I can do this… or can I… ?

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”

“Someone important”

“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!

Version One:

Version Two:

Version Three:

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

What’s My Scene… ?

One of the things I love about ART is that there are so many ways of expressing yourself. 

Painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, collage, mixed media, digital, landscape, seascape, cityscape, still life, illustration, printmaking, architecture,  portraiture, traditional, contemporary, realistic, naturalistic, conceptual, abstract…

Acrylics, oils, watercolours, gouache, pastels, charcoal, pen, ink, ceramics, wood, stone, bronze, glass, metal, natural fibres, leaves, bark, paper, wax, plastic, wire…

In fact the list is almost endless… just about any material can be used in just about any way to convey an idea to a viewer.

I personally have way too many interests.  I have dabbled in many different mediums and styles.  Ink and Brush, watercolours, pen, pencil/charcoal, pastels, collage, and am at TAFE studying acrylics at the moment.  Beading, sewing, sculpture and paper art are all things that I enjoy and would love to spend more time developing.

I completed the below pointillism for a portraiture competition recently. 

John Cleese in Pointillism

 This piece took me every spare moment I had available for about 2 weeks straight.   I found a photo of John Cleese on line and sketched the outlines onto my paper and then with a .005 felt tip pen spent hours doing individual tiny dots.  Not one single straight line exists in this drawing.  It is amazing how difficult it is to resist the urge to actually “draw”.  The finished piece is absolutely fantastic – I didn’t win anything but I am very proud of how it looks.

This next line drawing piece was inspired by a photo of my daughter and her dad fishing together. 

This style came about almost by accident.  My friends and I had gone to the Matisse exhibition in Brisbane for some inspiration, and then we had a life drawing session not long after.  I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from my usual methods so my lovely friend suggested I “leave something out” as we had seen Matisse do in his work.  So, I did, and the resulting piece was just lovely.  After some humming and ahhing I was encouraged to enter the piece into the 2012 Just Nudes exhibition where it sold and won Best in Show by a Local Artist.


 I enjoy the contour line drawing style because of its simplicity, the ability to convey a feeling in as few lines as possible.  And this style appeals to my eye.

But then I also love the colours and movement available with the use of watercolours.  This piece was inspired by the birds that sit in our front garden to eat the nectar in the native trees we have planted there.

I started using watercolours when I was asked to illustrate a book back in 2010, I had never used them before.  I had worked mainly in pastels or pencil.  I like to think I still have a lot to learn with them.

But with some artists you just have to look at their work and immediately you know who created a particular piece.   

I am not there yet, and I am not sure I want to be there.  I am still having fun, and learning about different mediums and what results can be achieved.   

For a long time I have worried that my art didn’t speak.  I have been to many different exhibitions and read a lot of artist statements about why they created a particular piece or series of works.  And quite a few of them talk about what it is they are trying to say with their art.

I don’t create a piece to voice an opinion, or impart a message. 

I create art because I “feel” it.  I am inspired by many different things and often an idea for a piece will just emerge and I am compelled to create it. 

One of the best things I have done for myself and my art is to put myself “out there”.  This year I made a resolution to actively get my work into the public eye.  I have entered exhibitions, I have deliberately put more work on line, and I have sought other avenues to promote my art.  One of these ways is the Handmade Highstreet Shop in Annerley, QLD, and the other was the Sunset Markets in Ipswich, QLD.

The quickest way to build self-confidence is to stand on the side of the road with a selection of work and let complete strangers critique you.  The very first day was gut-churning and nerve wracking!  As any artist will tell you putting work in the public eye is hard, standing next to it and trying to sell it is harder!  At least at first.

I have met many, many different people.  Some just give a cursory glance and continue walking, others pause and make appreciative noises.  And then some people share with you a personal story about why a particular piece of art made them stop.

I am at the very beginning of my journey, and because of all these reasons, I am going to continue to create art simply “because”.  I am going to continue to use different styles and mediums because different images simply “feel” better in a certain medium or style.  And I am going to continue to push myself creatively till it all just clicks into place. 

I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, but it would be cool to think that one day someone will look at my work and say “That is an Andrea Baumert Howard original!”