Sometimes Being Interested Is Enough

being-interested-is-enough

Often when people post their art in the communities I’m part of they follow it up with ‘but I’m not a real artist’ or ‘but it’s just my hobby’. As if there is some kind of division between ‘real artists’ who can post their art without caveat and ‘not real artists’ who need to qualify it before posting (because otherwise what..?).

This might have something to do with someone’s personal level of confidence or the way society views art, or a combination of both. I definitely identify with this tendency, this wish to let people know you don’t want them to judge you too harshly or to let them know you’re not full of yourself. This desperate wish to take a bit of that huge vulnerability out of creating or sharing something so personal as your own art.

It also might even stop you from creating in the first place. That feeling of not being good enough or not qualified enough. Why should you do it if there are so many other people who might do it better?

A couple of weeks back I went to NineWorlds (it is an inclusive geek convention, it’s amazing!) and I put myself forward to speak on a panel about problematic issues in the work of Joss Whedon. As a self-professed Whedonite (I wrote my undergrad thesis on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) I’m semi qualified to speak on this subject.

Nineworlds Panel

But I worried. What if I didn’t know enough? What if I wasn’t good enough or couldn’t contribute? What if my knowledge was too niche (e.g. just about BtVS instead of all of Whedon’s work)? What if other people knew way more about the subject? What if people from the audience looked at me and thought ‘pfft what is she doing on that panel’?

I discussed these fears with my therapist and he suggested:

What if simply being interested is enough?

This actually touches on something that I read in Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly (I mentioned this book in my previous post) in which she proposes a culture of ‘enough’. That instead of trying to be perfect, we should simply try to be engaged.

When you feel passionate, interested and excited about what you do, it doesn’t matter whether people like it, because the right people will respond to your engagement. When you downplay something, you are giving people a signal that it’s unlikely to be interesting to them, because they will simply mirror your own (lack of) enthusiasm.

This is what I try to do now with my art. I try and move away from the questions of ‘is it good enough?’ or ‘will people like it?’ and instead I try to move towards ‘is this interesting to me?’ and ‘does this make me feel excited?’.

Giving Up?

Ever Feel Like Giving Up On Your Art?

Do you ever get so frustrated with your art that you just want to throw in the towel? Bin it? Give up?

I’m currently teaching in several places (Let’s Face It & Love Art Happy Life) and apart from the wonderful work that is being posted, people also sometimes express their frustration. Their annoyance at not getting it right or not drawing what they see in their mind’s eye. I read about people throwing their art in the bin or ripping it up.

My heart feels heavy when I see people being so hard on themselves!

I really understand that feeling, that annoyance and disgust at what was supporsed to be wonderful, but ended up severely lacking. I’ve never binned my art, but in a way I binned my creativity for years: by simply not creating for fear of creating something disappointing (again).

For me I want art to be something joyful, even if I recognise that it is sometimes a struggle (believe me, I struggle). Getting the balance right is actually a really big part of my wish for self-care and self-respect. Shooting yourself down actually adds another layer of suffering on top of the already existing disappointment of not liking something or something not working out right.

I feel so sad thinking about the fact that so many of you experience this, I want to share my tips for allowing art to be a more joyful experience.

1. Struggle. First of all, let’s just sit with the fact that we sometimes struggle. Life can be a struggle, art can be a struggle. And that is OK. Struggle is not something to be avoided at all cost or a marker of not doing it right. It just happens. Sometimes we struggle with something physical (e.g. art techniques) or emotional (e.g. confidence). If we interact with the struggle and face it it can help us actually get further on our journey. It helps us grow.

2. Letting Go Of The Outcome. I know I harp on a lot about letting go of the outcome *grins* but it’s just so relevant! The art you create simply is. It is not good, it is not bad, it just is. WHY do we want to throw it in the bin, or annihilate ourselves or rip it up? It’s about attaching an importance to it being something ELSE. As long as we’re focussed on wanting it to be anything other than what it is, we’re creating disappointment and suffering for ourselves.

