Confession

I have a confession to make

I’m not a real artist, I’m just pretending to be an artist. There, I said it. Yes, I am making art, I went to art school (and then dropped out for financial reasons), my art is starting to get noticed, I’ve been accepted to art shows and I could probably get into a gallery if I tried, but I feel as though I’m a fake. I feel like at any moment I’m going to get called out, “She’s not a real artist, she’s just pretending to be one” and the jig will be up. The whole reason that I’m an artist is that I’m calling myself an artist and no one has caught me yet. The more progress I make in the art world, the stronger this feeling gets. Sometimes this feeling is enough to make me want to quit and change course.

The thing is though, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not alone in this. I heard that there’s a name for what I’m feeling, “Imposter Syndrome”, which according to Wikipedia is:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. [2]

So knowing that this is a thing and I’m not alone helps me to feel better, it doesn’t solve the problem though, the feelings don’t just magically go away. I hope that by sharing my story this issue can start to be discussed more and by it being discussed, fewer people will feel alone. Does anyone else feel this way, and if so, how have you managed to overcome it? I would love to know, please comment below to share your experiences, as I would love to hear them.

Me with my art on Bayview Gallery Night
Me with my art

Fear and Grit

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I’m not meant to be a visual artist, maybe this isn’t the path I want to go down anymore, maybe I want to be a writer.

When I think about it though, no matter what path I chose there will be struggle, uncertainty, hardship and pain. If I let that stop me now, I’ll just get to the same problem in a different place and it’ll be even harder to stick it out because I won’t have built up my grit muscles. I need to stick it out and keep going for my sake.

The type of life that I want to lead is a meaningful, challenging, fulfilling one where I’m able to keep growing as a person.

Maybe I don’t “have what it takes” to be an artist, but I’ll never know unless I actually try and make an honest go of it. If I really work at it and fail that will suck, but at least I’ll have done my best and I won’t wonder anymore. And if I try, I might succeed. That’s the scary part there. If I succeed I’d need to actually change, and change is scary. I need to rededicate myself to my work, like I said before, I need to lean into the fear and uncertainty.

But how? So far I don’t have a good answer, but I’m learning that by taking small steps and focusing on my daily actions instead of the bigger picture I’m feeling less anxious, calmer. As long as I do what I need to do, i.e. eat healthy, exercise, and meditate daily I’m better able think and be creative. When I don’t do those small things I start to fall apart and second guess myself. I need to figure out how I’m going to support myself in the future, sure, but now I need to focus on the present, not worry so much, and have faith that the bigger picture will take care of itself.

I read a book about uncertainty a while ago by Johnathan Fields, it was called “Uncertainty” and I probably should reread it. The book talked about uncertainty and how you can live in the face of it. I remember he talked about how daily rituals help sustain a creative practice. I also want to reread “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A friend recently recommended it to me after I posted my last blog post. I had read it when I was in art school, but I can’t remember much from it.

Anyway, I need to put less pressure on my art, focus on making progress everyday. I miss making art, I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere I let fear rob me of my art making. I haven’t worked on my art in a few weeks and I miss it. looking back, I think what happened was I showed at gallery night and I didn’t sell anything so I got discouraged, I need to remember that the goal of making art isn’t to sell it, the goal is to make it. I need to think small: progress, not perfection.

Me with my art on Bayview Gallery Night
Me with my art on Bayview Gallery Night

Thanks for listening to my ramblings. I wrote this post as a journal entry to myself and I thought that maybe someone else might get something out of it. If you enjoyed this post please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Have you encountered similar issues? How have you managed to overcome them?

Thoughts on Doing the Work

Thoughts on Doing the Work

Or My Reflections on Greatness

 

I wrote this post while walking around the Milwaukee Art Museum, surrounded by great works of art by great artists and some thoughts came to me.

Great artists get to where they are by doing the work. There is no shortcut to greatness. Things like having a point of view and something to say take a lot of work. For me part of that is the hard work of sitting down and facing my inner demons. Avoiding the work will not get me where I want to go. It is just arrogance to think that just because I want something I can do it. I need to put in the hours to attain my goals. I also need to recognize that I might never get “there”, never reach my goals and still continue on my journey to artistic greatness regardless.

Most artists take years to develop their voice and hone their talent and skills.

Avoiding doing the work will only makes the process longer. Avoiding the work, talking about the work, thinking about the work, that is not how I can achieve my goals, the only way I can do that is to actually do the work.

But the question that comes up then is, what is the work? How will I know if I am doing the work or avoiding doing the work? I think that the answer lies in my old friend, fear. The more afraid and resistant I am to doing something, the more likely it is to be the work that I need to do at the moment. I want to use fear as my guide, but in the opposite way. Instead of running away from the fear and discomfort, I need to start to embrace it, lean in and see where I can go.

It’s not easy to use fear as a guidepost, I constantly have to remind myself to do so, but in the end, (I hope) it is worth it. I want to push myself, discover what I am really capable of.

