Creativity – The courage to search for Self

You have to be courageous to produce a peice of art and to put it in front of people. You are creating something and saying that this thing you’ve created represents yourself, your values, your taste. And then people will judge it, they will judge you. That’s what people are doing when they look at art, they are judging it and deciding whether they think it is of any value, deciding whether it is good or bad, or worse boring.

When you create art you are creating it to be judged, whether you like it or not. You may have alternative internal objectives such as “self expression” or even “exorcism” of internal demons. Personally, I love the process of creativity, and highly value the therapeutic process I go through when creating my art. However, at the end of the day if you intend to sell your art, as I do, the primary purpose of the art is to be judged.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

And so, when you’re creating art, it’s hard to not have this reality in the back of your mind, to know consciously, or subconsciously that the marks you’re making will be judged. It’s this that puts pressure on one to be self conscious of the marks that one is making. This pressure strongly influences the beginner artist and can be seen in the work produced. I know this is the case for me.

It’s been 18 months now since I began my art journey. During that time I have evolved considerably. Probably the most significant point of evolution has been in the confidence in my mark making.

At first the objective was to create a picture of something I wasn’t embarrassed about. I heavily leveraged accepted symbols and methods for representing particular images and then added a few random things to create the impression of artistic exploration – the work was obvious and contrived. But really the most important thing to me in the beginning was creating something very legible.

Transformation isn’t sweet and bright. It’s a dark murky, painful pushing. An unraveling of the truths you’ve carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting before becoming”

Victoria Erikson

As I grew in confidence my art became increasingly more fluid, the forms became more nebulous, the colors became brighter, and the marks more energetic. My art was evolving as was my own sense of self. As I was conquering my self consciousness and becoming more comfortable with letting my paintings be found, the emphasis turned from “trying to find the subject” in the painting to “trying to find myself” in the paintings.

#98 “Look Back”. I see more of myself in this painting than any other in the 100 paintings from 2019

The more experienced I became at identifying myself in my paintings, or at least parts of myself, the more I began to also notice the inauthenticity of myself in my paintings. In every painting there would be a few original marks that I recognized as being myself – as being unique to me and my style, and there would also be large parts that I could tell were copied from somewhere else, or that were me pretending to be something else. This lead to an internal search for what was authentically me, and inevitably my art process became about finding myself and then having the courage to let it come out on the canvas.

The game had now evolved, and no longer was I just painting pretty pictures. The challenge became infinitely more interesting and meaningful as the stakes increased. Failure to create a satisfactory painting became a case of not being connected to myself. The result of each painting was now intricately connected to my image of myself.

And along this journey I began to change too. I created my art, and now my art was beginning to create me. I have become more adamantly me. I have become more uncompromisingly myself. I have rediscovered corners of my psyche that I have not seen for decades. I sometimes think I better recognize myself.

But the peregrination is not over, in fact it’s just begun. There’s a long way to go and a lot more to learn about art and about myself. But I now know that my art is about the courage to find who I was, who I am, and who I will be, and I can’t think of anything more courageous and important than that.