07 October 2009

Fear of Art


"...you're probably accustomed to watching your work unfold smoothly enough for long stretches of time, until one day--for no immediately apparent reason--it doesn't. Hitting that unexpected rift is commonplace to the point of cliche, yet artists commonly treat each recurring instance as somber evidence of their own personal failure..." Art and Fear

I just requested this book from the library today. It's kind of a cult classic among artists and I've read it before, but I need to read it again. Every so often I freeze up in my art making process and then my task becomes doing whatever it takes to get myself working again. I know this book will help, and I thought that maybe blogging about it would help, too.

This freeze seems to have emerged from a number of factors. A rush of illustration jobs has kept me away from the studio for several weeks, which can cause blocks even if there are no other issues. This absence from the studio has come at a critical point in the flow of my Pilgrim project, though. I'm just now facing a transition in the flow of the work from one point of view (the Pilgrims) to another (the native Americans) and it's daunting. Whatever I do with this next print will set the tone for the subsequent ones, so it feels like a lot of pressure.

Then there are the simple rigors of daily life, the stress of a sick dog, household things that need to be taken care of, family obligations, visitors from out of town, teaching a workshop -- all things that become excuses for why I can't focus on working.

And then there's the sudden influx of good news. I was just notified that not only was American Bible Story accepted for the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Studio show, it was also accepted for inclusion in the IPCNY New Prints 2009/Autumn show. All of this is wonderful news and I'm very very happy. And I feel just a little secretly afraid that I won't be able to make any more work that will measure up.

"To the artist, art is a verb." Art & Fear

All these are reasons to get into the studio and get moving. Tonight I dampened some big sheets of Nishinouchi and finished carving the sky block for the Vast Unpeopled Lands print.

The next step is to do some printing, even before I carve all the blocks. This one is resisting pre-planning. Seems that I just need to feel my way into this, let the print teach me how to print it. Is that scary, or what? Which is why I need this book, to remind me that this is how it's supposed to feel.

"Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The risks are obvious; you may never get to the end of the sentence at all - or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it's an excellent idea in making art." Art & Fear

12 comments:

Sherrie Y said...

Ooooh. Thanks for the reminder. I've just spent three days in manic printing mode, partly because things are going well and partly because when things ARE going well I tend to get paranoid because I don't know how long it will last. Fear, indeed.

dinahmow said...

My printmaking is a long way from professional, but, being a writer, I can see that there would be sound advice here for any creative field.
Thankyou.

Kim Rosen said...

I know this fear Annie. But besides that- congrats on the fantastic news!

Anita Thomhave Simonsen said...

it seems like you are already dealing with it and that you know what to do.....and I am sure you´ll make more interesting prints.....I guess that you in a way are facing a subject for your art that matters but can be rather difficult......just a guess ?....

Ellen Longo said...

Congratulations Annie. And don't forget, Mars is in Cancer until mid-month. When Mars goes into Leo, you may feel more confident and more inspired.

starkeyart said...

Oh, how I know the fear. Definitely going to give that book a read.

And pressure. The fear of living up to expectations. Is it just me, or does it sometimes seem that being forced to be creative on a deadline (work) is easier than creating with no deadline?

Amanda said...

I don't know if I can offer any words of wisdom except that you have been in this space before (as have we all) and while it feels bad, I find that often, it is actually a sign that something really terrific is about to emerge. As long as you keep on working, thinking, doing whatever feels right at the time, nothing can go wrong. And after all, it's only art - nobody dies if you stuff up a print, so let loose!

Annie B said...

Great to hear all these responses. Halting and starting does seem to be part and parcel of the artistic process. And yes, sometimes working on a deadline feels easier -- you just have to do it and so you do.

Anita, yes, the subject matter is a little difficult. And wow, Ellen, I had forgotten about the Mars in Cancer piece. I went in the studio yesterday and made an ugly thing -- it was great! Like Amanda said, nobody dies if you stuff up a print.

Katka said...

Sounds like one of my kind of books. Thanks for sharing Annie.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Must be the season, I've been able to do nothing for more than a month due to family obligation/crisis. I wonder if I am even able to print.....at least the rabbits are well. Hope Ty is feeling better, good dog!

Kris Wiltse said...

Congratulations on your print acceptances!
I just pulled that book off my shelf for another read, too. It's a classic. Another book about the battle is 'The War of Art.' Probably destined to be a classic. Sometimes I just have to write my art endeavors off as experiments in failure to help me deal with that pressure.

katahdinchicklet said...

I've never read this book but will be checking it out of the library asap!