Art & Fear

February 29, 2008

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Sometimes walking into the studio (even though it is only a few feet from my bedroom) seems to take immense courage. Sometimes that little space becomes a giant elephant in the room, seemingly overnight. It stares at me from across the hall and taunts me with its presence. I experience that conflicting pull to it that is balanced out by a desire to just shut the door and pretend it’s not there. Other times my studio is the one safe spot on earth and I practically run into it like an old friend, after a long day. I begin the process…turning on the warm lights, picking my music, and setting my materials out, basking in the immense satisfaction that this ritual brings.The hardest days are the ones where I struggle with the fear of approaching my own work. When I’m in “the zone” as some runners and artists refer to it, I feel exhilarated by the creative process and the world around me slowly starts to fade into the background as the painting process unfolds. Feeling stuck or in limbo is the exact opposite of that feeling though. At these times I either let myself walk away for a few days (and sometimes weeks!) or I push through and commit to just doing something – anything. Perhaps it’s just doodling in a sketchbook or flipping through images of artists that inspire me.

We find so many reasons or distractions to keep us from creating, or at least to put it on hold for a while. Mine have included: draining day jobs, fear of being judged, poor time management, and even silly things like sorely needing to make a trip to the art store!

Today I was flipping through one of my favorite little books, called Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles & Ted Orland. This is an amazing book and a very quick read. My copy is dogeared and full of underlines and little exclamation points:) At the beginning of each chapter the authors include a quote from an artist that pertains to the topic. One of these quotes by Stephen DeStaebler immediately popped out for me in reference to this post:

Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.

When I was younger my parents would often encourage me to “march down to my studio” when I had been in a melancholy or frustrated mood for a while. They knew back then what I had yet to figure out, which was that I am a very different person when I am cut off from the art making process. Without the outlet, feelings begin to pile up and eventually take their toll on my inward and outward reality. Now it is my wonderful fiance, Adam (a talented and creative soul) who will observe my mood and point me towards my studio. I might grudgingly trudge to it at first, but after a short time I can usually be found happily working away, with a grin on my face. As the authors write in Art & Fear: Those close to you know that making the work is essential to your well being.

One last quote from the book (I told you I loved it!):

Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.

Now, off to my studio I go!


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