MY ART MATTERS
My art matters. Whether good or bad, whether it sells or not, my art matters. My art matters because I matter.
I am 59 years old. For the first 53 years I believed I didn’t matter. I go through times even now when I think I don’t matter. What believing I matter begat is a belief in the future. Even up until a couple of years ago I didn’t believe I have a future.
I won’t get into the story of why I believed these things or what got me out of it, except for this: Addictions (sober 29 years), depression, PTSD, and a debilitating chronic pain. A lot of hard work and a fortunate surgery made a future possible.
Don’t get me wrong, I always had a future, I was just unable to make any plans for more than a few days or weeks at a time. I poo-pooed goals because I could never reach them. I made plans and I’d have a month or more of depression. When I got back on my feet I would forget that I had made any plans. Long-term planning never worked for me.
Despite the fact I couldn’t carry out a plan didn’t mean I didn’t make plans. I made lots of them. Written business plans for more ventures than I can remember. I knew how to make plans, I just couldn’t carry them through.
Eighteen months ago I wrote business and marketing plans for my art. I am still following it today. I have never worked so long following a plan.
I have a counselor, his name is Manny. We were talking one day about procrastination. He asked me an odd question: how I value time. What? How do I know how I value time? Who ever thinks about that?
Somehow I started talking about how my art doesn’t matter in the long run. It doesn’t matter if I do it. Doesn’t matter if people see it. Doesn’t matter if people buy it. (The implication is that I don’t matter.)
Manny surprised me. He was adamant when he said, “your art matters to me, it matters to people in the group. It matters to your friends and family. You need to own that. Own that you matter. If you can own that your art matters then you will have the energy to do what you do.”
I really like that thought. Owning that I matter is really my responsibility for being human. Maybe that is a better philosophy than “you make your own meaning.” I have denied I really matter for most of my life. I have had moments where I believed it. The trouble I have, as with anything, is sustaining it.
How does owning that I matter change my mindset? It changes where I see myself in the world, my place in the world and the space I occupy. Most of my life, except in times of bravado, I felt as though the space I occupied was not mine, it was if I was holding someone’s chair for them and would have to leave when he returned.
Owning that I matter doesn’t feel like ego. I don’t believe I matter more than others. It feels calm and centered. Stable. Rooted. All those things I search for when I meditate. All those things I searched for in my recovery journey. I matter. And I own that I matter.
By owning that I matter I may be able to help others. I don’t have to prove anything. It’s something that I’ve said for a long time, a person’s very existence entitles them to love. I lose self-judgment.
Even more now. I’ve been able to overcome my fear of success and I’m able to push into the future.
Owning that I matter is really my responsibility for being human. Owning that I matter is how I become an adult.
I AM LESS THAN PROFICIENT WHEN IT COMES TO DRAWING SKILLS, AND THAT’S FINE
I think one of my strengths is not being able to draw all that well. Many people scoff at artists who have less than proficient drawing ability. For me, being poor at drawing is an asset.
This idea finally jelled while working on a current series of paintings called Pink Face (hyperlink). The idea is stolen from deKoonig’s “Women” series. Some of them any way. The pink ones.
I drew the faces using photo references and they came out looking nothing like the photos. The faces are gender neutral, or tend toward male, even if the original photo is of women. The faces are not exactly where I want them on the page. The proportions are generally off. And that’s OK.
I understand the concepts of shadows and shading and “drawing what you see,” which approximates reality. My “mistakes” probably reflect real life more than drawing real life because the only sense of reality I have is small. The faces may not be what I “see,” but they reflect a certain outlook on life. An outlook that sees life as disjointed, full of contradictions and rarely pretty.
I believe the faces have more character and meaning as they are than if I could draw figures perfectly.
It is for the same lack of drawing strength that I used collage and tracing techniques to produce “of all my friends and lovers” (Hperlink) and “rhobbs.” (hperlink) Not drawing these freehand does not make them any less cool, or any less artistic.
I have had people tell me that using tracing paper is “cheating.” I tell them that tracing paper is a technical innovation. Artist’s are always using the newest technical innovations in their work.
To say that using tracing paper is cheating is like saying Monet should not have used the latest innovation in paint colors because other artists didn’t have them. And it’s not as if tracing paper is the newest innovation out there. My inspiration is deKoonig and he used it after all.
I’ll leave the figurative drawing to the people who have the skills. So many people think they have to draw perfectly. They practice and practice but they might as well chew on cactus for all the good it does them. Why bother. It’s a product of centuries of the need to draw realistically, which became part of academic rigor (as in rigor mortis), which has nothing to do with the skills and talents of the individual as an artist. Nor does drawing perfectly necessarily express the artist’s voice.
Trying to make me draw like the masters makes about as much sense as my music teachers trying to make me into a classical musician. I was never going to have the skills to play classical music for a variety of reasons, but the academics tried to force me into that hole. Classical music was not my strength. My musical strengths lay elsewhere and were never really nourished by the round holers. That’s why I have never taken an art class.
I am not saying that people shouldn’t learn how to draw skillfully, but I think we all could learn to embrace the talents we have, and the talents we don’t have, and emphasize those, to create wonderful art.
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