09 April 2014

Well, doesn't that just look like crap?

How many times have you said something like that to yourself?  How often do you spend at least some portion of your creative time hearing that (or something similar) whispered in your head?  Oh, those whispers of self doubt.  Those voices that can take a whole lot of joy out of creating.  Those voices that are so freaking ingrained... sometimes they are hard to get out aren't they?

Does everyone hear them?  Where did they originate?  I can remember all the way back to kindergarten when my teachers insisted that trees simply cannot be purple, and cows were most definitely not red and pink thank you very much.  I also seemed to give them fits because I often forgot to draw things on people... I  left off eyebrows and arms, unless the arms were doing something.  To be honest, even to this day I have to remind myself to draw in eyebrows.  But, let's be real...

These are my eyes... you see any eyebrows there?  (And no one sees any wrinkles... got it?)  You have to look darn close, right there, just above my eyes.  My eyebrows are a very light strawberry blonde... I have never plucked them, never waxed them, never shaped them...they are just thin.  Very thin.  And almost invisible.  When I look in the mirror I really don't notice eyebrows, so I forget to draw them.  (And thank goodness for mascara, my eyelashes are just as pale.)  

Yet, in spite of those negative naysayers that told me I wasn't doing something right, and the voices they left inside my head, I persist in my creative endeavors.  How interesting is that?  Why do you suppose that is?

My theory is that humans (at least some of us) were born meant to create beautiful things.  Or, maybe to phrase it more accurately, I think we are meant to create things we think are beautiful, in spite of what others may think of them.  I wonder how many more beautiful things would be created if we didn't suffer from this horrible thing called self doubt?  What would happen if we didn't "measure" ourselves by some self inflicted, and unattainable, idea of what being talented is?  What would we do if we could get those voices of self doubt to just shut up?

Every time I create something those little voices of self doubt chatter inside my lead.  And at some point during the creation process those voices get very loud and I just do not like what I am making.  Each and every piece.  Each and every time, every single time.  I have a box full of things that I put aside because those voices got very loud.  And you know what is interesting?  When I go back and look at what is in that box, there's really nothing wrong with the pieces that are in there.  I very often wonder why I didn't finish them. 

When that self doubt creeps in, it nags at us, tells us we are not talented, we cannot create art, heck, some days we can't even create dinner.  It takes our joy away.  We allow that doubt to win far more often than we should.

If you read the other blog you've often read that I do not do realism well.  (That applies sometimes both figuratively and literally.) Reality is that I will never create beautiful portraits that look exactly like the person I tried to portray.  I will never do a realistic still life.  I will never paint a perfect landscape.  But, I will always admire those folks who can do that sort of art.

As a matter of fact, I admire them so much that I used to believe that the only "real" artists were artists who could do that.  That idea came from my first art professor in college.  He's also the reason I changed my major.  But my real truth is, I don't want to do those things.  I want to create MY art, not someone else's art.  Every so often I will give them a try, just because I can, but I will never meet the standard of perfection I have set for myself in regard to them.  My little nay-saying voices are likely to have a field day.

On the other hand though, I may do some very fun and funky portraits, that might be amazingly colorful and "different".  And I may do some really interesting still life... but it most likely won't look real, but it might be labeled as "unique".  And, right now I am working on a landscape that I see every single day as I drive across campus... it doesn't look "real", but it is becoming interesting.  I'm not looking for "perfection", whatever that is, and suddenly I am doing better work than I have ever done.  I see "me" in my creations now, not me trying to do what someone else does... but me, who I am authentically.  That feels pretty good.

So, how do you quiet those negative little voices in your head that can steal the joy from creating and cause you to doubt yourself?  It's not easy, they are pretty ingrained.  It probably works differently for everyone, but I can share with you how I tamed mine.

A couple of years ago now I was working on something and the little voices were really tearing it up.  Every tiny thing I did was wrong.  The more I doubted what I was doing, the worse the project looked to me.  The worse it looked to me, the more I doubted myself.  It's a terrible cycle that just sucks.  As I was close to tossing the project when something stopped me.  I realized how unkind those voices of self doubt are.  How hurtful, how destructive.  How terribly unfair.

I realized that I would never say such destructive things to another person, so why do I allow myself to say things like that to me?  It was a monumental moment.  The realization that I had the power to stop that negativity.  If I would never say things like that to another, why in the world would I allow myself to have this mean and hurtful ongoing conversation with myself?  Woah.  This was big. Huge even... bordering on life altering.

Oh my gosh... I can be kind to myself.

I can treat myself the same respect and encouragement I give other people.  I can be encouraging rather than doubting... I can have faith in myself rather than that nagging doubt.  Wow!  WOW!

From then, each time the voices of negativity creep in and start getting loud I ask myself, "Would you say these mean things to someone else who was giving it their best try?"  The answer is always "of course not".  So the logical next question is, "Then why are you saying these things to yourself?"  and now, each time I begin to hear that negative thinking when I am creating something I remind myself that it is ok.  What I am doing may not turn out as I originally envisioned it, it may turn out even better.  And you know what, it often does.

It's taken a bit of resolve, and I've had to be pretty consistent with myself about it, but, the little negative conversation I have in my head about my work have started to lessen.  I've learned to be kind to myself, to replace the negativity with encouragement.  To stop allowing the voice of negativity to speak so darned loudly, and to let the voice of kindness step up to the plate a bit more.  Sometimes now days the negativity barely rears its ugly head... what's the point if I'm not going to listen and allow it to ruin my adventure?

And you know what?   I am having so much fun!  Fun!  To sit down with a blank canvas or sheet in front of me has turned into such an adventure.  To watch the colors splash across it, to see it take shape, to get my hands covered in paint and paper... and to NOT hear that constant line of negative thoughts streaming in my head.  Pure joy, seriously.  And I think it shows... my colors are bright and garish, and I just love them.  I've become passionate about creating, trying new processes, experimenting and coming up with what works for me.

