The feeling to create is unavoidable…
It happens when you see others’ work in a particular style and get the urge to create, discover a new medium, or simply grow on your own, or as a result of a new chapter or event in your life.
And then there’s that stark white canvas of nothingness just waiting for your work, and now you have a choice to make…
What is my style?
In the early stages of an artist’s creative journey, many artists struggle with this question. Not because in itself it’s hard to answer, but because that seemingly innocuous question always brings along 5 (or 10) of its troublemaker friends. You know the ones:
I love this medium, but is that really MY medium?
If I paint in this style will my work sell? If I paint in that style, will I be limiting myself?
Why do I have to choose one medium or style, and is this the style I want to live with forever?
What can I add to my work to make it stand out?
Am I trying too hard?
Does my work suck?
Why haven’t I sold anything?
Should I be more like this artist?
Why can’t I do what I want to do for a living?
Why do I have to do this crappy job that makes me feel bad about myself when I just want to paint?
Why can’t I do what I was meant to do for a living?
Down the rabbit hole you go, and the next thing you know, you’re telling yourself you’re a shitty artist at the bottom of an Oreo bag, or a glass of wine. All those questions you ask yourself may look a bit different from the artists or even from your own on the day-to-day, but they are essentially the same questions stemming from self-made limitations and self-doubt.
But still…back to that first question…or second really…or third…how do I say what I want to say and still create amidst the mental place I am in?
Its a tough question, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. It doesn’t even have to be an obstacle at all – Stay with me here.
This seeming conundrum can actually be your friend. Yes. Your friend.
You ever have that friend that you know, no matter what, they will not BS you? The one you call when you need a straight answer, and the one that calls you out on things you don’t want to call on yourself? The one that tells you to stop screwing around and do the tough thing you won’t face because you don’t want to, but know you need to? (Hi, Kate! – She’s mine…) Yep. Thats the one. And here it is, in muse form.
So What Now?
Well, just like you would your human badass friend, give it a hug! Embrace that horribly honest inner friend because it’s good artistic medicine. That nagging complexity in your artistic journey may seem like a problem, but it’s really an artistic workout in disguise. The answering of that or those questions makes you a better artist. It forces you to address the elephants in the room. The ones that sit there and stare you down as you try to rush through a painting, or try to force the creative process just to post something new on Instagram to get more viewers or get more money. Or (gasp) start copying another artist’s style out of artist envy.
Every time you fight the easy out you get a little better, and although it feels lonely, dark and frustrating in that place, it will eventually get you closer to feeling great about your work.
So push through…keep going.
DON’T GIVE UP.
And visit here when you feel like you want to. Although no one but you can answer your artistic questions (because the answers lie in doing the work), you can learn to love the discomfort that comes with being an artist. You can learn to appreciate those questions as strong teachers that are just one more indicator that you ARE an artist. Because that is your inner artist questioning, and those questions are like little ongoing critiques that EVERY, and I mean EVERY artist hears.
You are not alone in your thinking. You are one of a very unique and special group of people called artists. So embrace the questions. Do the work to get the answers, and grow along with those mental growing pains.
I can’t wait to see how you grow when you get to the other side of some of those questions.