Art and overcoming (or at least quietening) impostor syndrome
If you’ve been following my creative journey for a while now, you probably know that in recent months I’ve been ramping up my artistic endeavours and sharing more of it online. I’ve created a website and blog, started up an instagram account, a dedicated facebook page and, just recently, opened an etsy shop.
All outward appearances might lead you to think that I’ve gained a level of confidence in what I’m doing. Which is true, sort of.
Sure, I feel I’ve progressed enough that I can contribute to a conversation about techniques and supplies. I’ll happily recommend the work of other creatives that I admire or think will be helpful. I’ll chat to you about your art, your kid’s art, your cat’s art… almost anything really (I’m my father’s daughter and could honestly talk under wet cement if I’m interested in the topic) …but if you even so much as look like you’re about to say something to me about my art, I’ll jam up, brush it off, divert the conversation, and if that doesn’t work – I’ve been known to literally run away from the encounter.
I’ll high-tail it out of there and leave nothing behind except my dignity and a pool of anxious sweat.
Actually, that’s not entirely correct. I will happily discuss my art if you’re giving me constructive criticism. I’ll soak that up like a sponge and come at you from all angles to really understand where I can improve. But praise, compliments, or even a simple acknowledgement of the fact that ‘I make art’ brings out the utter awkward in me. I just cannot handle it. I feel like a fraud.
Impostor syndrome kicks in and I’m immediately trying to point out that my art is nothing much, that I’m barely treading water, that there are plenty of more talented, more skilled, more original, actual ‘artists’ out there.
Which is also true, sort of.
There ARE better artists out there. People who have more talent, superior skills, more original ideas and are better equipped to convey them. People who have training and years of experience under their belt.
There are those people, and there is also me.
As a friend and my partner recently pointed out to me, after a particularly distressing social encounter – my art is not nothing, and I do have something to contribute and gain by sharing it.
The simple joy that viewing art can bring. The colours, the scenes, the emotions and memories it might incite for the viewer. Art doesn’t have to be exceptional to bring joy.
The learning potential – for you and for me. You might see my work and instantly name the thing that has been bothering me about the piece for hours, days or weeks. You might offer some pointers on technique or recommend a book or lesson that might be of use. You might also learn something from my work, my mark making, my value, colour or composition choices.
There is only one person on this planet that can produce my art, and that’s me. If I don’t create it and share it, no one else can.
Seeing my art online makes me do better. I cannot tell you how many times I have posted an image of what I thought was a finished piece of work, only to immediately notice how I could make it better. It’s like getting to view my work afresh, through the eyes of someone else.
Sharing my art makes me accountable. I’ve honestly never created so consistently since I went ‘public’. The goal of posting a finished piece regularly keeps me motivated, even when I’m feeling uninspired.
Lastly, and I think most importantly to me, sharing my art might inspire you to create and share your own. If I can encourage and pass on the happy, content feelings that making art brings me, I’d be selfish not to share it.
In my usual, thorough fashion, I did some research on this topic and it seems I’m not alone in the struggle with this inner dialogue, particularly as an emerging artist, and even as an established one. Just remember, we do have something valuable to contribute and gain from sharing our art, no matter how amateur the finished piece is.
My goal moving forward is to continue creating and sharing my work, and to herein be more graceful in my receipt of praise and acknowledgement for my art and take it for the face value that it is usually intended.
Keep creating, lovely humans.