I am an artist. I am also a writer. Self-doubt arises in both arenas. Today’s blog focuses on my journey as a visual artist. The fear that I was only pretending to be an artist haunted me for years. It slowed the creative flow, and prevented me from showing my art in public. What if they felt sorry for me? (“Honestly…does she really think she can paint?”)
Despite my doubts, I never completely stopped creating art. Through failed romances, a divorce, physically and emotionally draining jobs, and the demands of raising two exceptional sons, I continued to create in dribs and drabs. I painted, wrote, took classes, learned new skills and hid my work away in case someone discovered that I was not a “real” artist.
I am past that now (mostly). Every artist has moments of self-doubt. I may never have an exhibit at a prestigious museum, earn accolades from the art establishment, or become a household name. Nevertheless, I am an artist. Whether or not you (whomever you may be) like my work or not, I am still an artist.
Kenny Minear recognized that fact in kindergarten. Every drawing and sculpture of mine that he could get his hands on, he mutilated. I still remember how proud I was of my clay elephant before Kenny turned it into a pancake. Jealousy is destructive, but I knew Kenny thought I was a great artist.
My mother believed I was an artist. Every Saturday morning, through sun and rain and snow, she drove me to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. I was ten when I started; twelve when we moved to the Midwest. But I still kept studying—at several universities and with various artists on the East Coast and here in the Bay Area. Why I chose not to get a degree in art is a personal matter. Degree or not, I am still an artist. Yet my self-doubt kept me from enjoying art for many years. A blank canvas gave me panic attacks. I couldn’t even take pleasure in visiting an art gallery. Comparing my art (unfavorably) to everything I saw, I told myself, “You suck,” and only produced two or three paintings a year. If I actually submitted a piece in a show and it was rejected, it was further proof that I had no talent.
So how did I heal my debilitating self-doubt? Enter Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. I started an artists’ support group. We immersed ourselves in Julia’s books. I faithfully did my morning pages, went on my weekly artist’s date, and completed the chapter assignments. It may sound simplistic, but it worked. The support of my fellow artists in the group helped as well. I get juried into shows now, and sometimes I don’t. But these days, I don’t take rejection so personally. I’m more likely to say, “That was one person’s opinion,” or “That just wasn’t what they were looking for.” I no longer buy into the elitist theory that only a gifted few are “real” artists—“them” versus the rest of us. I am an artist.
Today, I’m a resident artist at the Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery, have been juried into American Art Collector for the past six years, sell some pieces here and there, and am producing art in greater quantities than ever before. More importantly, I’m enjoying myself. When I have moments of self-doubt—and who doesn’t—I pick up one of the following books. All are designed to minimize self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, procrastination and other inhibiting forces. The next time you fell compelled to do the laundry instead of picking up a paintbrush, brush up on your reading…
Pamela’s Picks for Unblocking Creativity:
The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
“The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. This book links creativity to spirituality by showing how to connect with the creative energies of the universe.” – Goodreads
If her New Age approach doesn’t resonate with you, I urge you to still consider using her tools. There’s a reason this book has been a best seller for 25 years. The tools work. She expands her ideas in the following three books. Each is a 12-week program designed to enhance your creativity. I recommend a support group to keep you on track.
Walking In This World, The Practical Art of Creativity, Julia Cameron
Finding Water, the Art of Perseverance, Julia Cameron
The Vein of Gold, a Journey to Your Creative Heart, Julia Cameron
Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland
“Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. This is a book about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing free will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.” ©1993 David Bayles and Ted Orland
Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon
“Engaging, inspiring and practical advice on becoming a successful artist, advice that applies well beyond artistic pursuits… This is a quick, easily digestible read that is particularly relevant in today’s digital world.”—School Library Journal