TFW you have no idea what you're doing...

So, I’m behind on my blog posts, because life got, well, life-y, you know?  I’ve been working on new pieces, continuing to move, arrange, organize, rearrange, and reorganize my studio.  I opened a show, I taught a spring break art camp, I helped my boys clean out and organize all their stuff. My husband has been traveling a lot for work, and the aforementioned boys moved away last weekend.  So… yeah. Life. Everything is weird and changing, and amidst all that I’m working on moving my studio practice forward and trying to find my footing. What a great time to suddenly question EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER DONE AS AN ARTIST.  And on that note...

Let’s talk for a minute about imposter syndrome.  You know that feeling you have when you’re pretty sure that everything you do or make is really all bullshit, that it only LOOKS like you know know what you’re doing, but really you’re just kind of making it up as you go, and that pretty soon everyone is going to discover you’re a fraud?  Yeah… that feeling. Sigh…

I have come to believe that EVERY creative person I have ever met struggles with this, even the very successful ones.  Maybe especially the successful ones, because imposter syndrome basically tells you that you don’t deserve that success.  It came too easy, you just got lucky, you’re not as good as they think, because clearly you didn’t have to work hard enough.  And then, when there IS something you had to work hard at, you must not be very good at it because it didn’t come naturally or easily.  (See the contradiction here?)
    You may have heard this before, but I think hearing it from as many other creative people as possible is really valuable- WE ALL DO THIS TO OURSELVES. I think it’s part of the growth process.  It sucks, it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re good enough, and that you deserve a place at the table, but seriously, we all need to let it go. If you are creating, you are putting something out into the world that literally NO ONE else could possibly do.  You are the ultimate expert in your artistic endeavors- how could that not be the truth?!

Teaching classes and workshops for adults has really helped me combat imposter syndrome when it rears its ugly head. Not only has it helped me organize and define my process, it has made me aware that I absolutely DO know what I’m doing on a technical level.    When you are leading a group of people through a process that is brand new to them, being able to guide, advise, and answer questions makes you realize that you know more than you think you do.  Those first couple of classes also pushed me to look deeper into some technical aspects of encaustic painting, because if a student asks “why” and I don’t know, you better be sure I’m going to find out!

I’ve had to learn to accept a compliment, and that is a really difficult thing to do.  The imposter syndrome immediately wants to jump in and say, “Oh, well, that piece feels unresolved to me” or “I’m not sure about it”, or “I leaned too hard on green- I should branch out”.  That’s not helpful- not for you, and especially not for the person who just admired your (completely valid) work. Just say thanks, and move on. You made a thing that no one else has ever made- it’s ok to take the compliment!

Applying for shows and opportunity grants has helped. It’s not that I always get them- I had an awful lot of no’s in 2018- but I did get a few!  And I wouldn’t have if I’d listened to that inner demon telling me not to apply, that I wasn’t good enough, or that I wasn’t a “real” artist (what does that even mean?! Real? Seriously?). I think it’s harder for women.  Culturally, we have a tendency to not take as many risks, or we wait for what looks like a perfect fit before we try for something we want. What happens if we don’t get in the show that looked like a perfect fit? I feel like that can derail us.  Instead, apply for everything. Submit images to shows that you think you might not get into. Go for the long shot. Even if you don’t get it, you’re working. That makes you a working artist.

These things tend to help me push away the imposter thoughts, but there’s really no way that I’ve found to make them stay away.  It’s an ongoing battle for sure. But it helps me to know that I am not alone, and that everyone else is making it up as they go along, too.  And what we’re making up is a world that is a little better off than it was, because we put something new in it.

Moving on up!

This year is going to be my year of moving forward.  As an artist, I have never had a problem with ideas for imagery, what to make next, or how I want to use a medium.  That has always felt like the easy part. I think that most people have at least one thing that comes naturally to them and feels effortless.  I am one of those folks who are lucky enough to have the kind of work that never feels like work. Until it does.

    The “business end” of being an artist is a challenge for me- I’m not gonna lie. Although I am generally a pretty organized person in my household, (yep, my drawers look like Marie Kondo’s) my computer files, desk, receipts, and photos are, um, NOT tidy.  Like, not at all. In fact I would venture to say that they are kind of shocking.

    I had been toying around with the idea of moving out of my small home-based studio into a larger, more public space.  But, I had mentally filed that away as “someday”, “maybe”, “when I’m more organized”. Well guess what, y’all. That someday is NOW!  I had a fantastic opportunity present itself to me, and sometimes life doesn’t hint- it just straight up tells you what to do. So, I am moving studios in February!

I will be sharing a space with Blue Heron Trio, a jazz ensemble that includes my brother in law and one of my closest friends.  What this means, practically speaking, is a space that can be open to the public for art hops, classes, workshops, and jazz listening parties. I will have a space that allows me to hang work, and create and store larger pieces. I can have a studio sale. I can work uninterrupted and undistracted by laundry… This is big.

What this also means, is that this is the year to organize the business end of things, and not just get by.  I’ve lived in the same house since my husband and I got married 25 years ago, and never having moved, I didn’t have to do any big purges.  Moving my studio is a perfect (if forced) catalyst to organizing my shit. I’m not about to pack up boxes of unfiled documents, that’s for sure!  
    I’m so looking forward to all the things this year has the potential to bring.  I will be posting updates to this blog regularly to keep everyone informed about progress in the new space, events that are happening, classes and workshops, exciting new news, as well as thoughts and ramblings about my work and art in general! Check out my Facebook and Instagram pages for images of paintings in progress, and quick updates.

Thanks for joining me here.  May we all put beautiful, thoughtful, and important things out into the world. May we share our human condition with one another in the hopes of making this sometimes confusing (and sometimes downright painful) place a tiny bit better.

The future studio! Alas, it does not come with the furniture…

The future studio! Alas, it does not come with the furniture…