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Book Review


Art & Fear: A Book Review


First of all, I apologize for my absence. There was a reason, a good one.
I haven't been painting.
Not at all.
I have had nothing to share. 
For nearly two months I haven't been able to bring myself to look at a canvas, or even browse my reference photos. After my massive grizzly bear (so far) failure...well it's not, but that's what I told myself...I hung up the paintbrushes(I actually stuffed them in the freezer...I didn't feel like cleaning them!)
I sulked. I told myself I was no good, and was never going to make it in the art world. I questioned my motives for painting. I questioned my desire for painting. I questioned just about everything about painting. That stinky "inner critic" told me, "You're not authentic, you have no voice, no style. You're not progressing, and you're never going to get it. Your colours are chalky, you can't get the values right, blah, blah, blah."  
I felt really alone and pathetic. 
With no artists here to talk to, I fell into a pretty bad slump. And not painting just made me sadder and confirmed all of my fears...That with a bazillion great artists in the world, who the hell did I think I was even imagining that I was ever going to make a living from my art! I might as well just quit. So I did, for a while. I got a job at my friends' lodge, and that was fun for awhile. It's nice to get a pay check every two weeks. But not painting didn't feel right. So I started searching...trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I've had doubts before, and battles with that nasty "inner critic", but I always won, I always kept going. This time, I guess I must have started to believe him...I believe I actually asked Mr. Google..."Why have I lost my desire to paint?" And like an ever-faithful best friend, Mr. Google answered back...and I found this book:

 
 

Apparently, multitudes of artists DO quit, for the very same reasons that my inner critic was screaming in my ear. I wasn't alone, not at all. I realized that this was a universal "Artist Thing". That it was something we all suffer from.

Here are a few quotes from the book that really resonated with me:

“To require perfection is to invite paralysis.  The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly.  Your cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do, away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart.  You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes.”

“To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity. . . yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work”

“The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work.  To see them, you need only look at the work clearly–without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes.  Without emotional expectations.  Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.”

“Those who would make art might begin by reflecting on the fate of those who preceded them: most who began, quit. To survive as an artist requires confronting these troubles. Those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue – or more precisely, have learned how to not quit.”

 

I think what happened is that with that big Grizzly painting...the one I haven't finished,( and truly probably every other painting I've ever done to some extent) I put so much pressure on myself. I started out really excited, and it went really well, for a while. I told myself it would be my masterpiece, the one that got me gallery representation. I had such high hopes put on that one painting. And then it started not working. I started to doubt my abilities to finish it. I knew there was something wrong with it, but I didn't know what. And then I stopped. If I don't finish, I can't fail...sigh...

So, really, this isn't a review, it's a recommendation. I give it 100 stars. If you are an artist, you MUST read this book. It's cheap, but it's one of the most valuable things that you can give yourself.

P.S.
I've started painting again. 
I searched my heart, and returned to subject matter that brought me to art in the first place.
When I was five, my uncle brought a little tiny foal to my dad to care for. We had a fenced area in our yard and a little hobby farm with chickens. And for a while, we looked after that little horse. I was in love. Completely enamoured. I started drawing horses, and I didn't quit. I drew horses until I was twelve, and got a horse of my own. And then I drew them some more! But not as much, because I was too busy riding, and I discovered that I could draw people too...at any rate, here's a few of my latest works...
Enjoy, and until next time,
Ciao,
Tahirih

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