I have been quite ill recently so I have had a lot of time to sit and think, or should that be dwell?
Something I struggle with is the nagging whisper of self doubt. It has got to be the number one killer of inspiration and creativity. Actually several artist friends that I have spoken with all suffer the same affliction.
That little voice in the corner of your mind that says things like…
“That’s not good enough”
“Nobody will like that”
“What are you trying to say with that piece?”
For me personally I think some of these thoughts come from my lack of knowledge in some areas of arts practice, and my own perception that I lack particular skills simply because of my inexperience.
But in reality, I over think everything.
I have a habit of second guessing myself. What I mean by that, is that I have an idea, which initially I am in love with and think is fantastic, but then the little gremlin that lives in the dark recesses of my subconscious speaks up. I start on a roller coaster of doubting my original idea and try to come up with something “better” or more “clever”. Something that my little gremlin believes would make a better impact or a piece of art that actually “speaks” to that general population of “them” – the viewer.
Case in point – take a look at the journey I went on with my recent competition piece for the Portraiture Award. The first struggle I had was to choose a subject! Oh my gosh! How difficult that was! I literally spent weeks on searching through images on Google trying to settle on someone to portray.
My gremlin kept harassing me, saying things like,
“It has to be someone famous”
“They have to be recognisable”
“Someone who has made an impression on the world”
“Who do you admire”
And all the while I kept thinking I don’t really have any hero’s. I mean, I have people I look up to, but in quiet and personal way – not something I wanted to express publicly in a competition situation. So finally I chose someone who made me laugh. John Cleese. I watched him in the “Monty Python Picture Show”, my friends and I laughed till we cried while watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” more than once, loved “The Life of Brian”, and then enjoyed watching “Fawlty Towers” with my parents. “A Fish Called Wanda” became a favourite movie, and now with my children we enjoy his voice talents in various kids’ movies.
Once that decision was finally made I then had arguments with myself about the execution of that piece.
What medium was I going to use. Which style suited the subject best?
All the while I was quickly running out of time – the deadline was looming – and I still had no idea exactly what I was doing!
I even had a poorly executed attempt at abstract with acrylics.
In the end I silenced my inner gremlin and went with my gut. I followed my instinct and completed the piece in the style that I had originally thought would be perfect and that is how we came to the finished pointillism piece.
I am so glad that I did because it is amazing. I didn’t win any prizes in the competition, nobody bought it and it didn’t make people’s choice, but I did learn a hell of a lot about myself and how I process work.
Now it hangs proudly in my living room as a testament to how far I have come, not only as an artist but as an individual human being.
I have made progress towards learning how to trust myself more. The first idea usually is the best, because it is that seed that started the idea growing in the first place. Sure you can expand and cultivate the idea but where you started from is equally important as to where you end up.
So – I can do this – or at least I am going to try to keep listening to that first voice in my head and ignoring the quiet gremlin within.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath
“If you hear a voice within you say „you cannot paint“, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”
― Robert Hughes
“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.”
― Tennessee Williams