Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hey, girl... Why so glum?

Heavy sigh...

So I've been working on three large pieces for an upcoming show. I finished one of the sculptures yesterday (not the little guy above - he just fit the theme of the post), and...


It's unworkable at this stage, so I'm going to have to live with the results. The finished piece that was in my head is NOT the one that now stares back at me. My "fine line" between artwork and craft project is apparently not quite so fine, and I feel like the creator of this piece might have worn a Christmas sweater and driven home from a quilt show in a minivan (not that there's anything really wrong with that if this describes someone that IS you or who is LIKE you).

I've made shitty artwork before and have been fine with it. The time, supplies, and emotional investment were low, so the outcome was somewhat irrelevant. But I had such high hopes for this piece, and it took a very long time and some rather expensive components. In summary, it's just a huge-ass bummer.

I know other artists go through this all of the time. It leaves us saying to ourselves "Why did I think I could make art anyway?" Or, "People won't like it, what's the point?" Here's a list of appropriate responses:
  • Don't scrap your project! Even though its very presence haunts you, the days after a project are finished are NOT the best times to self-critique its outcome. Even if you LIKE the results, when a piece is newly finished you are too emotionally tied to it to make an accurate judgement. Put the piece somewhere where you can't see it then go back periodically to visit. The saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." can actually apply in this situation as well.
  • Get some perspective from a trusted friend. Ideally, ask one person who does not consider themselves a fine artist and one person who does. A well-rounded perspective is best. You'll probably be surprised at their input which will undoubtedly be way less bleak than your viewpoint on the situation.
  • Embrace the process. In all seriousness, when people say this to me I usually want to punch them in the neck. But maybe after a day or two has passed, really look at what you've learned. You certainly have learned what NOT to do. In my case, I learned that I should NOT glue everything down and THEN stand back to see if I'm happy with the placement. I also learned to not spend HOURS trying to "shine a turd" only to ensure that the dark hole of post-piece depression will be that much deeper and darker.
  • Make art to make art. Another potential neck-punching statement, but really... We have to think about why we do what we do. Every artist wants positive feedback and to feel "warm fuzzies" from the admiration of others, but what if we were on a deserted island or the only survivor in a post-apocalypse situation? Assuming you've gotten all of your survival chores out of the way, you'd probably want to make stuff, right? I'm pretty sure that I would go crazy if I was not creating. I'm guessing you're in a similar boat. We create because we pretty much HAVE to. There's no rule that says it has to be appreciated. You're an artist. Just make art!
  • Let it go and move on. Whether or not you decide to "use" this piece, you've brought it to life. You can decide to murder and bury it or to let it be what it is and allow others to experience it. But after your brief, self-loathing period, MOVE THE EFF ON! There will be other stinky piles of crap to make and some shiny gems. You won't know if you give up.


    1. "No one is pleased simply to do what they do; what's important for us is always what doesn't exist." - Jasper Johns

      In creating the new, i.e "what doesn't exist," failure and self doubt are almost certain. While still painful, knowing this will empower you to move forward. A true artist is more than a maker of pretty things. A true artist notices the minute, challenges conventions, and continuously braves the unknown. You are a true artist.

    2. I loved this post...why you ask? Because I kinda like hearing artists that I really look up to discuss their feelings of disappointment and frustration. It really makes you go "oh okay...well...even THEY feel that way sometimes!"

      Other reasons I liked this post = the advice given that I will surely follow...and the time spent with Marcela talking about how awesome Glum Guy is...and how awesome we think all of your work is in general. YOU ROCK!

    3. You rule, you guys!!! Thanks for the comments!

    4. This is awesome. THank you for sharing both your art and your wisdom with us. Huzzah!

    5. Thanks, Cat! I Stumbled your last blog post, btw! LOVE YOUR WRITING!!!

    6. Just this past weekend, I participated in a local "art crawl." One of the pieces I brought was one that I was exceptionally unhappy with. It was completely different than what I intended, and, quite honestly, I thought it was ugly. Almost "dark art"ish. The audience at this show was mainly middle-aged (or older) conservative folks out for a Valentine's Day experience....not exactly the market for dark, semi-Gothic, "looks like she's bleeding" pieces.

      Lo and behold, the piece was one of the first to sell, to a woman who had grown up in Rome and would pass cloistered nuns every day on the way to school. The painting reminded her of these nuns she would see, sitting in semi-darkness behind these big screened gates!

    7. I love this story!!! Thank you for sharing this with me.