It Looks Like I Know What I’m Doing (or a rant on vulnerability)

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I love that when I post my art it looks like I know what I’m doing. Because really people, I haven’t the faintest idea. I just keep on doing it, no real goal apart from to just express myself and follow the joy and sometimes my hands all of a sudden produce things I like. I often don’t even notice while I’m working. My head starts going towards not-good-enough-itis. It’s only at the end when I stand back and take a picture of it that I might realise it looks halfway decent and that it might come across that I actually know what I’m doing and all of this is deliberate.

Well, it really isn’t.

This isn’t some kind of humble brag. I want to share what it feels like as a vulnerable flawed human being who is on a journey of self-development and artistic development and who most of the time is just wandering or ambling or lost. Because I think you might be too, and if you are, I want you to see the real me.

I often think people might get the impression that my art is very deliberate, that I know what I want and how to achieve it. That I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m “so talented”. Talent’s lovely (I am not sure I have it, opinions differ) but it has fuck all to do with actually creating art. (If you’ve called me talented before, please keep doing it, it’s lovely and I don’t take offense, but if you think you need to be talented to make art… well then just stop right there. Stop thinking that I mean, don’t stop making art, START making art).

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I’m currently reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (I absolutely recommend it, go get it right now!) and it made me realise that painting, or any act of creativity really, is such a vulnerable act. I don’t even mean sharing art, that’s also a vulnerable act, but it’s between you and other people. No I mean the act of creating where there was nothing. It’s a vulnerable act between you and yourself, nothing can make you feel as exposed as creating and expressing. And that leap, that start from nothing to something, that is the biggest most enormous leap.

So many people won’t make that leap, because it can make you shit your pants and want to hide in a safe hidey corner where you can pretend that you can avoid feeling vulnerable. And every day people do make that leap. Your favourite painters, your favourite teachers, your favourite writers. And people you don’t know and have never heard of, they make that leap too.

I make that leap, and you can make that leap. It’s the doing that counts. It’s the showing up. It’s being open and vulnerable, because that is the strength you need to draw from to let yourself be creative.

Go forth! Create!

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If You’re Scared Of Making Art

This is for you if you’re feeling scared or intimidated about making art. If you’re having trouble getting started. If you get so deep into the not-good-enough-itis that creating seems impossible. If you need some gentle loving encouragement.

(I recorded this video for Rainbow Journal students, but I thought this might benefit everyone who struggles with these things. You can still sign up!)

So, you know you want to create, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Lots of things can hold us back.

I remember a few years back when during the day at work I’d think constantly about making art, I was overflowing with ideas. Then when I was back at home at my art desk I would be totally paralysed, all the ideas were just gone and I’d end up just watching TV all evening. It wasn’t very satisfying, but the fear was real and hard to deal with.

First of all, I want you to know that it is OK and I understand if you have obstacles or issues. You have some stuff you might not be OK with and need to work through, but YOU are OK and you are wonderful J Be kind to yourself. Take yourself by the hand as if you’re your own caring guardian angel who only wants the best for you and let’s explore the reasons you might be scared. That way you can understand what drives you and stop your fears from having such a hold over you.

Some fears you might be experiencing:

Fear of creating something bad or not being good enough

Hey, you are doing an ecourse! Yay you for taking a positive step to kicking this fear in the butt! You are allowed to practice! You’re allowed to be at a place where your art feels sucky and you’re allowed to get better. Please know that YOU are not your art. You are ALWAYS ALREADY good enough.

Fear of the blank page.

Hey, I’m gonna talk you through everything we do! The first step after creating our journal is painting the pages in bright colours, we won’t even have a blank page to deal with!

Fear of what we might learn about ourselves.

Maybe our dark feelings will come out? Maybe stuff will come up and we won’t know what to do with it? This is difficult, but please talk about it. With us as a supportive group or with the people around you who care. Learning about ourselves is always a good thing, that way things can come into the light rather than controlling us from under the surface.

Comparing ourselves.

So many amazing artists out there, how can we not compare? I love this quote: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” you are exactly where you need to be. You’re creating YOUR work. Own it!

Fear of criticism.

