What happens to a piece you’re working on when doubt and fear suddenly attack? We almost never see it coming – it sneaks in the back door silently, slinks up the stairs and hides behind the door until the moment is right. Then a single tile (or brushstroke, or whatever you work with) looks out of place and makes you step back and say “am I making the right decision here?” That’s the moment the monster was waiting for….it pounces while you’re deep in thought. You begin to find that you second guess everything you do from that point on.
Not only does that make the process more difficult, it affects the finished piece. Your fear and doubt will be visible. You may look at it and say “something isn’t right, but I can’t put my finger on it", and you may later identify some tangible thing like “the andamento is off kilter here” or “I should have used a bolder color in that spot”. But everyone else will look at it and say “looks like she held back on this one.” Some examples…
Made as an exercise - a color study - I wasn’t concerned about how it would turn out, only with working with all the values of green I had at hand and making them work together. I was very happy with the end result.
This one, however, I second guessed myself all the way through it. It felt as if I was trying too hard and just couldn’t get it right. I eventually began to think “oh just finish the damn thing….” I think it has a very stilted look.
This painting was done with absolutely no expectations – I had no real experience with painting, and never planned to show it to anyone. I love the way it turned out, and to this day, it gets more views on Fine Art America than any other piece I have up there.
Here I reworked the dark leaves at the top in the foreground at least four times and was never happy with them. After months of fussing with this oil pastel, I just quit, thinking I had reached the point where I could only muck it up more if I kept at it.
Keith Bond wrote about this on Fine Art Views yesterday – They Can Sense Fear. He says to attack your work with confidence and don’t be afraid of failure. I should put that on my studio wall. However, I think that’s some pretty tough love for people who are just beginning to venture into a medium. After all, if you’ve been working in mosaic for a number of years and you turn out a real stinker, you can laugh about it (maybe!), learn from it, and move on to the next one. But if that is your first or second piece? Not so easy.
I’m not sure why I’ve spent such a lot of time thinking about encouragement of other artists lately (yes, I am, but that’s a story for another day). But my words to anyone who reads this who is new to mosaic or any form of art: if you love doing it, do it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of what you make. Every piece you make will teach you something, and everytime you introduce a little joy into the world by participating in something that makes you happy, the world becomes a brighter place.
Thanks to TheArtNetwork on Facebook for bringing Keith’s article to my attention, and for the quote that is now up on my studio wall:
I think I’m painting a picture of two women but it may turn out to be a landscape.
-- Willem de Kooning