Perseverance: our best friend
“Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is overcome by the pain of not working.” Stephen DeStaebler
This phrase describes my artistic life very well lately. Being pregnant, although I feel super excited about it, has also led me to moments of a lot of frustration with myself for wanting to work but my body not allowing me to. I also have to admit that sometimes it wasn't because of nausea or fatigue. I admit that these discomforts sometimes became simple excuses to not work hard enough. After not having painted for a long time, going back to it was like breaking down walls to move forward with new work that I've been doing.
For me it is super easy to prepare for markets, make watercolor illustrations with floral motifs, sheets and cards etc. It is an area that I feel that I do well and doing something handmade is my safe place, because even tough there is a part of me in each of those creations, at the end of the day, I see it for what it is, my small business.
On the other hand, to work on my personal art where I am naked and vulnerable in order to expose my works as an artist and not as a craftswoman, is difficult because it reveals the inner most being. When I work on those pieces, everything changes.
Recently I had a conversation with another artist about those walls that are ultimately ruled by a single king: the fear of failure that our art will never succeed.
Being afraid that our next work will fail is normal. We all deal with it continuously when we start over. To survive as an artist, it is a fundamental requirement to face those fears because when artists quit it is because they convince themselves that their next work is already doomed to failure. And that resignation causes us to lose our destiny and our sense of belonging to our art.
What is the engine that moves our art? To being recognized? Make lots of money? To be somebody to the gallery owners?
Honestly, I consider that vanity.
And I don't mean it is bad to dream of reaching those goals someday. I think it is a good dream, to want to live 100% of the sale of our works, that are valued etc. The problem is when it becomes the reason and the center of why we paint.
Because the works of painters that have impacted my life the most did not have nor did they seek that focus and most of them died without being recognized in life for their work. What they really pursued was authenticity, being truthful, creating beauty with their works even when they expressed pain and misfortune.
So what do we do to survive those fears? I think it's the most difficult: Persevere.
“And art is all about starting again”.
Honestly, this season, when I broke down those walls and finally sat down to paint, nothing I did convinced me, I was frustrated because it was not what I wanted to achieve. The idea, the feeling I wanted to convey, everything was in my head, but when I worked on the canvas, all my insecurities surfaced creating works that made me ashamed to look. But, I was aware that even if it hurt, that's what the creation process is about. And now after all those stumbling blocks, I'm finally enjoying it. I am sure that before finishing this new collection I will have moments that I do not enjoy, works that I will throw in the trash, but it is a circle where we have to walk around because when we persevere and overcome them the satisfaction is enormous.
Anyway, this is me. These are my struggles trying to mentally prepare that when the baby arrives in January, I will have to stop again and start my creative cycle again.
So if you're going through a similar situation, cheer up! You are not alone.
“After all, in making art you bring your highest skills to bear upon the materials and ideas you most care about. Art is a high calling - Fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others - indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don't, quit." David Bayles & Ted Orland in Art & Fear
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