01 April 2011

art & fear - chapter 2 read-along

Well, here we are. Its April 1 so that means its time to look at Chapter 2 in our read-along of Art & Fear. If you missed the post about Chapter 1, you can find it here. Chapter 2 of the book talks a lot about uncertainty. There is one sentence that I think sums up the ideas of the entire chapter beautifully:

"Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending."

I was particulary struck by the distinction made between stopping and quitting. So often I work along in a particular thing (technique, fabric, medium) and then all of a sudden I find myself without any more passion for it.

I don't hate it. I just feel like there is no where else for me to go with it. But part of me demands that I stick with it because to abandon it would make me a quitter. The authors draw a sharp distinction between this feeling and what it means to actually quit. They point out that stopping a particular pat is not quitting if you are simply moving on to something different.

Quitting means never starting again. Ever.

It was sort of an "aha" moment for me when I read that. It made me realize that just because I don't do something anymore does not meant that I'm a quitter. I stopped and simply made room in my life for the next big thing.

But the overall theme to Chapter 2 is really about embracing uncertainty and our fears. These are two things that we encounter in all areas of our life but I admit to feeling it most accutely in my art life. And I know that no matter how much I accomplish, they will always be there.

There's that nagging voice that tells me a project won't work so don't bother trying. Or the hyper voice that works me into a nervous frenzy by reminding me that my deadlines are coming and I won't possibly be able to get them done in time. They still hold the power to paralyze me and sometimes they still do.

But I'm learning to work through that. I let them do their thing, knock me around for a day or two and then I kick them aside. The truth of the matter is that I'm in charge, not them. And every time I stand up to those uncertainties and their bullying ways, I become a stronger artist and a stronger person.

The artwork I produce does not always come out the way I expect. I'm a stewer, I think a new piece to death before I actually set about making it. Thinking that I can execute it in one pass rather then having to constantly go back and re-work it. For the most part, this way of working has served me quite well.

But things don't always come out exacly the way I think they will. I've muttered on more then one occasion, "That looked way better in my head."

My creative eye and my reality eye don't always jive.

And that's okay.

I don't know if I would continue making art if it was always certain, if I always knew the outcome. Uncertainty makes me work harder, pushes me in different directions. I've come to realize over the years that self doubt and the uncertainty are a necessary part of my process, that without them my interest would wane and I'd probably abandon the whole business all together.

I don't think uncertainty has to be a negative thing. I think a lot of people won't take the risk because they believe that failing means the end of the road, that there is nothing beyond it. But I ask you this: If you submit an article proposal and it doesn't get accepted, does the world stop turning? If you submit a piece of work to a juried show and it isn't chosen, will the sun stop shining?

The answer is no. It doesn't feel good but you have to keep in mind that rejections of these kind are rarely personal. They are what they are and you move on. But without being willing to accept a possible rejection, you won't ever be able to find out just how far you can take things because you won't even try.

Think of uncertainty as your friend. It keeps things interesting, like a good soap opera where you never know what is around the corner.

Next month on May 1, we'll take a look at Chapter 3 of Art & Fear, hope you'll join us!


Ann Brauer said...

What a well thought out post. I agree that I do not like to know what a piece will look like when I begin--a concept yes and a starting point, but the piece must have its own essence that it can assume.Thanks for writing this.

Jay said...

This is one of my favorite books, I took a fiber arts class from Elizabeth Busch at Arrowmont several years ago and she would read to us from this book each day at the beginning of our sessions;