If you are an artist, and you haven't read Art & Fear, please make a point to do so. When I am feeling the paralyzing fear and self-doubt that so many artists know, a few pages of this book gives me the perspective and inspiration to continue working. It is a really powerful book, and this is coming from someone who scoffs at most self-help books, and hates inspirational quotes. As I read the first sentence, "Making art is difficult." and then the first page, "We do work that does not feel like our own" "Often the work we have not done seems more real in our minds than the pieces we have completed" I knew this book understood a whole lot about me, and about my art, and about my daily negative inner dialogue. I wanted to finish the book before I wrote a blog post about how wonderful and helpful it is, but I got 30 pages in and couldn't contain myself any longer. Here is a list of the many helpful things I have learned in that first chunk of Art & Fear.
1. The work you imagine is always more incredible than the work you actually make, and that is totally normal and doesn't really change.
I have always loved making thumbnails because of the potential they have. This could really turn into something incredible. Vision races ahead of execution. The very first brushstroke has the potential to turn into a masterpiece, and every brush stroke after brings it further and further away from the imagined masterpiece. There is an anecdote in Art & Fear where a piano student is learning from a master and says to the master "But I can hear the music so much better in my head than I can get out of my fingers." to which the master replies, "What makes you think that ever changes?". It's not you being a bad artist, it is just the reality of our imaginations. All you can do is try to improve with every piece.
2. Everyone else feels like they're only pretending to be an artist too!
Apparently a lot of artists feel this way, and I definitely do. I know exactly how I make things, and how much of it is unplanned, accidental, happy mistakes. We doubt our credentials. We compare ourself to people we admire, and we don't think we measure up. But really there is no such thing as "pretending to make art", if you're expressing yourself artistically, and making the best art you know how, you are making art, and you are an artist.
|Seriously what the hell Jeannie. Stop all of this tremendous work.|
I am definitely guilty of thinking that these people who make the art I have pinned to my illustration board, or my artist friends who I admire so much, are secretly magic. I mean I don't really think they're magic because I don't believe in magic, but I definitely don't picture them as mortal beings slaving away, making mistakes, deleting their mistakes, revising, hating their work, feeling exhausted. I picture them in beautiful studios with charmed lives where every brush stroke is an act of genius and they know all the answers before they even begin. I just picture their successes, not their struggles. But as described in Art & Fear, "Art is made by ordinary people", and in fact ordinary people are the ideal artist because great art needs to include warts and flaws and happy mistakes. If a perfect person made perfect art, why would I care about that? And guess what? I'm an ordinary person, and can therefore make art just like all of my wildly talented friends, like Jeannie Phan and Noreen Rana.
4. Striving for perfection is dumb and harmful to your work.
Making mistakes is really scary. But it is important for artistic growth. If you try to avoid making mistakes, you will either stop making art, because if you aren't making anything there is no way you can mess it up, or you will stick to things you know you can do really well, and never challenge yourself. This is bad. Your mistakes show you what you need to improve on in your next piece. They are helpful and awesome, and being perfect is probably overrated and boring anyway.