 

View of the Lake from MAM

Artist’s Voice


I just went to an art opening at the Walker’s point Center for the arts (WPCA). I realized something while I was there, it seems obvious, but it just clicked today. Great artists have a point of view. They have something to say, an idea that they want to convey. I need to figure out what I want to express. I have been afraid to articulate what I believe and what I have to say.

What topic do I want to explore now? The idea that there is an invisible interconnected interdependent web that connects everybody and everything across time and space. We are all connected to each other in a meaningful way. That sounds spiritual. I’m also interested in art itself, what makes something art? What role does art play in our society? What role does the artist play? I don’t have a good answer for myself. I need to redefine my world, what is possible? What do I believe? What unseen assumptions are holding me back? Those are fascinating questions to me.

I believe in questioning, following your curiosity, and that there is value in art. Expressing my own unique point of view is part of my job as an artist. One role that the artist plays is that of the questioner, the disruptor. I don’t believe in absolutes, black or white, the world holds so many shades of gray. In exploring opposing viewpoints I clarify my own. No one needs a wishy-washy artist, but at the same time, as soon as you are certain of something you are wrong. Painting doesn’t have to be my medium I think that I’ll return to doing to fiber and installation art.

The unseen relationships fascinate me. What can I explore that is interesting to me now that will bring value to others? What new spin can I bring to those age-old questions? I want to start a long-term project, Maybe about overcoming fear and the resistance, about showing up every day in the face of uncertainty.

Uncertainty will always be there, It’s what you do in the face of it that counts. What am I passionate about, what lights a fire under my ass? I wonder why I’m afraid to articulate so many things fully. I think it’s a fear of commitment, once I put something into words, it becomes concrete and real, even though stating an opinion is not an obligation to hold that belief forever. Having an opinion and being wrong isn’t the end of the world. In the end, I want to be known for something. I want to stand for my convictions, but at the same time I need to hold on loosely, I’m not a fundamentalist. Maybe I already know the answers to all my questions, I need to start asking the right ones.

When I ask myself, “What do I believe in?”, “What do I stand for?”, “What is my art is about?” and “What impact do I want to make on the world?”, I hear the fear and resistance whisper to me: “What if people don’t like it? How will you support yourself with that? How are you survive?.”

First of all, “everybody’s” opinion doesn’t matter to me, I need to choose a select group of people who I care about, Whose views are of value to me. Secondly, worrying about money hasn’t gotten me very far. I‘m not making money from my paintings now, and I’m not sure I ever will. Why not start doing something more interesting? Something that has a strong point of view, that wasn’t created from a place of fear, but from a place of love for the craft, from passion? I need to stop trying to do everything and just do what I’m good at, the future will take care of itself.

I need to let myself have ideas and dream big. I want to create meaningful art, I’ve been so afraid, I need to start stepping into myself. I can only create the art that I can create, I have to stop trying to create someone else’s art. Having a strong point of view is an asset, not a liability.

 

 

My art
My paintings on display at the Magnet Factory during Bay View Gallery Night

 

Art and Fear

I have come to realize that doubts and fears will always be with me, and that it’s how I deal with them and move forward that counts. Moving forward in the face of fear is a definition of courage.

The fear and doubt I feel are a sign of the resistance. They are a sign that I am moving in the right direction. I need to lean into the uncertainty, fear, and risk in order to live the life I want to lead.

There are different types of fear, fear of failure, the unknown, death, success, fear of making the wrong choice, etc. The only thing that they have in common is that they are all in my head. Fear isn’t out there, it is inside of me.

Right now my main focus is getting healthy, long-term I want to be able to support myself through my art and lead a life of adventure while making a meaningful impact on the world.

Daily I struggle with making the right choices, leaning into the fear and uncertainty, I often make the wrong choice, I’m not perfect, but I am moving forward.

I believe that focusing on my health has helped significantly. I am meditating daily, I’m up to 20 minutes. As a byproduct of my daily practice I am better able to recognize my thoughts and feelings while I have them.

 

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The missing piece

Earlier I wrote a blog post about the definition of art. Thinking about it more I realized that the idea was not complete, I left out a key piece of the puzzle that is art. What I left out is that art has human intention behind it, the human being the artist.

A natural rock formation is not art, but a painting of it is, as is a sculpture of it, a picture of it, etc. What these things have in common is that they have human intention behind them. The role of art is to remind us of our humanity through works created by an artist.

There also has to be creativity, artistry, that indefinable spark, involved in the process. The role of the artist is is to remind us of our humanity and bring the past the present moment by tapping into their intuition and creating something with intention. That’s it.

Art and artists are bound together, they are meshed together, interwoven, the definition of one tangled within the definition of the other.

My definition of art

I have thought a lot lately about what art is. I have yet to find a good definition of art that works for me. There are so many things that are art, it seems like a giant puzzle to me and I’m still trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, thinking it might be interesting for you to see my perspective.

