textiles · exploration · misadventure


On Art and Self Doubt: July, 2015

Poppies by Brenda Higginson

Self Doubt

I have an ambiguous relationship with the word “artist”.

I want to be an artist. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I’ve done creative things all my life, but never in a concentrated manner. I have an English degree with a writing emphasis, but aside from that, I’ve never written anything besides this blog.

To me, an artist is what I am not. I imagine artists as having deep, controlled skills. I don’t have any deep skills, except perhaps in writing, but that’s not my chosen medium. I have shallow textile skills, in myriad disciplines.

I imagine artists make choices about what skills and materials to use, have knowledge of the history behind those skills and materials, and purposely choose them for effect. I’m busy collecting bits and pieces, throwing them in dyepots or onto a spinning wheel, and seeing what happens. I’m busily gathering and experimenting with random bits of matter.

It’s not that l think the skills I have and the processes I follow are not or cannot be part of an artistic process. I think the opposite: that I am building skills that will allow me to produce art, if I have it in me.

Fearless Creating: Introduction

I started reading Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel, a book on the creative process that I read about on Red2White, and I’m of two minds about it.

Partly, I think artists are artists because they do and make, not because they read about it. And yet, guidance and knowledge, especially of self, are important. I suppose my real concern is that I’ll allow the reading to take me away from the making. That’s been a problem in the past: I drown the anxiety over making in an intellectual pursuit, fetishize the study, but go nowhere, make nothing.

That actually makes sense, when looked at within Maisel’s theories. According to him, there are six stages of creative process, with associated anxieties, states of mind, and solutions.

I have wished, chosen, and started, but I have yet to work, complete, or show. The biggest block to creativity is anxiety and fear, with which I am intimately acquainted. I get that.

Do I have an inner artist? Do I even have an artistic aesthetic? Can my work be good enough, deep enough, interesting enough, to be noticed? Because yes, I do want it to be noticed, and WOW, that was hard to say.

What if I build it and no one comes?

Maisel also says that one of the strongest tools of the creative process is management of anxiety and fear, with which I am also intimately acquainted. The solution to fear is not only action, but specific action. And nevertheless, an artist will always work with and within a sense of pervading anxiety of some sort.

This all makes a lot of sense to me.

What about you? Artistic desires? Artistic fears?

Image Credits:
Painting, Patchwork Poppies, by my college roommate, Brenda Higginson. Brenda, your work has always stunned and moved me. I’m privileged to own two of your paintings. They make me very happy.
Photograph: Of Patchwork Poppies and granny squares, by curvylou.