to compare or not to compare...

I've been inspired today.

I was introduced, by a friend I've never met, to the work of an artist I've never met.  (Don't ask, or I'll have to go on a tangent about gaming, and I know you all have had quite enough of THAT around here over the last year!)  Anyway...if I had her permission, I'd link her website here because I believe many of you would also find yourselves inspired by her work, which is stunning and skilled. (I will certainly update this with a link if I do get the okay, I just don't want to do so without asking first.)

Edit:  I got the "ok" so please see the bottom of this post for linkage to the talented artist mentioned in the paragraph above! 

  What I'd like to talk about, though, is how, while viewing and admiring her artwork, I almost let my own worst critic talk me right into a valley of doubt, negativity, comparisons, and "I suckisms."  The reason I'm bringing it up is because I think it is common for many of us to compare ourselves to others, and in doing so, conclude, quite wrongly, that we pale in the shadow of their shining light.  I know I'm not the only one who has fallen into this creativity-sucking pit of self-destructive thinking.  So let's face it...together.

When bright-eyed bushy-tailed young me left home for college...I knew I loved art.  I had been making marks on paper with any kind of media I could get my hands on from the moment I had the fine motor skills to grip things.  I had not settled on an "art major."  I had not settled on ANY major, actually.  All I knew at the time was that I couldn't WAIT to leave the drama of high school behind and move to California...where, I was convinced, all of my wildest dreams would come true.  Okay, maybe not ALL of those dreams, but I was pretty damn excited.

Four years later found me graduating from college with a BA in Fine Art, and an interview with the local Arts Council for a relatively entry-level position.  Things were looking up.  Only...I didn't get that job (too inexperienced) and because I chose to study fine art instead of graphic art...found myself quickly facing the reality that my fancy "art degree" wasn't going to get me very far in a small city with little going on in the way of the arts in general.

That was a pretty intense summer of growth for me - applying for any job that was remotely related to art, wondering whether my boyfriend of 3 years was "him," wondering how long I could stretch my on-campus housing situation before they realized I'd graduated and kick me out, wondering whether I should head back to CO and the safety of family, wondering why I hadn't thought ahead & picked a more practical degree like...teaching.  All of my would-be teacher friends already had jobs.

In the end, I didn't want to leave my friends, my boyfriend (now my husband,) or my path toward independence.  I didn't want to fall back on my family, as kind as they would have been to have me move back to CO.  I didn't want to keep working at Sears, where I had spent most evenings and Saturdays in college.

So I did the most logical thing...I signed up for a graduate program in Counseling Psychology.  :)

Wait, what?  Where did THAT come from?  How do you go from budding artist seeking creative career to girl who's never been to therapy seeking a master's degree in psychology?

I don't know.  I wish I could honestly say that it was due to my deep desire to help others live more balanced, healthy lives & work through their pain and trauma.  Not that I DIDN'T want to help people...it just...wasn't in the original plan.  Mainly because there WAS no original plan.  But, it wasn't the WORST idea.  Right?  I mean, I could always pursue art on the side...until something came along.  Thus began the "career path."

I got married mid-grad-school.  We moved into our own place, he got a job as a guitar tester, and I studied my ass off and completed internships in counseling.  All was well.  I occasionally brought out my art supplies, after all - I still loved to create.  Then I discovered "art-therapy."  Hey!  A way to combine the two things I felt compelled to do.  Only...not a favorite method for insurance companies to pay for.  Then came "play therapy," which later became my specialty - having a knack for connecting with young people made this a very natural choice and I was highly passionate about it and damn good at it.  Graduated, immediately got a great job at a Children's Hospital with an AMAZING group of colleagues dedicated to treating and preventing child abuse.

Whatever.  It was not a choice that I regret, obviously, since I've been in the field now for over 10 years...and have had a satisfying, rewarding, and rich career so far.  I'm not complaining, and I'm pretty sure I'm good at what I do as a Social Work Supervisor.  

But...more and more, the creative time spent was less and less.  The bright-eyed artist me...she disappeared for awhile.  A long while.  She made way for the mature, responsible, grown-up therapist me to claim a spot in the realm of adulthood.  Nothing wrong with that.  Just, what happened to bright-eyed creative me?

Well, a few years ago, I discovered YOU ALL.  I sat down one evening & started browsing...and viewing youtube videos...and checking blogs...and creative sparks started twinkling from a side of my brain I hadn't used in years!  Holy crap, there are artists EVERYWHERE online!  There is a whole community of like-minded creative people letting their artsy flags fly and having a blast!

She's back, baby!  Haha.  But, I'm still sometimes insecure, even though the online community of art journalers, bloggers, and mixed media artists in general is so very encouraging and accepting.  I was out of practice, had to re-learn how to use materials, learn to use new ones, and give myself permission to just play, let things happen on the page.  I'm still learning...but I'm here to stay.

However, on occasion, there are roadblocks.  The biggest of these being an imaginary line between my art, and what I sometimes see as "real art."  Therein lies the problem.  My art IS real art.  Only, sometimes I forget that.  I see someone who has their art displayed in a gallery or show and think "oh wow, what a great artist.  My work looks like one big hot mess in comparison."  And there's the rub.  "In comparison."

This is not good.  It's not productive.  It won't get you to any sort of healthy place.  You won't be inspired if you compare your creative work with that of someone else.  It's a slippery, dangerous slope my friends.  And today, I slid...a little.

Luckily, I caught it in time to remind myself that it doesn't matter if I ever work in a museum or have my work hanging in a gallery to be approved of by people walking by, who likely wouldn't appreciate it anyway.  This is not to say that museums and galleries don't have their place in the art world, hell, they are a huge part of the art world...but...there is a VAST world that exists alongside, and sometimes intermingled with, the gallery world that is so vibrant, and rich, and free - why the hell would I discount my part in THAT world?  It's been an amazing reawakening for me to delve back into creativity with you all...and I'm so thankful for it!

Anyway...wow that ended up quite the novel, didn't it?  All of this is to say, I hope that when you see the work done by other artists, you let it affect you and speak to you, but not stop you from creating your OWN way, with your OWN voice.  So you can't draw a lifelike portrait.  So what?  You may have an eye for collage that the painter you're admiring does not.  You may be able to come up with ideas for found objects and sculpture that the photographer with the glossy prints in black frames on the gallery wall cannot.  We all have something to contribute!

So, as a promise to myself and because I love the idea that anybody can create art...I'm re-joining this project for the 2013 tour...and I want you to join me!

 Check it out & do it with me!  Come on, it'll be fun!  You can do whatever you want with your book - draw in it, paint in it, tear it apart, create museum-worthy portraits in it or write your grocery lists in it with the doodles you make while you're on the phone.  All of the journals will come together in one big art show - and guess what?  Not one of them is any more worthy of praise or attention than another.


Join me!  Do it!
(and message me so we can encourage each other!)

EDIT:  Please take a few moments to visit the site of Abby Rovaldi and view her exceptional artwork!  Just promise me, and more importantly promise yourself, that you won't compare your art to hers...rather, let it speak to you & inspire you!  I am particularly drawn to the "Experiments in Monotype" but all of her work is wonderful and worth some of your time.  :)  (Thanks, Abby!)

1 comment:

Jen Milniss said...

Heidi I have always loved your blog, your art, and YOU - I know we've never met, either, but I feel like we are kindred spirits...and this post really spoke to me. Thanks for putting yourself out there & all that you are!