Sunday, January 27, 2013

Art and Fear

"The difficulties artmakers face are not remote and heroic, but universal and familiar."
- David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Take the plunge!

Tomorrow I turn in my pelican piece for our local art center's February show. This will be the first time I've shown my work in our new community. Paul and I have been mentioning the show to everyone we know and suddenly I'm getting cold feet. Ugh, here we go again. Enter Fear.

When people ask me what I do I say I am an artist or a painter. And that is indeed what I do. But sometimes I'm not sure my work is of the caliber that people imagine should go along with the title. I have this nightmarish thought that all these people that Paul and I know will come to the show and be let down by my work. They'll say "Oh very nice" to my face in that same tone of voice an adult uses with a small child, and then they'll whisper "She said she was an artist" to each other, shaking their heads sadly at my delusion as they walk away from my piece. 

On my strong days, I can accept that not everyone will like what I do. I can accept that I should make art first and foremost because I am driven to do it. And I also can see how very far I've come with my work over the decades, and I am proud of that. I just have yet to master putting my work on public display and not caring what people think.

I certainly know that these feelings and conflicts are not unique to me. Anyone whose work is seen or heard by the public deals with this in one form or another. I suppose that I shouldn't let it bother me that I have doubts. (Perhaps, in some strange way, these doubts should be proof to me that I am an artist!) I share them here in the hopes that someone else reading this will feel reassured that they are not alone in this process either.

And come Friday, I will stand next to my work and try to greet all the visitors with confidence. Who knows, I may be too busy worrying about my crooked teeth or whether my outfit makes me look fat to care about their reactions to my painting (but that could be a whole separate post...).

Do you have any favorite quotes dealing with art and fear? Do you have any stories about art and fear from your life? Please share them with us in the comments. I'd love to hear about them!


Ken Januski said...

No quotes Gabrlelle but I do think your situation is not uncommon. I'm currenty reading a book called something like 'The $12,000,000 Stuffed Shark,' about the economics of 'contemporary art.' One quote is that your career is over if you haven't starting in a major gallery by the time you've been out of graduate school for a couple years. I don't think the author agrees with this but it just shows how varied and diverse the terms 'art' and 'artist' can be.

I may put up a watercolor of a song sparrow later on my blog. Yesterday I was sure it was a failure. Today I'm a little more hopeful. But in the long run I realize that only I can judge whether or not it's successful. I'm sure some viewers, assuming I have any, will say it's successful while others won't. But that's really dependent on their viewpoint and may have nothing to do with my own goal in art.

Still it is difficult. I know that every time I'm out birding and tell people I'm also an artist, then show them my sketchbook of field sketches, I'm met with blank looks at best. I've yet to show them to anyone, well maybe one or two, who have actually been positive. It's enoug to give me doubts!! But I also assume that if I showed them a work based on a photo that they'd like it much more. It's what most people expect of art.

Just go your own way and stay confident. Good luck!

Gabrielle said...

Ah yes, the blank looks. I know that one well. I feel like throwing the sketchbook at them and saying "Let's see how you do, then!".

By the way, I took a peek at your song sparrow watercolor (which, for what it's worth, I quite liked) and it looked like you got some comments so you DO have viewers!

Anonymous said...

Last night I finished drawing and started painting a white peony. It went to crap fast so I disgustingly went to bed. Woke up early and it just kept going downhill. I read your blog post today nodding and agreeing with eveything you said. After I feel sorry for myself for a bit, I'm going to try to climb out of the pit of despair and try again.

thank you for sharing your feelings - it is really nice to know there are others! -Janet

Gabrielle said...

Hi Janet,

Yes, there are definitely others navigating the pit of despair! Good for you for dusting yourself off and trying again. And even if it still keeps going downhill, focus on what you've learned for next time. I'm sure you've heard the story about making 10,000 mistakes! Hang in there and good luck!