3. Noticing. Being able to think critically and assess our work is a strength and can help us improve, but there is a difference between observing and criticising/annihilation. When you notice instead of judge, you’re simply observing what is. You can then absorb that knowledge in a positive way, rather than a judgy feel-bad-about-yourself-way. It’s the difference between “The eyes are all wrong! It’s ruined!” and noticing “The left eye is smaller than the right eye. I don’t enjoy the look that creates, next time I will try to pay more attention to getting the eyes the same size”.

4. Be Where You Are At. It’s so tough in this online world not to compare ourselves. I don’t know about you but my Facebook feed is filled with wonderful art from amazing artists all over the world. Everyone is doing their own thing and everyone is on their own path. Consuming dozens or hundreds of pictures of what other people are doing can really affect my confidence about what I am doing myself. I start comparing myself and wishing my art was ‘a little more like this’ or ‘a little less like that’. When I compare myself to others I’m treating myself so unfairly, because really I can’t compare myself to anyone other than myself! I’m Iris, I’ve been painting on and off since 2008 and consistently since 2013. I paint a few times a week. I tend to choose expression and play over technical skill and practice. I’ve not been to art school. I’ve followed some online classes. I love trying different materials. Etc etc etc (everyone has their own unique story). The art I’m making is a beautiful reflection of who I am at this point in time, and I am exactly where I need to be.

Say it with me now:

The art I’m making is a beautiful reflection of who I am at this point in time, and I am exactly where I need to be

I really hope that the above will give you some of the tools that have helped me get out of the critical judging way of approaching art and into a more accepting and joyful way of doing art.

If you have any tips I’d love to hear them, please leave a comment below!

Embracing Your Inner Darkness

I’m afraid of my inner darkness. That might not be a very surprising statement, because I don’t know many people going around declaring how much they luuuuuuuurve their dark stuff. (Other words for this might be inner demons, or issues, or icky stuff, or what do you call it?)

I had a realisation the other day though: I have this wonderful platform for exploring my darkness in a safe place.

ART

And yet I don’t. I’m afraid of what might come out. I’m afraid it might not be pretty. I’m afraid I’ll sit down with the intention to connect with some darkness and then for nothing to happen because I don’t even know HOW to do it.

You may have noticed I like to draw pretty faces. Or cute whimsies. I love stuff that looks pretty, cute and colourful. It’s definitely the type of art I enjoy looking at (as evidenced by my Pinterest). I actually even enjoy creating cute & pretty stuff.

It’s not like I don’t like what I create, but when I think about it, I might not feel a deep satisfaction with what I create lately.

This is kind of funny, because a while back I broke through the block of not enjoying the result of what I created (can you say: inner critic?). Then a while after that I broke through the block of not enjoying the process.

And now I’m finding there is another block to encounter & work through. It’s scary, but it’s actually also exciting! It sends such a strong message to me that this is a journey. That whatever we learn and learn to deal with, we’re never done because there’s always MORE. It keeps life (and art!) from getting boring.

So I’m going to be digging in. Trying to access and let flow the scary stuff. Let my own intuition and inner landscape guide me.

Are you with me? Ready to face the scary stuff in a safe space?

Half the time I don't know wtf I'm doing, but I think I have this wish to display to the world that I've got it all figured out. That stuff I do is intentional, you know, with purpose. But I realise I hide behind it. That I pretend even to myself that I know all the steps. It's the really letting go that I'm scared of. On this spread I'm trying. But it's still actively TRYING rather than just LETTING or BEING. It's so scary. It's so exciting. I just want to stick with it and see where this journey takes me. #intuitiveart #lettinggo #artismyteacher #mixedmedia #artjournal #irisimpressionsart

Flowers Grow Out Of Darkness | mixed media in A5 art journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

Pink Hills | mixed media in A5 art journal | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

What Makes You Come Alive? Go Do It!!

