Monday, January 16, 2012

learning and unlearning

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When I applied to Cornish at 21 years old, I came to my interview with a portfolio comprised of nude photo studies inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and 10 drawings that completely sucked. I am not exaggerating-- they were terrible. The head of the art department accepted me on the spot, saying, "you are getting in because of your photography. You do not know how to draw. But you will learn."

And I did learn. I also learned video, some mixed media and various types of print work. But my first love was always photography.

I have been creative my whole life. As a kid, I acted, sang, and danced and had big plans to be an actress. I also loved to bake, sew, and was obsessed with interior design. In high school, I lost my taste for the superficiality of the acting world and became interested in photography. When I wasn't taking photos, I was making collages or redecorating my bedroom or writing poetry or daydreaming about making artsy films. I don't remember being afraid to try my hand at any new creative endeavor.

After 5 years of art school, I came away with a lot of new skills, a BFA, some crazy life experiences under my belt, a group of amazing friends, and a newfound confidence. I also came away with a list of rules about what it means to be an artist:

A "real artist" struggles.
A "real artist" only produces work for themselves-- if you are making work for clients then you are not an artist, you are a designer.
A "real artist" only makes work that has a deep and complicated message.
A "real artist" is a master of their craft.
A "real artist" is never materialistic.
A "real artist" is constantly obsessed with their work and very little else.
A "real artist" knows the difference between good and bad art, (and doesn't make bad art.)

Because of all my rules, I spent a very long time feeling like a massive sellout when I began making a living as a photographer. I also stopped making art for fun.

As I became a better photographer, my willingness to take risks and try other mediums ended. Why? Because I was terrified to make a fool of myself. I was scared to look stupid and make crappy art and, inevitably, prove to the world that I am actually a big fraud and not an artist after all.

I say all this in the past tense, as if it's all different now. It's not. But it's changing.
For years now, I have wanted some type of creative outlet that I can come home to. Something I can do to shut off my brain. Something that gets me back to the way that developing photos in a darkroom used to feel. Photography is intensely creative (and remains my first love) but once I am done shooting, the rest of my time is spent on the computer and the computer is not a place I need to spend more time. I have been dying to do something tangible, to make something with my hands.

So, I am learning encaustic. I have always loved the textured, layered look of the medium and it's a way I can incorporate my photography if I choose to.
I have read a couple books and taken a great workshop but, mostly, I am figuring it out on my own.

And I am making a lot of crap.

Let me just tell you, it's really hard for me to see the pile up of the horrible paintings sitting on the shelf in my little home studio. Every time I sit down to paint, all my harshest inner critics start making themselves heard, letting me know how predictable, shallow, amateur, and embarrassing my work is. Telling me how I shouldn't even try.
And yet, for the first time in years, I am still pushing on. I am still painting. And I am finally, FINALLY, starting to enjoy myself and letting it be okay that I don't know what I am doing and that I am making a whole lot of mistakes.

And, dare I say, I am actually starting to kind of like some of the pieces I'm making.

There is no moral to this story, other than I thought it was important to share. I have a tendency to hide myself and what I create until I deem myself and my work worthy to be seen. And that's something I don't want to do anymore.

That's all.

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(Some of my collage materials. Yes, that is a Playboy from 1967 there. I got it at a salvage yard in Sarasota and it is AWESOME.)

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(My little love bug, Nina, keeping me company.)


Jenifer Ward said...

I'm so glad you learned to break the rules. Even art schools break them--which is how they evolve. ; )

Lynn said...

What an inspiring post. You certainly have the spirit of an artist! Not being ruled by my inner critic is a huge goal for me, too.

Clare said...

So true, Jenifer!!! And I loooooved art school-- there are no regrets there!! :)

Winnie said...

I love this post very much. I think your new creations are awesome.

kimberly said...

I love what you are working on - you are a girl of many talents!
Hope to see you soon,

Laurel Geisbush said...

Clare-I love your paintings. They are beautiful. Thanks for sharing the internal dialouge, I think we all go through this. It's so great that you've been able to figure it out.

Maki said...

I too think the art your created was wonderful! Very inspiring.