“Courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience…The audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the issue that really counts– namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work”
–Chapter 4, Art and Fear
“Content Cardinal” 4×4, oil on canvas Buy Now
Chapter 4 of Art and Fear is called “Fears About Others,” a topic particularly poignant not just to art-making but to life-living. I’m a born people pleaser– a trait that even as it’s helped me show compassion, has also gotten me into trouble more than once. Throw art into the mix, and you’d think I’d be a total disaster– seeking approval and acceptance like a well-trained dog. But for whatever reason, art has often been my escape from and not retreat to my people-pleasing tendencies. When I tried to do art based solely on what I thought other people liked, I lasted little more than a week.
One of the things I love most about being an artist in 2018 is that I can and do work only for myself. I have no gallery telling me what they are looking for. I get to make the work I want to make, set it off into the world and hope it lands. I get to seek out the people for whom I think it might land. I get to judge new work as it connects to old work, looking for progress more than praise.
I’ve painted cardinals 100 times, but there’s some truth there I’ve not yet fully explored. I do hope, though, that when I’ve exhausted this particular subject’s potential, I will heed the bit of cowboy advice Art and Fear recommends and that I can clearly picture my friend Butch (who writes cowboy poems as part of the 31 day challenge) saying: When your horse dies, get off.
It’s not dead yet and there’s freedom knowing I can ride it out for as long as I choose. More on this tomorrow.