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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life for a Struggling Creative


I have a confession to make, and deep down, I know that what I am feeling is something that most artists and creative souls experience - a deep struggle with creative satisfaction, a feeling that I will never reach my full potential if I don't let myself experience the process fully.


That's a big thing for any artist, experiencing the process.  Enjoying it is very much a part of what drives so many of us to be creative in the first place.  There are times, however, that I don't enjoy the process, and to put it quite frankly, there are times that I just plain hate it.  Why?  Because at times, instead of feeling my way through my work, I over analyze it, I compare it to similar paintings by artists that I hold in high esteem, and then I feel disgusted, unworthy, almost depressed, and this voice inside my head tells me that what I just put down on canvas stinks.


It's a tough struggle, let me tell ya, and if you were to read the ramblings of many a master artist of the past (Monet, Renoir, VanGogh, Cassatt, Degas, Manet) you would find yourself entrenched in a whirlwind of struggling minds, disgusted with their work, afraid to experience the process, afraid to be themselves, afraid that if they were to put on that canvas what they feel and what they want, that they would be regarded as a garbage artist.  I know, I've done the research.  I've studied the art and the minds of the artists I revere. And, here I sit, facing the same struggles. Sometimes, like now, I feel like I know nothing about what I'm doing and will never amount to anything.  I know, it's my pity and my party and I'm entitled to be a pooper now and then.


Being an artist is not as easy as one might think.  We compare our work to every other artist.  We have favorite living, working artists.  We have favorite dead artists.  We have ideas of how we want our work to look.  We want our work to sell frequently and then we find ourselves discouraged when it doesn't.  It is a horrible game our mind plays with us every time we face a blank canvas, or a blank page, or a piece of fabric, or any creative project.  


I'm an unusual creative.  I love doing everything.  I love to paint in oils, and pastels, and draw.  I love to write (duh), I love to express myself through my writing and my artwork.  I love to sew and quilt, I love to embroidery and cross-stitch.  I think woodwork is fun, and pottery too.  I love to feel the clay between my fingers.  I love to teach children (yes, that is a creative process too!) and feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment when they "get it."  I just wish I would "get it."  That is why I'm writing about it.  Have you ever tried to teach or help someone else, explaining the process, only to discover that you found the answer within yourself?  I know I have.  I wonder why that is?


I started a painting about 10 days ago, got the underpainting on the canvas, and walked away.  I wasn't motivated.  I thought the entire composition stunk.  Then, I started to overanalyze my work.  This is lousy, and that stinks.  This one is all wrong, and that one is worse.  I'll never finish that portrait of my son because I can't face the struggle within myself that is required to finish it and enjoy the process.  It drives me crazy!  That painting has been sitting on an easel unfinished for 6 years!!!  


What gives me hope at times is realizing that every artist goes through their own internal struggle, no matter what they create - whether it be writing, sewing, painting, cooking, drawing, singing, composing, playing an instrument, or web design, it doesn't matter - there will always be an internal struggle of some kind throughout the process.  Sometimes it isn't much of a struggle at all, and other times it is horrible. Right now, I'm in the midst of "horrible." 


Even in the last week, I've struggled with what to write which explains why I have not had a post every day, and I do try to post something daily because it is my personal outlet and I enjoy it.  My laundry suffers in the process, though. I really hate laundry.  The only thing creative about laundry is folding it neatly.  


I don't mind telling you, though, that my daughter Sarah has been my inspiration this week.  She has helped me to reflect on my own insecurities that will hopefully help me to be more free with my creative energy, not worrying so much about what others think and what collectors want.  I need to paint what I want to paint and not worry so much about what others think I should paint.  


Have I told you that I think Sarah is amazing?  She really is an amazing human being.  She is doing things at 15 that most people only dream about and she is doing it well.  She has goals.  I am so proud of her. The creative energy just flows out of her and she doesn't hold anything back.  She isn't afraid of her work, she embraces it.  She draws and paints.  She writes (a lot) and is writing a book - 50+ pages already.  She composes music for the piano and plays beautifully.  She embraces her creativity better than I ever have.  It amazes me.  She hates criticism even if it is constructive, but she doesn't let it stop her from expressing herself through her work.  It is flowing out of her like water out of a faucet.  Yes, Sarah has many struggles of her own, being a teenager is a tough job, but she is doing a great job of being a teenager, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a student, a budding pianist and composer, a writer, an artist, and a friend. Yep, she is my hero.  I can learn a lot from my little girl, and I have already.  She inspires me to be a better artist, a better writer, a better teacher, and most importantly, a better mother.  I love being her mother.


Learning how to face our struggles constructively can be a tough lesson.  How to face the criticism without letting it completely destroy our process altogether.  No one ever said that humility would be easy, and it isn't, but I truly believe that all creatives need a bit of humility, an open mind, an acceptance of the struggles, and an appreciation for the God given gifts we have been blessed with. The finished product of our life's work may look like it came easy, but much of it was a difficult experience.  I think it is important for artists to share their experiences, bad and good.  It humanizes the creative process and helps others who are struggling to get past the walls they have erected around their work and just let the creative energy flow freely.  I should do the same.  I think I will.  It will be a struggle.  What's the saying - "Easier said than done."

Do you struggle with something?  I'd love for you to share what you experience when you are being creative.  Maybe we can help each other, at least we know we're not alone in the process.


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