In reflection, I have found that the past is a fundamentally different thing from the present moment, in that it no longer exists, except for in our minds. There is the paradox, How can we ensure that the present moment is remembered and lives on when it keeps disappearing into the past? That is where art comes in. Art is a way to communicate over time and space. Marks left on a page, something from the past brought to the present moment. Whether written word or image on canvas, art is the collision of two worlds. But that is just one piece of the puzzle that is art.

As I was listening to the soundtrack to the Hamilton musical I was moved to tears. I wondered why, and that’s when it hit me that’s the place for art, to remind us of the fact that we are human. It moves us emotionally and touches us in ways that cannot be explained. That’s how you know something is art – when it moves you. It’s tricky because what moves one person won’t move someone else. So much of art depends on cultural context – as they say, “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Cultures change over time and art changes too.

So, as I said before, art is a way for the past to communicate with the present. The fact that art evokes an emotional response is another piece of the art-puzzle. Humans are not machines; there is so much more to the human experience than our current scientific and popular view of the world holds. I believe that the goal of art is to remind us of our humanity.

By this definition of art, I’m not sure if what I make is art. I don’t know if I can know because the definition I came up with is from the audience’s point of view. It is in the interaction between the piece and the person viewing it that art exists, the past brought to the present moment evoking an emotional reaction that reminds the viewer of their humanity. This definition is not complete yet, but I feel as though I’m headed in the right direction, what do you think?

Here is a piece I just finished:

Untitled #1 Acrylic on canvas 8"x10"
Untitled #1
Acrylic on canvas
8″x10″

 

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about my post. Does this definition of art ring true for you? Why or why not? What is your definition of art? Did you enjoy this post? Do you want me to write more like it in the future? Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

UPDATE:

I have written a part two to this blog post, you can read it here.

Hard Decisions


Hard Decisions

Or Shifting my Focus

I have come to a fork in the road, my path could lead in many different directions, but I feel I need to make a decision now. I’m tired of drifting endlessly and being so indecisive. When I declared myself an artist in November 2015 (see link here) I was very vague, I didn’t articulate what exactly I meant by being an artist. I’m at a point now where I can look at the bigger picture and I’ve come to a decision. Have you ever gotten to this point before? I know I have many times, but this time feels different.

I’ve decided to shift my focus away from the path of a fine artist and a focus my energy on to my jewelry business. There are many reasons why I decided to shift focus. Mostly it is because I feel drawn to making jewelry, it was my first love.

This is not a decision about running away, it’s about moving forward. Jewelry will be an equally hard path as that of a fine artist, but I feel as though it’s more exciting to me. The idea of pursuing it gives me energy, as opposed to the vague notion of being an artist. I’m not 100% percent certain that this is the right decision, but I learned the decision-making isn’t about being absolutely certain, it’s about taking a leap of faith. Besides, life would be so boring if you always knew what was going to happen. That said, I have decided to commit to selling my jewelry 100% percent for the next six months.

I have been making jewelry for a lot longer than I have been painting. I feel more confident about my jewelry making skills and some of my pieces are selling. If I focus my energy on one specific project, who knows how far I’ll go?

In the next post I’ll share my history with jewelry making if you are interested. Please comment below to let me know what you think.

I’m going to focus this week on selling my copper disc necklaces. Come check them out and if you know someone who might like them, feel free to share.

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I have come to this decision thanks to many people, first of all thanks to the support of my fiends at fizzle.co and my friend Lisa Walker England. I’d also like to thank my mother, without whom I’d be nothing (literally).

MARN mentors

Since spring of 2015 I have been in the MARN mentors program. I applied as an emerging artist to be mentored by a local professional artist. I was really nervous when I applied, but I got in! I was chosen by Della Wells, an amazing local artist.

In reflecting on my time working with Della Wells, the main thing that stood out to me about the experience was how much I learned and grew as an artist because of it. I have grown considerably from my time working with my mentor Della Wells. As an emerging artist living in the Milwaukee area I had very few connections and little knowledge of how the art world really worked. I learned a lot from Della’s considerable knowledge. Every time I met with her I took copious notes; in fact on our first meeting I took 5 full pages. What I took away from the first meeting was: think of money as an investment; invest in myself and my career; do research; have a body of work; know what I want to say through my work, the importance of networking; and she said so much more than I have room to write here. The main thing that I have gained from Della is the ability to think bigger and set my goals and horizons higher. I had been thinking small before and not really taking my career and myself seriously. While working with Della I started to paint and established a regular studio practice. I also have more confidence in myself as an artist and have decided to pursue a career as a professional artist, whereas before I was ambivalent. I feel as though I have many more opportunities open to me in the future through having worked with the MARN mentorship program. Many thanks to Tia, Cassie, Pamela. and everyone involved at MARN.

At the end of the MARN Mentorship program there is an exhibition to wrap it up. The show is at the VAR gallery, located at 643 S. 2nd Street, Milwaukee, WI 53204. The opening reception is this Saturday, January 9th from 5-9pm. I hope you can come down and see it. If you can’t make the opening, there is a closing reception on Saturday January 23 from 5-9pm. I have worked hard on my piece for the show, here’s a sneak peak:

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