Thursday, December 06, 2012
There's a connection between even using the word "artist" that some do not like. Some artists don't like to use the word "artist" because they fear they aren't "good enough" or up to the task of being an "artist" no matter what that might mean. Like there's a tape machine running through their heads, "Nope. Not me. I'm not an artist. I couldn't possibly be an artist." Yeah, right. Artists are those beret-wearing alcoholic French men who dab paint on canvases in the streets of Paris. Those men in those berets, why they make artwork that hangs in museums and I'm not like that. They aren't, they couldn't possibly be *you* or me or anybody you even know, right? Nobody I know could even look like an artist, right? Keep repeating it enough times...
Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of this myself, many times over. Some days, I look at my own work and think, "who did that?" I feel like there's some kind of possession going on-like I really can't create anything at all. I'm just a mindless drone and the real artist is off hiding in the back room somewhere. It makes me sometimes even stop and think thoughts like, "OK. Who snuck into my house and left all these photographs?" Heck, somebody must have. They can't possibly be *mine* right? I think that I've never been to Venice nor stepped in front of an iceberg and, hey, who is hiring all these models? Sometimes, I would imagine, it feels almost like having an out-of-body experience on some level. Like there's some part of me that creates are and, the rest of me? It's busy doing day to day things. (I'm certain you can guess which half does the laundry and makes the coffee in the morning.)
I think there is a connection between art and religion in part because of these types of feelings. Many artists view being able to make and produce art some kind of gift and, in turn, they feel almost an obligation to produce art that celebrates their faith. It's the thinking that God (whatever Gog you might happen to believe in) gave me a gift and so I'm going to celebrate Him in the highest. I couldn't possibly be a great artist, no, this is coming from the "hand of God" (if you will) and it's not mine. Nope. Not me. Nothing to see here. Move right along, please.
I think many artists life with this fear - almost juggle it if you will. They fear what the world will think of them, that the world will reveal them, to be nothing but a giant fraud. Like they really can't paint, nor draw, nor take pictures, that this is, in fact, coming from somewhere else. What could I have possibly done to be able to do this? I'm really not very good at... and, someday, the world will see me for who I really am, not the way they want to see me. It's sort of like self-doubt combined with guilt coupled with inadequacy all rolled into one big ball of hesitation. I call it "The Fraud Effect". An artist thinks he or she is a fraud (on some level mind you) so they then, in turn, hold back or try to diminish their contributions to the artistic world. It can actually lead to, if you follow it through logically, a fear of success or an incredible guilt trip should one happen to start along the path of doing great work. It can be a big problem and lead to a lot of trouble for the artist in question. Crippling self-doubt, in the long run, will get you nowhere.
So, how to combat these feelings? How to fix this problem? How to work through, even past "The Fraud Effect?"
I think, on some level anyway, you have to accept "The Fraud Effect." Yes, you really *are* a fraud but, hey, guess what? So too was everybody else! Wasn't Monet human too? I'm sure he had flaws and, at the time, nobody thought much of his work either. Even today, why I bet you could find some art critic somewhere who absolutely *hates* his work. That doesn't mean you should stop painting. Many artists, most in fact, don't live to see their own success. That doesn't mean you should quit and that doesn't mean you're not an artist. You have value. You have talents. Use them already! Accept the fact that we all, each and every one of us, have talents and that, yes, Santa Claus, some people really can draw and paint and take pictures. That's just what it is they do. Just because you don't look exactly like the guy in the brochure, why it doesn't mean you are not one of those people too.
Now, I'm not a shrink, but I would suggest that the answer to this dilemma lies in learning to accept your role, you various roles in life. Yes, there are going to be some days you will do laundry. That's your job too. But, on a few of the magical days, sometime in-between doing the laundry and making the coffee and doing whatever it is that you do get to do, you're going to be an artist too. And, I would also suggest, be a great one. Go ahead. You have permission! You might be a fraud. You might not be that French man with that beret and that bottle of booze, but that doesn't mean you can't make great art. Go ahead and make art anyway. Make it on your terms. Be a fraud. Be a glorious fraud. Dance like nobody is watching. If you are a fraud, if you really were a fraud, what would it really matter? You'd just be wasting time, right? And, hey, it's your time to waste, so go ahead, be that fraud. Be that fraud, be all of that and more. Push yourself to be the best damn fraud you can possibly be because, guess what? You have just as much right to be there. Everybody else is just a fraud too.
I am but a glorious fraud. I can't draw, paint, nor take pictures. Nope, nothing to see here, just move along please. Sure, I can feel that way, but that's not going to stop me from doing it. Push on, push through, and make some great art in spite of being that "fraud" nobody really thinks you are. There's a song out there, I've forgotten the title, but it's a song with a line in it: "I'm going to take these lies and make them true." That's what you need to do here. Think of yourself an an artist, yes, you too can be that artist, and make it happen. Don't wait for that French dude to show up on your doorstep with his beret and his bottle of absinthe. He's not coming. You're the real artist now so, go ahead, make some art already. Be that glorious fraud. There are far worse things you can do with your life, believe me.
Until next time...