Before I start this I should warn you that I am not myself ... I am sick as a dog, in a deep, dark hole of despair and generally not in a good place, so take whatever I say with that in mind. Two conversations this last week prompted this post. One was with a fellow artist, the other with an acquaintance who's wife, it would seem, has artistic aspirations, but is too scared to put her work 'out there'.
All three of us have something in common. We are all terrified of people seeing our pictures.
Two of us however, have overcome that; the acquaintance's wife is still struggling. I feel for her, and know exactly how she feels. I think the majority of artists (performing artists, musicians, painters ... ALL artistic sorts), suffer from the fear of putting themselves out there. More specifically, it's not the display that scares us, it's the potential for rejection. We are terrified of putting ourselves out there and our work not being liked. Okay, so I acknowledge that this is dime store psychology ... anyone could work that out, and obviously it affects some more than others. Those with a low self esteem will really suffer.The trick is how to overcome it. Now my artist friend had these three things to say, which I though made a lot of sense:
- "we tend to take other people's opinions and project them into our own movie theatre and tend to only see the negative;
- but u know what - there is seriously only one you - whether they can appreciate that or not - the fact is - that is THEIR problem, not yours;
- so I took a conscious decision long ago to make an effort to get rid of the shyness."
Now I thought that was pretty good advice; and as I thought about it I realised that those were the steps that I had taken to get over the hump of putting my work out there. It just takes a couple of life's beatings to reach the realisation that what people think of you is not as important as what you think of yourself. So what if people think your work isn't worthy of public consumption ... stuff them! Do what you need to do!
So to put it bluntly (remember I'm not in the mood for talking sweetly tonight), this is what my acquaintance's wife needs to do: She needs to 'grow a pair'!
- Decide if you actually DO want to be an artist. If not, stop; and stop saying that you want to be one one day!
- If you do, do you want to be an exhibiting artist or not? If not, stop; and stop saying that you want to be one, one day!
- If you do, then DO! As they say in the classics, "either piss, or get off the pot"! Here I should make all sorts of noises about the quality of your work, and how long you should be painting before trying to sell your work etc etc etc.(Please note this isn't an excuse for shoddy quality and low standards ... you'll soon learn that the market won't tolerate that and neither should you!) You know what .... let the market decide! Stop worrying about what people with think ... I promise you, no matter how good your work is, someone WILL think your work sucks. So what!? At least you put it out there! There are only so many pictures you can paint and give to granny, thrust on friends and horde in cupboards before people start NOT taking you seriously. If you don't take yourself seriously, no-one will. ... and if you find that once you are out there and no ones buying your work, then learn from it ... maybe you do suck ... so paint more and learn ... or maybe you are a genius, ahead of her time, only to be recognised sometime is the distant future ;o).
As some insightful person recently noted ... "to bare one's body is nothing compared to baring one's soul" - Anon.
Yes, you will be exposing yourself, and yes that does leave you vulnerable. All I'm saying is this, if you never try, you'll never know ... and one day, when you're lying on your deathbed I promise you won't be thinking to yourself, "man, I'm so happy I played it safe and never took any risks!" Where's the fun in that?!?