I think when we fear other people’s criticism so much that it stops us creating, we’re really scared of our OWN criticism. We criticize ourselves and when someone else does it too, we use that as a validation of our feelings which makes the criticism feel 10 times worse. You can find criticism everywhere (especially inside your own head), so choose to follow your path and create anyway.

Fear of creating something good.

It was a fluke right? I’ll never be able to repeat that! Or…. Try to let go of the outcome. That was that artwork… the next artwork is the next artwork. It doesn’t need to be compared, it just is.

Thanks for letting me yak about this! To me it’s actually one of the biggest and most important things, understanding what drives us, what holds us back and what steps we can take towards being on our true path of joy.

Thank you for listening and as parting wisdom let me reassure you that:

You are wonderful. You are enough.

 

 

 

It’s Not Automatic – Deserving To Do Art

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From a young age I feel I have always been given the message that if you’re not good at something, you shouldn’t do it.You are only ‘allowed’ to pursue something if you’re already magically good at it. Kids who are good at drawing should keep drawing. Kids who are not good at drawing shouldn’t bother.

We say things like: “Oh I can’t draw” or “I will never be good at painting” or “So and so is much better than me”. You didn’t wake up one day speaking your native language the way you do today. You learned over time. It was most likely an automatic process that you didn’t notice, but it took TIME and you were LEARNING. However, when it comes to anything creative, it’s as if we feel that the ‘talented’ are deserving of pursuing their art, but the ‘untalented’ are not.

deserving-to-do-art-quoteA friend of mine in primary school loved drawing. She was ‘good at drawing’. I put that in inverted commas, not because she wasn’t, but because it’s a problematic label. She drew a lot and consequently was ‘better at drawing’ than many of the other kids. She got a lot of praise for being good at drawing and I compared my drawings to hers and felt disappointed and why should I bother as I wasn’t as ‘good’ as her.

As an adult she’s a rather accomplished artist now. I love her art. It is very rich and technically detailed. She didn’t wake up as a 28-year-old who could suddenly create amazing art. If she had stopped doing art as a little girl and picked up a pencil now, she wouldn’t be creating what she is right now. She’s had a lifetime of practice.

The above example shows how incredibly logical it is that you need practice to get better, and yet we tell ourselves we are not talented enough or not good enough as a reason not to do it!!

On the parenting forums/blogs I read there definitely seems to be a trend towards praising the effort rather than the result. It’s the approach I cognitively believe in and is how I’m raising my kids. And yet… that message from my childhood runs deep. It runs deep in my thinking, and I can see it runs deep in a lot of other people’s thinking as well. These wounds created in childhood are hard to heal!!

When I think back to my childhood I can think of a handful of things that happened that stopped the creative soul inside me in its tracks. My teacher laughing at a drawing I did. My mother telling me I needed more practice when I showed her a painting I’d done (not a horrible thing to say in itself, but that was the only comment). I think every child encounters these types of moments but the importance lies in how these moments are handled. How can a child be encouraged to move past these painful roadblocks? Hopefully not like me, with the decision that I shouldn’t bother drawing or painting.

I feel resentment because of these things that happened to me as a child. As a child you don’t have the life experience or emotional maturity to put things in perspective, ignore the haters or question the validity of a statement/opinion. Especially when the voices are those we trust (parents, teachers) to tell us ‘the truth’. I feel sadness for my child self and what I went through and the consequences that spill over into my adult life. It is very very hard to unlearn the patterns of thinking we learned as a child.

However, and this is the big turning point, as an adult I now do have the benefit of life experience and emotional maturity (ish *grin*) to start doing something about this. I can’t turn back the clock and undo the scars, but I can think to myself ‘Hey, those people so long ago, they don’t need to dictate my thinking in the present’. I can tell myself this every day, and believe me, I need to, in order to quieten those voices in my head that tell me I don’t deserve to do art because it’s not inherently ‘good enough’ or I’m not inherently ‘talented enough’.

I have the power to choose to do this and I empower myself by deciding to create art despite the emotional obstacles and negative voices in my head. Every time I decide to do something creative I am not just ‘getting better’ in a technical sense (i.e. by practicing), I am also growing as a person. I am recognising that I myself hold the power to start to heal my own wounds.