* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, then fear relaxes, too. I cordially invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go. I even have a welcoming speech prepared for fear, which I deliver right before embarking upon any new project or adventure.
It goes something like this.
“Dearest fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you will be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do something interesting – and may I say, you are superb at your job. So, by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
Then we head off together – me and creativity and fear – side by side by side forever, advancing once more into the terrifying but marvelous terrain of unknown outcome.
Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
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You know, you don’t go into the studio and say, “Oh, here I am this marvelous heroine, this wonderful woman doing my marvelous painting so all these marvelous women artists can come after me and do their marvelous painting.” There you are alone in this huge space and you are not conscious of the fact that you have breasts and a vagina. You are inside yourself, looking at a damned piece of rag on the wall that you are supposed to make a world out of. That is all you are conscious of. I simply cannot believe that a man feels differently… Inside yourself, you are looking at this terrifying unknown and trying to feel, to pull everything you can out of all your experience, to make something. I think a woman or a man creating feels very much the same way. I bring my experience, which is different from a man’s, yes, and I put it where I can. But once that is done, I don’t know if it is a woman’s experience I’m looking at.
Grace Hartigan quoted in Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel
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A chastening day yesterday. Color rose up and towered over me and advanced toward me. A tsunami – only that terrifying Japanese word for tidal wave will do – of color, and I was swept off my feet. In a frenzy, I tried to catch it. Sheet after sheet of Arches paper spread around the studio, covering all the surfaces of all my tables and finally the floor. I tried to keep one step ahead all morning. In the afternoon, I managed to get a toehold, and once again recognized my limitation: that vestige of all that a human being could know that is what I do know. I see this delicate nerve of myself as unimpressive. The fact is that is all I have. The richness of years, contained like wine in the goatskin of my body, meets my hand narrowly.
Anne Truitt in Turn: The Journal of an Artist
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Q: You have sometimes spoken about your early work as a portrait artist. When and why did you start making portraits? Do you still do them?
A: In 1989 I was a Naval officer working at the Pentagon and I hated my job as a computer analyst. Although it was terrifying to leave the security of a paycheck for the uncertainty of an artist’s existence, I made the leap. In retrospect it was one of the best decisions of my life. When I resigned from active duty (I remained in the Navy Reserve, which provided a part-time job and a small income; in 2003 I retired as a Navy Commander), I needed a way to make a living.
Prior to this career change, I worked hard to develop my portrait skills. I volunteered to run a life drawing class at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA, where I made hundreds of figure drawings using charcoal and pastel. I spent a semester commuting between Washington, DC and New York to study artistic anatomy at the New York Academy of Art. I spent another semester studying gross anatomy with medical students at Georgetown University Medical School. So I was well prepared to devote myself to making portraits.
For a time I made a living making commissioned photo-realist portraits in soft pastel on sandpaper. However, after about two years I became bored. I remember thinking, “I did not leave a boring job just to make boring art!” Furthermore, I had no interest in doing commissions because what I wanted to accomplish as an artist did not coincide with what portrait clients wanted. I completed my final portrait commission in 1990 and never looked back. To this day I remain loathe to do a commission of any kind.
Comments are welcome!
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