Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rubbish Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

What a LOAD OF RUBBISH! Something we hear from others and say ourselves all the time. It's a common enough phrase, but in the world of art it can be a serious de-motivator.


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     In an ideal world, we'd never judge anyone else's work or play favourites, but the nature of art is that it is emotive and subjective. It's ok to have an opinion and it's ok to have preferences. Ideally, unless critique is solicited, it's best to be encouraging at best and noncommittal at worst. As artists, we're all pretty darned fragile with brittle egos, and very little is required to have us plunging mentally and emotionally into a swirling abyss of self-loathing, self-doubt and despair. So why on earth do we - with gusto and spiteful relish - hurl judgement rocks at ourselves throughout our creative process? Huh?



     I'm no innocent in this. Ye gads! I have spent years and ever losing all confidence, dashing my hopes and aspirations against the rugged rocks of oblivion and plunging headlong into the storm of angsty gloom and doom with no torch or map to guide me... Seriously - the amount of art I've schlepped into the garden and burned whilst in floods of tears...Doesn't bear thinking about. Why? 

     Ok, so here are my thoughts: Artists... we're a funny bunch. I don't think that any other calling - whether it be hobbyist or professional - requires the practitioner to present heart and soul, thought and emotion, love and pain and lay it bare for dissection. To view our art is to see our innermost fragile self, the part of us that, like a child, yearns for approval. With our art we speak, we dance, we sing, we build, we create, we beautify the world. We hope and need to connect with each other to feed our creative muse, and also with the part of ourselves that helps us to navigate our way through the complex landscape of life. We hope to see recognition - a flicker of kinship - from those who share our passion. Approval of our art is also, by necessity if not by intention, approval of our essential selves.



     That's a LOT of pressure to put on others and on our own mercurial emotions, eh?

     Oftentimes, we feel perfectly fine about our work...UNTIL we see someone else's....someone who we [subjectively] deem "better" than us. We say things like, " I wish I could paint like that", or, "I could never be that good", or "I can't compete with that" - and the following thought is, "....so why should I bother?" It's that 'imposter syndrome' raising its ugly, nagging little head.

     Now is the PERFECT time to utter the phrase: "WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH!"

     Nonsense indeed! There are MANY artists I admire, whose works and styles have influenced my path as an artist. I have wasted a crazy amount of time comparing my work to theirs, weighing up skill levels and grading myself poorly. Why? Really - WHY? A huge influence for me was a spectacular artist called Bernie Wrightson (go Google the man - he's worth it, or you can read an article I wrote back on my old blog HERE). I first encountered his work as a young teen and from that second on I have been captivated by ink and line work. Look...here's an example of his work, from his series of illustrations for 'Frankenstein':


....mmm-hmmm. Yep. It blew my mind when I read that after over seven years of crippling work on these illustrations all he could see were the "flaws". HE.....thought HE wasn't good enough! Mind officially hanging in tatters....

     It's really not about being "as good as" or "better than" someone else, it's about the process: seeing, learning, practising, enjoying. Be proud of every line, every scratch, every blob, smear, smudge and spill. When something doesn't go to plan, shrug and make it something else. It's only paper. It's only paint. Start again. Use the old piece to inspire a new one. If we were all perfect we'd lose our creativity. We are as much a product of our mistakes as our successes. We're not robots on a production line - we are heart, we are fury, we are sadness, we are joy....we are laughter, pain, love, loss, sorrow, delight, fragility and strength. We are imperfect creatures - rejoice in the reflection of your imperfection.



     Lastly, and this is a personal one, so it won't apply across the board, but here goes. I recently had a series of significant strokes. The effects were ranging in severity, but amongst them was a partial loss of sight, depth perception and basic motor control in my hands and arms. I couldn't grip a pen, see the paper in front of me or raise my arm long enough to scratch my nose, let alone draw a picture. The depression that followed the strokes was crippling and motivation was lacking to say the least.

     Thankfully, I am a completely, objectionably, irritatingly stubborn pain-in-the-arse! One day I picked up a pencil and started making what marks I could on sheet after sheet of paper. It hurt my hand, my arm, my shoulder and I ended up with a headache that would floor a rhino....and I cried. And cried...and cried...and swore a lot, had a good few very over-the-top tantrums, but I kept picking up that pencil. When I started I couldn't hit the paper with a barn door..then I could. I couldn't draw a circle or a square.....then I could. I couldn't control the pencil.....then I could. And so on....

     The word "can't" is no longer part of my chosen vocabulary. The work I do now I could never have dreamed of doing two years ago. I have some way to go and I have so much to improve, and I know I'll make mistakes.... But long may I be able to make them. 

     To sum up - stop feeding cream cakes and chocolate to your inner critic.... it just gains more weight! It can feed from the big bag of "shush!" you know it deserves. Let your muse out to play. She's a flighty one - a bit of a flake - but if you allow her to waltz to the music of your heart she will lead you through the brightest, most beautiful dance of your life.

     And that's really not a load of rubbish.

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8 comments:

  1. Now I WILL remember what you have written in this blog. Thank you.

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    1. Awesome! Keep making imperfect marks that create perfect beauty! That's my goal every day 💕😊

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  2. I found the right place.. I think. I am an artist not a computer person for sure. I love your work and admire you so much. I love your story pages I call them and look at every single mouse, insect, fish, house lamp, and every tiny lovely drawing! You have been through the ringer. With my year and longer back issue, you inspire me to keep going! Love this place.....

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    1. I'll have to hide a shrew or two just to give you a challenge! You inspire me too 🤗💖

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  3. thanks Shroo - I needed to hear that today <3 very well said too!

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    1. Happy if it helps you to stay fabulous and revel in your sparkle!💕

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  4. My entire time at uni this has been me. I'm to old, I'm kidding myself, I don't spend time getting better at that one thing - I'm concentrating to much on death (shocker!) I'm a one trick pony blah blah blah. You are right. It's starting to get through to me - we are all who we are - our work is made up of our own life and experiences and that is what makes it special. Brilliant post as always. You are such an inspiration!

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    1. And right back atcha! You're an inspiration too - heading back to uni, juggling kids, keeping life nailed down... Plus: I love your work! The whole 'versatility ' thing is as subjective as the art itself. Just this morning I was drooling over one artist's portfolio which consists entirely of massive flowers rendered in a hyper real style. That's pretty specific and focussed.
      I have a butterfly mind. It bothered the scrap outta me for years because people told me I should find a focus and stick to it. Nonsense. I am an intuitive artist. I don't really care whether people think that that's a 'thing' or not. I'm finally at home with myself - as much as I'll ever be. If we can find our 'home' as artists what more can we ask for or need? Really? You have found your home - nest like crazy, collect a trillion comfy colourful cushions and settle in! Feet up. Kettle on. Cake ready. Wear comfy socks, Christmas lights and a tin foil hat and love the Awesome that you are!!💕

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