I’ve been having some major learning experiences lately with regards to listening to my inner voice. However, it’s funny, I tend to reach certain conclusions about things, like major lightbulb AHA! moments, and then as life goes on I completely forget them and start making the same mistakes again! So then I have to become conscious of what I’m doing again, to get more in line with my true self aaand the circle continues. Hopefully at some point something will stick, right? So, my recent learnings, let me share them with you!

One of the MAIN things I’ve learned these past months is that when it comes to anything you do creatively (painting, blogging etc) you need to do what makes YOUR heart sing. Not what you think other people want to see, what you think you should (such a dirty word!) do or what your parents want you to do. The quickest way to burnout and not feeling enthusiastic is doing stuff that isn’t true to what your inner wisdom is telling you is RIGHT for you. Do what YOU want and your passion and enthusiasm will be infectious and people will be interested because YOU’RE interested (and therefore interesting).

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.Howard Thurman | www.iris-impressions.com

Last week I was in such a dark mood. I wasn’t feeling any of my paintings. I spent a lot of time doing social networking stuff and watching TV shows because something was stopping me from getting into the studio. (To be fair though, I was rewatching Dollhouse, which is very very worth every minute spent on it lol) Every time I sat down to work on my paintings I just ended up sitting and staring into space, or telling myself it wasn’t any good, or that I couldn’t come up with the right ideas.

Until I realised that I was expecting myself to create other people’s art! I was berating myself for the fact that my intuitive paintings didn’t look more like Flora Bowley’s work. I thought MY intuitive paintings should look like SOMEONE ELSE’S otherwise they wouldn’t be intuitive enough… BATSHIT INSANE RIGHT?!!! Seriously, looking back on it it’s so obvious where the flaw in my thinking is, but these thoughts really go through my head when I’ve inadvertently given myself over to my inner critical voice.

And then this happened:

Scared Inside | mixed media intuitive painting on 12 x 10" canvas board | www.iris-impressions.com @rrreow

Scared Inside – mixed media on 12 x 10″ canvas board

I gave myself permission to DO MY OWN THING. I’m sure you can still see other people’s influences there, but I wasn’t actively trying to make it look like anything, apart from what was already inside me. I also gave myself permission to make similar shapes to ones I’d already done in previous work. I tend to tell myself that I can’t do the same thing twice or I ‘won’t be original’. It’s not like the masters ever worked with the same themes or imagery..oh wait.. Again with the crazy inner voice!

Part of the ‘problem’ is that there is so much amazing work out there being created by so many amazing people. I love looking at the stuff my artist friends create or things on Pinterest. It’s absolutely inspiring and makes me want to get into the studio (and when I start thinking “I’ll never be as good as…” I quickly try and shoo that voice away!). Where it goes wrong though is when I think ‘Wow what they do is amazing, I must want to do that too’. That’s where there is a really fine line between being inspired by what other people do (totally awesome!) and wanting your work to look like theirs and trying to achieve that (not so fulfilling).

I’ve realised that “What I like” and “What I like doing” don’t have to be the same thing!

What makes you come alive? Let me know and then GO DO IT!!

Am I An Artist?

am-i-an-artist

Am I an artist just by virtue of calling myself one? When I create art, does that automatically make me an artist? Can I even call what I create ‘art’? Why is this word ‘artist’ so important, and what power does it hold over me? These are questions that occupy my mind often and I think are important to pay some attention to in order for them not to become obstacles on my journey of creating art and being an artist.

am-i-an-artist-detailHas anyone ever given you a compliment on your art, only for you to quickly dismiss it or downplay it? For example I often find myself saying “Oh it’s only a hobby”. As if my art is not as arty as someone else’s, simply because it’s not my day job. If I accept that compliment, truly, it becomes a scary tentacle monster with lots of expectations. It becomes a gateway for judgement, because WHOA if I call myself an artist then I must tick the boxes of what other people think an artist is or should be.

