An Artist's Quest for "Soul" in a Chaotic World—by InnerSpirit

This is my InnerSpirit blog page...a page of reflection...inquiry...
and artistic questions about myself, my life, and the world around me. A place for my own personal contemplation of my emotions, my actions, my art, my spiritual journey and how they all intertwine and influence each other. I hope that you check it out, think a little about your life and the many creative things that you might be engaged do those fit into your life and impact the various aspects of your own life? Let's reflect together!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fear Still Lives Within Me...and It Breathes Deeply Today

Create Art Everday, November 1
Today is the first day of the Art Every Day Challenge hosted by Leah Piken Kolidas that I have committed myself to undertake for my own creative growth. My luck would have it that the first day of art making would also be the day that I unexpectedly had to drive all the way to Chicago and back (about a 3 1/2 hour drive one way) to take my daughter back to college from a weekend visit home. My drive would have originally been slightly under 2 hours, one way to the Michigan City, Indiana, train depot. BUT, as we stood alone at the train station and wondered aloud why there were not more people traveling to Chicago on this Sunday night, we slowly began to read the digital sign above the depot that told us that there would be no scheduled train run that evening leaving from that depot due to some unexpected work being done on the tracks. The message told us that we could catch the train in Gary, Indiana (another half hour south). Needless to say, we could not get to Gary, Indiana by the time the next train left and we missed it by 5 minutes.

At this point, the next train was another hour and a half later and I was only 32 miles from my daughter got curbside service to her dorm at DePaul University in Lincoln Park. As I traveled home I remembered that it was November 1st and I had not done any art that day. I am embarrassed to say that a significant part of me breathed a sigh of relief and cautiously thought...oh, a good excuse to use, "I did not have the time". As I thought about that initial gut reaction, I realized that I was still very much afraid of what I was undertaking and if that was the case, I might be truer to myself to try to recognize the fear and to use the art to work with that fear. I remembered a book that I had read on fearing our own artwork (one of many I have plowed through over the years) and a quote came to mind.

"The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons that every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential." David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Is what I fear my own failure of my work? I have struggled with that repeatedly through the years and still it haunts me. This quote is right; cognitively I KNOW it is right. Every logical part of me: the art teacher; the social worker; the future art therapist; the student; all agree that it is right. Nevertheless, the artist in me is terrified of failure. I have personally experienced and have studied enough therapy to know that this fear is stroked by my little "inner critic" which is also sometimes formed or at least influenced greatly by my "inner child". Neither of which realizations seem to comfort me when I actually undertake the art process.

I Must Leap Before I Can Fall
I believe for the art process to be real and authentic it must be emotional and that is should be felt from deep within our being. This is where I think I get caught, I fear leaping into it. I fear that deep emotion can sometimes arise from this process. I know from past experience with art that if I can just get started...just put a toe over the edge and get it wet...I can allow myself the freedom to fall into it and in doing so, I feel free during the creative flowing of the art. It is only again after the process is completed, that the fears arise again. I decided that this time I was going to look at this as an art therapy project and let the fear doodle it's way out to be seen, acknowledged and comforted ritualistically by talking to it and recognizing it's concerns. Sometimes, I have found that letting the fear appear in visual form to me takes some of its power away.

A New Tool For Drawing
I created the painting above in "Brushes" which is an iphone painting application. I have seen some of the hype about the cover of the New Yorker Magazine being created from this and I was a little curious. I also visited the flicker group of artists who were playing with this new tool. The beauty of this choice of media for me was that it was a new application for me so I was providing myself with a bit a way out of "creating a great art". I told myself that I could just play and let my apprehensions play out in the doodling aspect of a new process with no pressure. As I looked at the work once it was created, some things came into my mind. The unconscious choice of drawing some sort of a fruit suggested to me a feeling of wholeness of being and a comfort by the fruit remaining intact. The idea of biting into the middle of this fruit seemed both reproachable and delectable at the same time. It also struck me how much the fruit looked like a heart...and a "purple" heart at that. Hmm...a purple heart of bravery? Oh how art can reveal, even when we are not looking for as much introspection.

Off to the races, or let the eating begin!
Onward I trudge into day two, which is well into itself as I write this post about day one. I hope to still get some art done...though I will need to rely heavily on this first sketch, and it's purple heart as I move forward in the month long challenge. Baring my heart, which often reflects my soul, as I explore this art making is a journey that I am on. I am going to try and just let things happen as they will and I will be trying to hold my judgments at bay with each endeavor. Fear can be both a strong motivator and a serious foe on this road to enlightenment.

What are the types of things that you fear? Do you often have difficulties or fears around your art or have you accepted a personal challenge that makes you a little uneasy? What types of ways do you try to overcome your fears? I would love to hear from some of you and maybe out of your feedback we could start a list of "Proven Ways to Move From Fear to Success"...hmm...maybe another blog in the works.


  1. I am sooooo with you on this one! I fear failure. I fear success. If it isn't going to end up being the Mona Lisa then I don't even want to start. But the start is the main hurdle. If I just get myself going I can move through the process to finish. I really like the quote you posted and may have to paint it on my studio walls. Thanks for this post. You have moved me through this shared experience.

  2. I think I am queen of the club when it comes to fearing failure - that is why I have such severe bouts of depression (at least one of the reasons) but I love the challenge of aedm and taking each day one at a time and see what I can contribute - i so look forward to what you create - I know it will be wonderful - thanks so much for stopping by my blog--take care~!~

  3. I don't really have fear, I think I've moved way past that. So yes it is possible.
    My problem is when I'm working on a painting or finishing one I think it is crap because it didn't live up to my vision. Is that fear or just expectation?
    Then it goes into the "closet of shame". After a period of no peeking, a week or two, I look.
    Magically I pull out a very nice painting. I think I have little painter elves living in there. Plus I have let it go and be it's own art.

  4. I believe it is reasonable to say that every artist goes through peroids of doubt. I know I have and it does effect my mood, not my lifes work. Why havent some of my pieces sold? Why doesn't anyone support come so and so is getting all the attention and I'm not? I do not fear what I create because it has always been truthful.
    I do not think the fear is in the creation but within ourselves because we want people to like what they see dont we? What if no one likes me is essentially the question....what if I dont like myself and what I am seeing? What if I'm not good enough in my own eyes? Are you too critical on yourself? Are you creating out of love and allowing it to flow?
    OH well time to go Commando and bear my soul. Bring sunglasses! LOL You take the leap anyway. Because ultimately if you didn't do it you'd really never know the truth or see it being created right in front of your very eyes by your very hands:)
    LizasArt (from Twitter)

  5. "In My Head" and "Ellie" thanks for the affirmation that starting is the hardest part. I think we are all doing great so far and I am sure we will get into it more as the days move forward. We have "Leaped" so to speak.

    "Diana" I LOVE your "Closet of Shame" concept. I might have to adopt that one, but unfortunately, I don't know if I have a closet that is not stuffed full to the brim already with either art supplies, books (a passion of mine) or essentials like clothing. But maybe mine will be the "Basement of Reproachment" or something like that.

  6. "LizaArt" You bring up some very good points about self esteem. I have always had difficulties in that area even though I have been very successful in a variety of areas in my life I still have self-doubt if I allow myself to fall into it. Over the years, I have learned ways to quiet it and move forward, but it is ever present. I am going to practice thinking more about "letting the love" flow! Thanks for the suppportive ideas!

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