Retro-Blog part 7: Would The Real Me Please Stand Up?

The Retro-Blog: Looking back at the development of a successful creative project in 2006 and the lessons learned along the way.

Concept Drawing 04/02/07

Despite my revelations about the Censor, I was still struggling to make sense of how to get more structure into my work and how to give it direction:

On 04/02/06, I wrote,

I want to work hard instead of dissipating my days…I want to see myself achieve something tangible…The problem with my artwork is that is has no boundaries. Every day I can do any subject, any size, in any media and work on it for as long or short as I want. No wonder I don’t know which direction to go in. I need parameters…

The next day I read a discussion on an artist’s blog about whether it is a good idea to stick to the idea you are currently working on or allow yourself to get diverted into something new which may seem to be two stages on from where you are now…Some people said they liked to be free and unconstrained to go wherever but admitted that this often left them with lots of work that looked like it had no relation between pieces. The blogger thought it was best to stick to the plan even though it was very tempting not to because otherwise the work didn’t have evident progression; Someone else agreed saying you couldn’t learn the lessons each stage had to teach unless you followed through and to assume you could know where something was going – and therefore skip two stages ahead – was erroneous because you could only know where something went in retrospect not anticipation and hence only learn the relevant lessons by following through.

This seemed to make a lot sense with respect to my own work as I had been doing this uncensored hopping about for more than a year and yet had remained as clueless as ever about my direction. One girl in the discussion said she had been doing the same and, though she was having a lot of fun and felt the kind of freedom she had not felt since art school, she recognized that she was actually achieving less than when she had been working towards a show with a deadline and a consistent method of working.

This was a very real dilemma for me because I had deliberately not wanted to confine myself too soon into a particular way of working because of never having previously allowed myself to be very exploratory, but at the same time I began to see that I did need to impose some sort of discipline on myself, some sort of constraints because otherwise there are too many choices and I get lost.

I finally began to make a connection in my mind between this lack of being able to work in a consistent direction and my frequent feelings of wanting to abandon making art altogether.

On 06/02/06, I wrote:

I have been trying to head off a Big U Turn over the last month whereby if I didn’t head it off, the result would have been giving up making art once again and perhaps forever because I think I would have felt that if I couldn’t hack it this time round then I would never manage it. It feels like being on the edge of an abyss of panic, led there by the strength of my own insecurity. I have lost almost all the belief in myself I had summoned up and begun to think myself incapable of ‘being an artist’ or ‘creating art’. Why this ‘being an artist’ should produce such terror in me I don’t know….Perhaps it is because art is the ultimate in confronting myself, looking beyond the veneer I have fashioned and coming head to head with MYSELF and it is that that I run from.

and then,

…I think over and over the problem with my art is that it is not MINE! The concept drawings at least feel very much my own…and some of the collages…When I have diverged and started doing work that my Censor/Left Brain (link to previous) ‘recognizes’ I quickly run out of steam because I really have no trajectory…I have never had my own trajectory in my work…I have always just been copying someone else’s style; seeing something and thinking I’d like to do something like that and getting all fired up for that and then losing steam quickly…So, the fundamental issue I am addressing here seems to be: I u-turn on my art because it is not MINE; I am just emulating and so I feel empty and fear that means I am empty of ideas and hence can never succeed and so run away from art rather than staying to try and find the way into my REAL SELF through art…

As the wise Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way [ISBN: 0-330-34358-0]) says,

“You can’t express yourself, if you don’t have a self to express.”

Not, of course, that I didn’t have a self, just that I didn’t really – STILL DIDN’T after all that ‘inner work’ – know WHO I WAS.

No wonder so much of the Artist’s Way is about looking at what you like, what you fantasise about doing, etc. It is asking, ‘Who are you really?’

Had I evaded the question? Or was it that I began to answer it but then by letting my good habits slip, I lost my way?

I needed to go back over it all again…

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  1. You can read more comments about this blog post at:

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