I don’t know what other people think, but I know they’re out there, ready to judge, ready to trample my fragile budding artist soul. Better to not call myself an artist at all actually and crawl back in my cocoon of safety where I never risk anything or put myself OUT THERE. Isn’t it funny though, because I have no such problems with calling myself a mother. I became a mother automatically when I gave birth to my first son. I might be concerned sometimes with being a good mother, whatever the hell that means, but a mother I am, for sure, no question. So why is art so special that I feel creating it doesn’t automatically make me an artist? Whose permission am I waiting for to call myself an artist?

Face it, in order to reach our potential and be fulfilled we need to take risks. It’s the easy option to let your fear of what other people think inhibit you being yourself. That way you never have to face your fear, you never have to own up to it, and you never have to truly admit that it is PART OF YOU. The roots of your fear may lie in other people in the past (don’t we all have those childhood scars?), but the change lies with you right here, right now. Stop externalising your fear, OWN IT!

am-i-an-artist-quoteHave you ever noticed that people tend to treat you in accordance with how you present yourself? A confident person gets treated with respect. A shy person gets ignored. If you meet someone new and you ask what they do and they say “I’m an artist”, are you going to ask for their qualifications to make sure they’re really an artist? No, you’re going to accept it just as you would have if they’d said they’re a teacher or an architect or a mother.

If it doesn’t sound too cultish (lol), then please join me in saying that: From this day forward I will call myself an artist and not apologise for it.

On Change – Motivation To Do Art

on-change-motivation

For years I have been in love with mixed media art and art journaling, but for the longest time I have suffered from some kind of creative paralysis. I would look at other people’s art or read mixed media books or watch art videos or buy lots of art supplies and get crazy excited and inspired. I might even attempt to do art myself but I always ended up disappointed. It wasn’t GOOD enough, I didn’t ENJOY creating it, it was a labour (and not one of love).

So I have a number of art works spanning from about 2008 until early 2013, but there are always big gaps in between. There is no thread, no consistency. When I look back at them I am far less judgemental than I felt at the time of creating them (“How crap! Why should I ever make art again?”), but there is still something lacking. Like they exist in a vacuum. Strange, disjointed one-offs.

Then in the summer of 2013 something changed. It wasn’t a lightning strikes or epiphany moment, but probably more of a gradual shift that culminated at that time. I can’t know for sure the exact reasons, but two things played an important part. The first was therapy. I started seeing a therapist towards the end of 2012. On a short term basis I didn’t notice anything, but as the months passed I slowly started feeling differently. More empowered, more in charge, less confused or clouded (sorry to be so vague! I find it hard to put into words!).

The second thing was having Zephyr, my second son, in June 2013. It gave me confidence, as stuff like that tends to do, but it also marked an important next phase in my life: the chance to start thinking about myself. What do I want, what do I want to achieve, who do I want to be? A sort of awakening after being solely in the ‘mother/pregnant’ role for quite a few years.

So it was in August 2013 that I started doing art, not necessarily every day (circumstances prevent that), but consistently and with joy. What a change! What a difference in how I feel towards it! I haven’t stopped since!

Now at this point in time I’m starting to get to a point where I actually quite like my art, I enjoy doing it, I feel confident about it and I enjoy the result. Sometimes the doubts set in though. As long as I’m in my art room creating art I’m fine. But then I visit some blogs and expose myself to other people and I’m like: SO MANY other people are already doing this, who am I to think anyone is interested in what I’m doing. There is no space for me.

Or I’m thinking about a video I want to do and then it’s like.. it’s been done before. And I KNOW that it’s never been done by ME and that I have a unique voice blablaba, but it STILL stops me in my tracks and makes me feel like everything I do is useless…

However, I am also counting my blessings and remembering the fact that a year+ ago my inner critic was preventing me from making any art regularly. I’ve got past that now. Yay progress! Currently it’s making me feel scared of sharing it or trying to carve out more recognition.. So maybe a year on from now… who knows.

