Have you ever had this experience? Someone says something that doesn’t immediately invoke any particularly strong feelings, but then it visits and revisits you constantly?
Someone left a thoughtful comment on one of my instagram posts the other day. About my painting “Revision,” she wrote: “It takes guts to swipe a streak of painting across a face you painted so well. Love it.”
Hmm, I thought, remembering the moment I did it. She was right. The streak was not planned, but happened after the face was fully formed.This final version is indeed the “revision.” And I remember thinking as I prepared to lay down thick paint over eyes I had earnestly painted, well, here goes nothing.
I’ve been mulling that comment over for weeks now. I think I’m trying to decide if the decision to paint across the face was actually brave and why the answer even matters to me. It’s just paint, I keep thinking.
“It’s just money,” is a phrase my best friend and I sometimes throw around flippantly when we want to order a bottle of more expensive wine or a dress at Anthropologie that isn’t on sale. We say it knowing you only can when you have enough of it, when you’re comfortable or privileged or both.
And I think maybe that’s true of paint and paintings too. Maybe the swipe across the face would have required a great deal of guts if it had been the only portrait I’d ever done or would ever do. Maybe it would have if I were still an art major and wet behind the ears. Maybe it would have if painting were something I still did occasionally or rarely. But painting, like money, is easy to risk when you’re pretty sure you won’t run out.
How to become brave at art: a suggestion
This is the question I think the comment really inspired for me, and the answer I came up with is this: you make a lot of it. Excess, expendable art. It becomes so abundant that you can and do take risks without having to muster up all that much courage. Maybe it’s easier said than done. Maybe I might as well be saying just have a lot of money if you don’t want to worry about money. But art, unlike money, comes from inside you, and so ends my analogy. While I think having either in abundance engenders a similar audacity, art, unlike money, is quite a bit easier to create. And notice I’m not saying “good art” or “compelling art” or any such thing. Just art. It’s just art.
I think that Andy Warhol quotes rings true for me:
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
Similarly, in his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfeild highlights one of the key differences between an amatuer and a professional: one over identifies with the work, and one does not. I would argue the professional has far too much work to be able to identify with it all. Abundance creates distance.
“The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still.”
As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts, especially if you pursue something creative in your life, and I think most people do. Do you feel brave when you take a risk or is it just a natural part of your process? Is your practice one of abundance or scarcity?
Written by Denise Hopkins
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