What I learned in class today…

If you can find it, you must read: Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (1993). Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking. Santa Cruz, CA: Image Continuum Press.

I’m going to steal a few quotes and only loosely paraphrase others, because, frankly, the author say these things better than I feel I can. What I will say in my own words is the effect this article has had on me, even after only one reading. (Well, kind of one reading. I tend to reread the sentences that catch my attention at least five times, before writing my notes on it.) This article explained to me one of the real reasons I’m an artist… I don’t ever quit on my art making processes. I never quit trying!

…those who make art are those who have learned to continue… and to not quit…

Artists may stop what they are doing, either to reflect, breath, consider options, etc… but they are compelled to try something new. They always get up again and move on.

One of the reasons artists are so emotionally challenged by the making process it that they feel the art is an integral part of who they are.

… the line between the artist and his/her work is fine… and for the artist it feels like there is no such line…

Making art feels and is dangerous and revealing!

Making art stirs up self doubt. It blurs the lines between what you know you should be and what you fear you might be.

The author then seems to be channelling a little Eckhart Tolle when saying that anxiety, doubt, fear all arise when the artist (or everyone, in my view) looks backward and forward, instead of being in the now. For those artistic types out there, this is a that feeling we get when we fall out of our blissful liminal state. Our doubts/frustrations most often show up when our imagination/daydreaming/visions race ahead of our execution.

Now here’s the kicker, if you are still following me on this ramble… Vision always races ahead of execution! We always think faster than we can physically act. When we are in the making mode, this always happens! The key is to accept it as normal and just follow the visions as best you can. Artists just continue, well, to continue…they just keep making with the materials at hand.

Vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.

What’s that last bit about, you ask? Well, accept that we will always feel uncertain about our execution, because, as artists, we are always in a continual state of problem solving. transforming, experimenting, and seeking… answers are rarely the end.

Before I take a swing at this last nugget, let’s consider the author’s suggestion that true creativity (imagination and the use of it) only occurs at the beginning of the making process. When that first brushstroke is put down on canvas, there are still endless possibilities of what might happen. The possibilities lessen as we progress into the work, as our vision takes over the control of our technical skills and the work finds its destiny toward completion.

As started before with the sad bit about ends… artists often feel a sense of loss when a piece is complete, as there seems to be no other possibilities for it. Soooooooo, artists thrive on possibilities (process), not ends (products). This might be why so many artists always feel that pieces are never perfect, even though they can’t imagine anything else to do to it.

The article goes on with affirmations about the artist being the maker and that materials don’t speak for themselves. It alludes to the strange, out-of-time nature of an artist’s daydreams of fame and accomplishment always being in the perspective of the future, while simultaneously looking back at past successes.

Most artists don’t daydream about great art – they daydream about having made great art.

And much like my impressions on the article, it rambles to a close with a suggestion that artists are a somewhat masochistic lot who thrive on uncertainty.

Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.

I can’t tell if I’ve done a good job of selling the joys of being an artists to you, but I can tell you I have solidified my artist identity and it is no longer only my guilty little pleasure!

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