I’d love to know if this experience resonated with you or hear your story if you’ve experienced something similar!

New Art Pieces in February and March 2011

I have been busy busy for a change! Usually I am just lazy lazy. I have been cutting down on my World of Warcraft time lately (and unfortunately also violin time, I’d like to play more but am feeling hugely unmotivated currently), not really as a conscious choice but I just find I am busy with other things that I enjoy more.

Saturday just gone marked 30 weeks of my pregnancy! So over the past few months and the coming few weeks I’m seeing a lot of friends to catch up before ‘my life is over’ (as I’ve patronisingly been told by some people). It’s both scary and exciting to think that it’s not much longer to wait now. We’re doing a lot of preparations at the moment, mostly in the form of buying stuff. We still need to get a car seat and the carrycot attachment for our pushchair. Other than that it’s just a ton of small stuff we need. We’re also starting antenatal classes at the end of this month. We’ve signed up for the NCT courses and I look forward to meeting other couples in our area.

I’ve been fairly productive with art lately. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy that’s inspiring me or maybe the feeling of spring which is always a positive time of year. When it comes to creating art it’s the mental obstacles that stand in my way the most (I am not good enough, my art is not pretty enough, it doesn’t look as good as x/y/z artist’s work, I don’t create as much as others so mine isn’t ‘valid’ somehow etc, the list goes on for a looooong time!). I can’t say I have found a specific way of battling these demons, but I am feeling slightly more confident lately and am really trying to tell myself that doing ANY art is all part of the process, whether I like the piece I end up with or not.

Pregnant Princess – I’d had the idea for doing a whimsy pregnancy painting floating around in my head for a while. After doing Bird in a Cage which had very dark colours, I wanted to do something with light and cheery colours. We’ve been working on our baby’s room and I wanted to make something that could possibly go up on the wall in there. I am quite pleased with how the piece turned out overall. I always find it scary to paint a face because I never feel like I have a lot of fine control over the expression, but it turned out OK (although quite different from the sketch I was working from!). I also like the colours and the textures.

Walking My Elephant – I actually don’t like this one particularly. I felt good about it when it was still a sketch, but then I started with the colour and stuff went wrong (the black outlines smudged around her mouth and I didn’t end up being able to fix it properly). Ironically I’ve had some comments from people that they like it and they think it’s cute. That just goes to show! I guess I like the concept but too much went wrong with the execution so it just left me with a bad feeling that I can’t seem to shake.

I Am Already Authentic – This one I like, both because of what it looks like and what it represents. This is an art journal spread that is the week 1 assignment of Tam’s free Art, Heart & Healing course. The aim of the assignment was to listen to my inner critical voice and write down all my self-criticisms and doubts. Then I gessoed over the words as a symbolic letting go. The next part was to paint a ‘self portrait’ and turn the criticisms into one positive statement (coming from the point of view that the critical self is only trying to protect us, albeit going about it in a negative and self-destructive way!).

For me the main theme that came out of this exercise is around not feeling authentic or special as I am, and always feeling like I have to be more like other people in order to be liked or loved or noticed. It’s a constant struggle as intellectually I know I am authentic and special and have my own unique message to impart, but I find it very hard to really feel and believe that as well. It is one of the many reasons I find it hard to create art and update my blog regularly as well! I often can’t imagine why anyone could possibly be interested in me or what I have to say. I am not saying that in a self-deprecating ‘pity me’ way by the way, I am just trying to illustrate some of my personal struggles around self-worth and authenticity.

Hint Of A Smile – A while back I did a workshop at Blade Rubber Stamps to learn how to make your own Japanese Stab Bound Journal. It was a fun class and at the end we took home our own album that we made during the class. I think it has about 15 pages in it with nice high quality paper (not watercolour paper but it’s fairly thick and very nice for art journalling on). This piece is on the first page of the album. It’s so nice to work in an album I created myself from scratch! Really adds to the feeling of ownership and pride. I am also very pleased with this page. I felt confident and in control about the face and I like the colours and level of complexity in the background.

