“Your desire to make art – beautiful or meaningful or emotive art – is integral to your sense of who you are” – From Art and Fear”

I finally know this to be true.  I mean … really, really REALLY know this.  And when it’s working, when the art I make is more than I expected …  my soul soars.  I’m in alignment with purpose, spirit …  all that stuff.

Embracing this idea can also work against you.  When you as an artist inextricably tie your sense of who you are to not only the aforementioned desire, but the generation of beautiful and/or meaningful art, you must contend with The Dark Side.  That sense of self doubt and feelings of inadequacy that come from not delivering.

When I don’t have time to create, when my creativity is stuck in neutral … I get grumpy.  If the art I’m making isn’t working, or turns out like crap, I want to quit.   And it gets worse from there.

I have also discovered a more subtle trap that fear can drive you towards: making lesser art.  Any of this sound familiar?

  • I need to make art that sells
  • I can only spend X minutes making these or I’m not making enough per hour
  • I need to establish myself and have to compromise
  • (fill in your own version of ego preserving self deception)

I figured out last week I was taking this bait (I’ve spit out the hook, by the way).  Making good quality art is only part of it.  You can make the same chocolate chip cookie over and over again, perfect every time.  You can do the same thing with a painting of Parisian street scenes or a butterfly garden sculptures (guilty!).  But it’s journeyman art, a respectable effort but not what I want to do.  I want to make statement pieces, art that says something.  They may be similar to a previous piece of my own (or another artist’s) but art that pushes one boundary or another, challenges me or you (the viewer) in a different way.

Don’t be good, be great*.  Not in a pretentious self-aggrandizing way.  Not in a ‘I want to make a statue of me one day’ way.

“There is only ‘do’ or ‘do not’ – there is no ‘try'” – Yoda.  I’ll do it.  I’ll make great art.

*Borrowed from author Michael Lewis discussing what his High School baseball coach would always tell them as they took the field for a game.