I clearly remember idolizing certain artist’s work. That happened a lot because there is just a ton of art out in the world that is amazing. I used to compare my art to the highest standards I could find. In many cases I loved other people’s work much more than mine. And I guess that is to be expected because, especially in the beginning your art is not as developed as possibly someone else’s who has been working much longer. It is hard to compare.
I remember thinking that if I could hang any art on my walls it certainly wouldn’t be mine. It would be a specific handful of paintings of other people’s art.
Friends wondered why I didn’t have more of my art on my walls. I used to say that I was looking at my art all day long so I didn’t need to see more of it. But looking back I think the real reason was that I didn’t really love what I was doing or how it often turned out. There was a disconnect between what I was making and what I loved. Maybe I didn’t believe I could make the kind of work that I loved. Or maybe I was just scared to really try. I think the latter was more the reason.
Anytime in life when you commit, when you say out loud what you want, even though the chances are slim you will ever get it, the fear of failure grows bigger. This probably is the case because the chances of failure are bigger. It feels much safer to keep things pretty good and pass on trying for great.
The only problem I found with this thinking is that pretty good is just that. It is kind of boring after a while. At some point, it seems important to go for something big. Something that matters to you. It might not be your art. It could be anything. The only real criteria is that it matters to you. Big time.
So at some point, for me, things began to shift. Or rather, my thinking did. I raised the bar on the kind of art I was making. I eventually decided that, even though it was scary to ask myself for greatness, I would start trying anyway. I set about trying to make only the kind of art I loved.
Obviously I couldn’t pull it off all the time. In fact, rarely did the outcome match my expectations. I think this is the case for all artists. But the important thing, I believe, is that we have the expectation. That we are fully in.
Today I do hang my art on some of my walls. I am not tired of it at all. It reminds me that I have to keep trying to make art that I love. That it is possible to make something that matters so much that you just can’t let it go. That occasionally we can create something that is such a part of us, that it is even too painful to sell.
When this happens you know you are on to something. Something that is way better than pretty good. It is something that matters. It is a once in a blue moon kind of a something. And it is actually, great.