dime, and a dime sounded more like sin. I mean “dime” rhymes with “crime”). After hearing this sin, Fr. Cronin asked if I had returned it. To this day I wonder if he really expected any answer other than the one I stood by,
Think about it. I didn’t say I borrowed a dime. I stole it!
Then my First Confession became very similar to a Dragnet episode. I was answering a barrage of Sergeant Friday questions. “Where did you find the dime? Where was your Mom at the time? Have you ever done this before? What did you buy with it?” After what seemed to be a half hour of his interrogation and my ever escalating lies, Fr. Cronin responded, “Well, I cannot forgive your sin until you return the dime to your mother!”
At that point I don’t remember if I even received a penance for my unforgiven sins, but I left the confessional bruised and confused in the pews, praying next to Dickie Wentworth who was in a new state of purified consciousness while I was kneeling there covered in guilt wondering what was next. Of all the sins that I could have invented, why did I come up with the only one that he wouldn’t forgive? My First Confession had just become a “Reverse Confession!” I went in a saint and came out a habitually lying criminal.
Fortunately, the Baltimore nuns had us make one more practice confession before the big event. I confessed all my lies in time to make a sin-free First Communion, and begin a far more normal life of real-rather-than-imagined sins, followed by genuine remorse, but followed less and less frequently by visits to the confessional. And I forever stayed away from Fr. Cronin.
Mistakes in Art
With all this confessional experience, I’d like to truthfully share a humbling art experience that I don’t have all the answers for. But it is an example of similar experiences of many other artists who make a living on the festival circuit and it has a valuable lesson learned.
Art sales can be extremely unpredictable and here is a personally graphic example. In 2016, I applied to the Indian Wells Arts Festival at the recommendation of an artist friend. I had never exhibited in any of the Coachella Valley art shows and wanted to give them a try. I had
only framed originals and notecards
for sale in my double booth, but it became a winning combination for at the end of that show I had sold about 100 notecards,
10 original paintings
, and won the blue ribbon in watercolor. I optimistically concluded that by being in the right venue, I needed to only participate in two shows per year to sell most of my originals!
I enthusiastically returned to Indian Wells in 2017, was given the same exact booth location, again won the blue ribbon in watercolor, and after the same three show days had once again sold about 100 notecards and
ZERO original paintings!
That was a first-time experience for me and I was left questioning many things. There was some comfort in realizing that sales were down for many artists due to the huge, sudden devaluation of the Canadian dollar and, particularly in Coachella, a large percentage of the attendees are snowbirds from Canada. But the point is, there will always be obstacles; they are different for every show, and an exhibiting artist needs to be prepared for multiple scenarios.
During the 2017 show, realizing the sales calamity in the making, our friend Caroline Young (an exceptionally talented artist with a lot of festival experience) recommended also selling intermediately priced reproductions (or giclées) of some of my more popular images.
I took Caroline’s advice and now make 13” x 19” Limited Editions of favored images that conveniently scale to that aspect ratio. I place them in double mats (white and charcoal) which measure 18” x 24” on the outside edges, and package them along with an archival stiff backing board and Certificate of Authenticity in a protective clear bag. They are $150 each and fit into any standard 18” x 24” frame (not included). For two or more I charge $120 each.
Each image (signed, titled, numbered) is a near exact replica of the original and is produced after several artist proof iterations by Stan Nishikawa of West River Fine Art (ref 949-551-5739). Stan is located in Irvine and is the “go-to man” for many artists because of his reputation for quality, timeliness, and fair pricing.
- All festivals realize the income-generating value of limited editions to exhibiting painters and the affordability offered to patrons. However, to maintain the standards of “fine art”, most festivals limit the number of reproductions exhibited to a percent (usually less than 50%) of the artist’s total display.
- Since introducing Limited Editions on my website, I have sold an average of about 5 per festival which alone covers the booth expenses.
- Since original watercolors have no surface relief (as compared to impasto oil paintings for example), limited edition watercolors are nearly indistinguishable from the original.
- Some very successful artists limit the sales of their work to only limited editions and do well. An extreme example of success and talent is a 23-year-old prodigy named Akiane Kramarik who lives in Couer’d Alene, Idaho. She is a self-taught, genius who says that “God told her to paint.” Her prints alone provided an income of over one million dollars a year when she was still in her teens. Watch this 7-minute link for awe and inspiration.