Art Journalling – A Safe Place

After creating Hetty & Dimitri‘s painting I wanted to do art more regularly, but found doing paintings quite intimidating (especially if they’re just ‘for me’, rather than a present). So I decided to get back into my art journal. I neglected art journalling for over a year due to judgements swirling around in my head. Thoughts about not feeling good enough, or not creating ‘pretty’ pages, or other people out there being better than me.

Then I thought to myself that I should really try to work through those negative thoughts, and not let them control me. An art journal (in theory) is the best place to do that. It’s much more of a ‘safe’ place than for example a canvas which leads me to pressure myself into having to create something ‘good’ (whatever that means, I am hyper critical of my own work, I’m sure other artists can relate). I am definitely learning to be more accepting of what I create and to take pleasure and satisfaction from creating in the first place rather than judging myself for creating something that looks rubbish and then punishing myself by feeling badly and not doing more art.

I especially like the whole ‘creating & moving on’ style of working. It’s all about the process and expressing yourself, not about a perfect finished product with not a hair out of place. It’s such a great platform for experimenting with technique, composition, materials, colours etc. Love!


Permission To Be Me
Aesthetically I don’t love this piece, but it is important to me because I was able to accept it and move on from it. The whole theme of the page is about giving myself permission to do and be, and not punishing myself for whatever arbitrary reason. It’s funny, because I am always so scared of negative comments or feedback, but the most negative and critical person to evaluate my art is me!


Worthy
I started this page back in 2008 (I think ‘worthy’ was a prompt from SuziBlu) when I painted the mice and the house with the girl. There were lots of words scribbled in the empty space and I hated the whole thing! Then the other week I decided to go back to it. I added the background and the stamped words and now I actually really like it. Such a simple addition but it made all the difference to me.


Princess and Her Castle
Not much of a story behind this one. I wanted to draw a whimsical girl and already had the idea in my head for a castle in the background. I initially had a sticker of a rose in the entrance of the castle but I got rid of it because I preferred the darkness/scariness of the black hole. I bought this amazing butterfly stamp which you can see in the background, it’s so pretty.


Doodles
Just some doodles I did for fun while on the train (which is why some of the lines are anything but smooth!). If you want to learn how to doodle I would highly recommend this video by Marieke Blokland. It’s awesome!


Growing, Learning, Loving
I had been thinking of doing a pencil sketch. I wanted to try a 3/4 face according to the things I had learned in Tam’s portrait class. It’s my first attempt at doing a non-front facing portrait and I found it quite difficult. Also I think I got confused and switched light sources about 4 times throughout drawing so the shading doesn’t necessarily make sense lol. Nevertheless I really do love this page as it was fun, good practice and I can see progress in my technique and I also like the composition.

Being Average

(I have to type really quietly because Andrew (the husb) is still asleep and gets very grumpy when woken up. Good luck to me, because my massive G15 keyboard is anything but quiet)

I have such a love/hate relationship with the internet. On the one hand I love it (I could extol the virtues of the internetz and modern technologies for a long time) but on the other hand it allows me to feel baaaaad about myself.

On the internet I encounter people who are just so much funnier than me, better writers than me, prettier than me, better artists than me etc. Some people when encountered with ‘competition’, will strive to do better. Me, I’m like the opposite. I get talent overload paralysis (real condition. No I just totally made that up but it sounds official) and just sit here staring at my screen unable to CREATE for fear that it will be AVERAGE.

Now I’m a pretty rational person. Logic > all, for me. I’ve been told by people they like my painting, they like my writing, they think I’m pretty. AND YET. 90% of me doesn’t believe it (the other 10% of me is a person with a superiority complex the size of Europe). So I continue to look at people who are ‘better than me’ and feel bad about myself. It doesn’t make sense… IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE PEOPLE!