10 February 2015

Self Flogging

Sketchbook Skool Week 5 Homework

There have been many occasions over the past couple of weeks that I have seriously questioned what I'm doing taking this Sketchbook program. There have been many occasions when it's felt like I am punishing myself. I have had some serious struggles.

I have struggled with ego and confidence the most. Because many of the exercises are way outside my comfort zone, I've faltered on some of them. I've made bad work and that has really been hard, but the only one making it hard is me. It's that monkey brain and my own desire that's making things difficult.

Selfie Week Homework
The struggle has come through in the form of procrastination. I've procrastinated doing my homework. I've procrastinated in going to the studio. In fact I didn't get to the studio for several days. I just couldn't settle on what to paint. I was feeling so uninspired and unsure of myself that I literally couldn't think of a thing to paint, despite having files full of images waiting to be painted; sketchbooks full of preliminary studies, lessons and videos to use for practice, and ideas waiting on the back burner.

I couldn't think of a thing I wanted to write about either, so I didn't blog. The computer was my best friend though. My gawd what a time waster it can be!

I finally asked myself "why do you paint".

Do I do it to be famous? No. In fact, I really dislike the limelight and value my privacy and solitude. Fame requires a lot of personal attention and having your life put under a microscope. I definitely don't want that.

Do I do it for recognition? No. Although, it would be nice to receive recognition in the form of appreciation of my art by buyers, I am uncomfortable being applauded or given labels like talented, brilliant, or anything else. I'm just a humble person who likes to paint.

Do I do it to be the best there is? No - that's not achievable. I always want to be better than I currently am, but I don't believe in best. There will always be someone better; and better is a subjective quantity which can't really be measured anyway. Better at what? A better idea? A better composition? Better brushstrokes? Better use of colour?

Along the way I was reading things from other classmates who were struggling as well. I was writing encouraging words to them, but I wasn't following my own advice. "Just do the work." "You're learning - you can't get better without being bad first." "It's not up to you to judge if it's good or bad, it's only up to you to do the work." I'm a pretty good motivator for others, so how could I be struggling myself? Worse is the fact that I've written about overcoming creative blocks several times in the past 20 years too!

I started by asking myself "why do I paint"? To find beauty. To tell a story. To highlight thoughts or dreams that I can't communicate verbally. But the real reason is because I must. My sense of well being is tied to creating. Being absorbed in the process is like being in a meditative state; everything else melts away. My problems disappear (other than the ones at hand), aches and pains disappear (and for someone suffering a chronic health problem, that is no small matter), thoughts become focused on the present - there is no wandering mind.

Beauty is the character that was causing my block. My homework isn't beautiful and my confidence in my ability to portray beauty has been rocked. So how do I get over that? Forget about it. Concentrate on the story, the thoughts, the dreams, and my passion. I gave myself to permission to produce bad work. And as soon as I told myself to forget about producing 'beautiful' work, or saleable work, I was able to settle on a story I wanted to paint, which is now underway.

As an artist, it is important to allow yourself the time to play and practice; to take workshops and get outside your comfort zone. It's also important that you allow yourself the freedom to stumble and make bad art. Maybe these creative blocks are even a good thing. Maybe, just maybe, they are the pause before a big breakthrough. Time will tell if that's my case. I do know that the exercises I have been doing will result in improved paintings with time.