For years I have thought it was the influence of family members and teachers that kept me from making art. I would sit in front of a blank canvas, an exciting new idea in my head, a pallet full of paint in one hand, a brush in the other, and yet puzzlingly unable to make any mark of any kind. Artist's block was the diagnosis I was given by professors, coupled with permission granted to paint whatever I wanted and still, I sat there, frustratingly full of anxiety, paralyzed by fear I simply could not understand.
But I didn't have artist's block. I had ideas, but I was afraid to try them. Artist's block sure wasn't the problem, so what could possibly be holding me back. I thought maybe it was because of things that were said to me when I was a kid. Grandma's counting out the possibility of making a living as an artist made that option null. My father's reprimanding and rules about not using my school paper for drawing? Only being allowed to draw on the backs of scrap paper or old bills or eventually, the inside of brown paper grocery bags, the bottoms cut off and the paper unfolded? Maybe it had to do with the value or more likely devaluing of artistic skill building or expression. This is what I went with for about the last decade.. It was someone else, someone with great influence on my developing sense of self worth that crippled me. Yeah, that was it.
Then something interesting happened. I decided that if I were ever going to get anywhere close to being able to tell someone why I make art AND have an intelligent, passionate answer I'd better start doing the hard work of confronting my fears, whatever they turned out to be. I started thinking about what actually happens to me when I'm in that paralyzed state and realized there had been some interesting self-talk happening.
My mentor and most inspired artist friend told me to write the things I said to myself down, to make a list of the thoughts and phrases that circled in my mind as I struggled to set paint to canvas. It took only minutes and to my surprise I had quite a lengthy list. What was most surprising was how much of it was never said by anyone outside of my own mind, ever:
After looking at my list I realized, none of these phrases were ever uttered by another person. I was doing this to myself. I have been the one devaluing my need and curiosity for artistic expression and I have been doing it my entire life. Granted, part of the reason I began these attacks on myself developed into their obsessiveness only by having begun with a handful of small suggestions to steer away from the world of art, but it was me that carried them in such a powerful way throughout my life.
What I am working on, now, is exercising my own freedom to make art, perfect or imperfect, salable or unsalable, good or bad. I am making it a priority to give myself permission to make art every day. Someone else told me recently that it is scientifically proven that, as an artist, if one cares about something, at least one million people in the world care about it, as well.
I started this series of work that I feel is happening in phases, but is focused on giving myself that permission to make art and be an artist. I am currently in a sort of stage of rebellion wherein my work is more of an exercise in using the materials I was never allowed to use, which, rather ironically turns out to be the least valuable and most unsavory choices for most fine artists, but nevertheless forbidden to me as a child exploring art.
The following posts will be focused on researching the value of artistic skills, the value of art, itself, including the materials with which it is made, why people choose the path of art, why I have chosen the path of art, and what I want to say. This is only the beginning as I fully expect to learn things that will have profound affects on my studies and the work I am producing in my studio.