I am on the plane flying towards San Francisco having just taught a workshop in Portland. Mulling over what were some of the more memorable moments of the weekend my mind settles on one in particular. Of course, it is always fun to meet a group of artists and it is true what they say about Portland, that everyone is incredibly friendly.
I usually start my workshops with introductions. We go around the room and people say a little bit about themselves; where they are from, how long they have been doing art, and what they hope to learn. It is always amazing to me the dedication people have in order to get the information they need to improve their art. They stop whatever they are doing for the whole weekend and try and learn something new.
Usually most people speak of their art or their continued practice that led them to this particular workshop. Of course most people want to maybe sound further along than they are: that they have been doing art for a long time and this class is just a refresher perhaps, or something new they would like to try, or simply just a change from their usual art that they have already have a demonstrated expertise in. It is interesting to me that the one thing all of us artists have in common with each other is that none of us seem to be happy with where we are presently with our art. Who doesn’t want to be more accomplished, more celebrated, more successful in their art practice? I guess we all do.
Everyone’s introductions are always interesting but the second person’s, a woman, in particular, moved me. She spoke rather quietly. She told all of us that her biggest desire, her only wish – and it is one she has had for a very long time – was to just make something that she liked; that in point of fact, she has never made anything she liked.
It struck me as such an incredibly brave thing to admit, especially amongst all the rest of us professed artists. That yes, she too knew she was an artist but also was painfully aware she wasn’t any good at it – yet. That she had zero proof, no evidence that her innermost hunch that the she in fact an artist, capable of making meaningful work, was correct.
Sometimes this is what it feels like to be an artist. Sometimes you just have to go on hunches, a very thin feeling that you are going in the right direction even though there actually is very little proof. Very few of us would have the nerve to proclaim our inability, our lack of success in something we so desperately want. I know I wouldn’t. I am much more the “fake it till you make it” kind of person. I just hope nobody notices I don’t actually know what I am doing till such time as I do.
I also know that there is a relationship between vulnerability, honesty, seeing things as they actually are, a distillation of what is true for you, and making potent, authentic work. If we can show who we actually are, if we can stay in the place of really knowing that we don’t know, that we can always be the wide-eyed student of our own artistic journey, we just might end up making something worthwhile.
What patches of uncertainty have you experienced in your artistic journey?