Everyone who creates things should feel this way about what they are doing... it doesn't have to be a Rembrandt, or a Matisse... it is perfectly fine to be a June... or a Deb, or an Eileen, or a Cherie, or a Yvonna, or a Melissa, or a Mary or a Kate, or a.... you get the idea.  YOU are an ARtisT... and the work you do is lovely because of the joy you put into it... let that shine.  Let the beauty of YOUR work blossom, let it reflect who YOU are.

Sometimes it means strangling those negative voices, and it's ok to do just that.  Stop and ask yourself, "why do I allow them to keep speaking to me"?  And... if you ever need back up, email me, I'll be happy to help you strong arm them.

So, what do you do to quiet your little nagging, nasty, negative, nay-saying voices?

02 April 2014

A garage sale...

Ok, it's been a while... I promised posts, I didn't promise consistency.  Life has been busy, 40 hours in an office a week, visiting my father every day, trying to get in creative time, AND doing all the other stuff that must be done... you know, grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming up the dog hair dust bunnies before they come to life, and watching The Walking Dead.  Not to mention that winter is just freaking killing my soul because it just will not let go.

But, enough with the excuses... let's chat.

What's your work worth?

Don't make faces at the computer screen like that.  It's a pretty simple question, right?  But it really isn't, is it?  Every time I show someone at work something I've done I get the "why are you working here" thing.  Let's look at that...

A couple of weeks ago I woke with this very clear "vision" of a painting swimming around in my head. (Happens to you too, right?)  I honestly had no intention of painting, I was busy creating little art dolls that just were not turning out to be what I wanted, but the painting just was not leaving my head.  It obviously needed to be brought into the world.  So I decided I'd put a couple of the things I was doing off and paint.

Interestingly enough, later in the same morning that I had woken with that in my head the University issued a juried call for employee art.  It seems that our hospital recognizes the role of art creating an environment that works to improve health.  Now, very often I don't notice the obvious, I want to, but all too often they just slip right past me, but this one did seem pretty clear.  A week later the painting on the canvas looked very much like the painting I had seen in my head and I liked it.  It's called "Flowers for Kate".

As I do with a whole bunch of my art I took it into my day job to share.  Again I got the "why are you working here" comments, and then someone said, "I'd love to see your house, I bet it is just full of your work!"

You and I have had this conversation, at least we have if you read my other blog, so you know I don't have my creations everywhere in my home. I never have.  You can find all sorts of them in lots of other homes, and you might find some in total stranger's homes (I often leave it somewhere to be found), but you don't see much of it in my home.  It's always interesting to me that everyone thinks my house must be just full of it.

 So, I explained to her that, while I have tons of stuff that both of my children have done, I have little of my own.  The majority of my work (what isn't given away or left to be found) gets tossed into a small dresser I have just outside my studio door.  It goes in, the drawer closes and I go back to playing.  Often I've made the comment that my kids will be able to build a magnificent bonfire with it when I move on.

Someone that had over heard it said, "You should have a yard sale!"

A yard sale.  Hmm.


While I am pretty confident that this person really didn't mean anything negative by the comment, I had to wonder if they realized that they had just equated my work, a week worth of applying layers and layers of paint to a plain canvas to create the vision I had seen in my head, with junk you no longer want and have decided to unload on other folks for pennies in a yard sale.

It's taken me about a hundred and three years to finally come to believe that my work is coming into what I want it to be.  I struggle with self doubt every minute that I am making something, but I like what I am doing right now.  Really like it.  Love the bold colors and the way it's all been coming together.  I see "me" in it, and that is very exciting.  So my initial reaction to the comment was "what the hell"?

This person stuttered something to the effect of, "I didn't mean it like that". Of course they didn't, but once something is said, it's out there.  And once we hear it, there is an impact.  And, once stuck in my head the whispers started.  You know the ones... the ones that hint that you don't know what you are doing, that no one is going to like the stuff you've done.  Mine go sort of like this... "why in the world did you put a pink background in that painting, I mean seriously?" "Geeze, really?  A big ass black pot in the middle of it... really?"  "You know, it just sucks, you can't paint, what are you thinking, why bother?"

I don't sell very much of my work.  Why?  Mostly because I am unwilling to sell a piece that I have invested money for a canvas and supplies, invested anywhere from 20 to 40 or more hours into creating, for less than the price that the canvas cost in the first place. 

Every day I go into an office where I spend eight or more hours managing a very large program. I work here to provide myself with an income that takes care of the bills and provides me with benefits.  When I come home, if there is laundry to be done, errands to be run, groceries to be fetched, chores accomplished, it is all on my shoulders.  I also spend time every day with my father, as well as try to get in some time with my daughter and from time to time get out with the girls from work.  Once everything else is done, I creep into my little studio and I spend time creating. 

One is the work I do to pay the bills, the other is the work I do because it is what I am meant to do. 

Which is worth more?  Outwardly, I get paid to go into the office for all those hours each week.  I get three weeks of paid vacation, a bunch of official holidays, insurance and benefits.  But, to me, worth isn't just about monetary gain.  Worth, in my way of measuring it, is growing, developing, learning, being the best possible version of me that I can be every day.  That does not require perfection, it simply requires persistence.  For me, my art is an expression of that growth, the learning, the persistence... there is truly a piece of me in each and every item I make. 

So, if I value my work, if I am asked to sell a piece of it, how much is it worth?  Shouldn't it be worth at least minimum wage?  Or the wages I earn for my day job?  More?  Less?  Garage sale prices?

It's an age old dilemma... how do you determine the worth of your work?