Wednesday, 21 March 2018

We are Most Insecure when we Really Care

                                        And Night Came, acrylic on canvas

It's much easier to share unfinished work on my blog than it is to share it when it is finished.  Sometimes I am consciously choosing that, although not always.  Often I am just excited.  I had so much fun painting I want to say 'look world, at what I did today!' and it's not typical for a painting to be finished in one session or one day.  So while the reason for showing an unfinished painting is often simple enthusiasm, it is also safe.  It's safe because if there is anything 'wrong' with it, if somebody doesn't like it, my ego is safe because the painting isn't finished.   I know that there is more to do, usually some shadows and light to add, perhaps more colour to dab around.  These are the things I typically do last and take more time to do.  Sometimes I need to loosen it up with larger, looser brush strokes.  After I have done this I rarely show the painting again.  I may want to, but now the fear is that I will bore people with it. 

"Oh that thing again.  I didn't like it the first time."

Painting seems to be the thing I really care about.  Oh sure there are other ways to push my buttons.  For instance, suggest that I don't care about something which I do care about, or that I am not honest and sincere, which for the most part I am, and I will probably get quite upset.   When I think back over my life and at what made me cry, it was generally these issues at the root of it.

I publicly share a terrible outfit, write things in first draft with lots of mistakes and post it, post photos of my face without makeup and looking pale and tired and ill.  I can write about  my failings and fears, but what scares me most is sharing a photo of my finished paintings and risking criticism or indifference.  The latter might be worse.   This is where I am vulnerable, so this is what I am determined to get sorted.

Recently I read some advice about this, because I am not alone.  Far from it.  And as with most things arty, this advice probably extends into other areas of life as well.  Here it is.

Learn not to care about what others think.

OH MY GONDOLA!  We have never heard this advice before.

Okay, we have and I am just naturally a sarcastic woman.  You should know that about me.  BUT isn't the best advice the easiest to ignore?  It's hard, that's why.  It's not easy to learn to not care about what others think and while I've done it in some areas of my life I haven't achieved it in all of them.    I've had less practice at making art and showing it to people.  Much less practice than I have had showing my face or my outfit or writing things down and knowing that people will see what I've written.  I've been doing all of those things nearly my whole life.  I've been making art off and on for quite awhile, but giving myself permission to really take it seriously ( in the way that one must take fun seriously or die ) and to do it often and show it to people, well that is harder and I am still near the beginning of that journey.  It has only been about seven years since I bought myself proper art supplies and gave myself permission to spend time and money on this pursuit.

I used to imagine that there was some sort of magic destination where I would feel like a proper artist and have no compunctions about charging money for my time, talent and materials, easily who others my work with the full on knowledge that I am good.  But I realised two things.  One of them is that I am not that sort of person and never have been.  I require a very high level of mastery to consider myself an expert in something and thus it's rather unlikely in any area of life.  It is my nature to set the bar very high and spend my life jumping.  The other realisation is that I am not alone and not only that, but plenty of artists who have commercial success, who sell their hobby paintings, who most of us would consider really good, do not think this of themselves. 

So here are some paintings I have shared in an unfinished state, now finished as far as I am going to take them.  Sharing them now is a risk but at the same time it's a risk I feel ready to take so maybe it's not such a risk anymore.  Progress.  It happens if you keep going.

                                                The Loner, acrylic on canvas

                                             Fruit, of Course, acrylic on canvas

                                               Spring Garden, acrylic on canvas                                           


  1. Thanks for showing your vulnerable side to us. I feel privileged.
    I won't show indifference in return...not a quality I know much about actually!
    Being the person I am, I went back and compared with the other versions to see what you did. I think I see more balance and complexity of colour and texture. Something I do notice is less contrast, which I miss. This may speak to my personality as I love a bit of drama! This not to say they are worse, but the personality of Spring Garden and The Loner are more mid toned and milder, if you like. I love the extra texture and colours on the rocks and waves, but miss the darker colours on the figure which seemed to express loneliness.
    Also the Spring garden darker soil added a foil for the brighter flowers for me.
    But I always edit my photos with darker backgrounds to allow the light to shine. It is my thing, opposite to the modern trend of whitewashing everything!
    It is an observation rather than a criticism.
    I think they look lovely and do see how they are more complete and harmonious. Please keep sharing!
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Thanks for the great feedback! It's interesting to read what you are seeing and what you think I've changed. In some cases you are correct but in others I am not sure. It may be features of the photos or the computer screen. I did add more colour to The Loner, which I had edited out and regretted. To me she is still in darker colours but there is a bit of greenish light on her. Spring Garden I added more colour on the leaves as I really love to drag colour around the scene. As far as I know, I didn't lighten the soil. LOL Your comments about the value change are interesting because I tend to dislike wearing the drama of light and dark, always prefer medium with dark or medium with light, so maybe I am favouring that in a painting too. One thing I know is that whatever stage a painting is in, someone will prefer it over the next one and there is always someone who thinks it needs something else and someone who thinks it has been ruined by any changes. Not saying that is what you've said, just noting your point that our personalities and preferences get involved. Usually, I stop painting at a point where more shadow or light is needed and where I have been too inhibited by the ingrained tendency towards realism to let myself drag the colours around the scene. I have to wait a day or two to be ready to do that part.

      I know what you mean about the current trend to whitewash everything. I was contemplating trying it but I also like to add dark. I am mad about Payne's Gray. Oh dear, I could babble on forever about this. Must enforce shutting up now! xo

  2. I do absolutely agree that we are at our most vulnerable when we care about something. One does have to care about art, it is such a private thing, even if it doesn't seem so to people.

    Sharing work that isn't finished can be easier, yes, and you're right that sometimes it is tempting not to share the finished version at all.

    I'm at a stage in my art when I see only mistakes and things I hate, but I still have this drive that keeps me going on, something I hate it, it's not a fun stage to be in but maybe I need to work it through...

    A Loner looks quite different to me now, but I like the change and the introduction of the warmer colours. The painting Fruits looks so lovely! I really like the Spring Garden as well.

    One of the benefits of making 'work in process' photos is that we can always reflect on your own...but it can also be frustrating because we are always wondering whether it was a mistake to change something. Art is hard....and it can be very frustrating!

    1. It's funny how we can be so pulled towards something that is hard. We make it hard though because we are trying to be all things and please all eyes I think. Even if we say we do it for ourselves, there is the hope that it will please others too and the fear that it won't.

      I see all my flaws/mistakes too. I see that when I look in the mirror or at a photo of myself so I think seeing it in my art is an extension of that. I am aiming to learn to stop that. Flaws are everywhere and they are beautiful. xo

  3. I love this first And Night Came painting!

    1. Thank you. I kinda like this one too. It looks better in reality because in the photo there is too much light on it. :-)


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