building self

This is the bottom part of that new piece I finished this weekend. I had posted this whole piece and wrote about it but then deleted it because I have not been coming from a place of strength lately. It is the first piece of art I've made this summer; now that people are gone and I can begin to crawl back into my creativity I feel like I am starting from scratch.

There is truly nothing worse than someone who doesn't believe in themselves. Nothing worse than someone not having the courage to BE. Yesterday's post about the wimp had me reliving my childhood and the memories of fear and anxiety flooded me. I never felt like I belonged anywhere and never felt like I could understand what was going on. I wasn't encouraged to be anything, rather a heart to heart with my dad after high school led to him suggesting I work at the KRAFT factory (my sister meanwhile was encouraged to attend the U of I). Who can blame him, I showed no aptitude for anything and had to do something in life didn't I? I decided to drink and leave home instead.

At some point you have to stop thinking you are a dumb piece of shit. I have had plenty of moments in life where I felt all worldly and confident (most of it was when I was giving massages and people were nude and vulnerable, albeit covered up with a sheet, in the dark and half asleep)..but I felt like a smarty pants when they would ask me to tell them about this or that or what was the latest book I was reading. I was good at something. Really good. People said they had had massages from all over the world and mine was one of the best. Had debilitating pain not knocked me off center and forced me to quit massage I would still be doing it. I wouldn't be making art.

So I am starting all over again in life. I've got just shy of over two years under my belt of making, showing, selling art. Here I am, twenty six or so years later, acquiring new skills and trying to fill in a completely erased chalk board. Less than two or three people from my past are in touch with me, sometimes I feel like I've moved to another country. I find it still difficult to feel confident about anything in regards to myself. When I dropped off that finished piece at the gallery and the owner was busy and cranky and didn't pay any attention to the piece I felt like shrinking. He has been my teacher in the school of hard knocks. I've had my work dissected and verbally torn apart and sent home with my tail in between my legs. I've been reduced to tears. But it made me stronger and made the work stronger. I was filled with doubt because sometimes I don't even know what my art really looks like.

In the post I deleted the other day, I was talking about how I have to make the art while it is on the floor, it always looks different when you hang it up. Sometimes in a bad way. But even then I hang it at the bottom of the stairs with only a few feet of floor in front of it. Doors on both sides, stairs in front. It isn't until it is out there in the world hanging somewhere that I get to really see it. I just go by my gut and heart when I put it together. This piece in particular I had my hopes set on it being a certain way and it just wasn't going to work. So while I like the finished product I feel a frustration and desire to find a way to make a piece that has what I wanted to do originally. This is the best solution to this piece, I know it now. It helped that the gallery assistant called yesterday to say they will keep it for the show and she said with reverence, 'it is beautiful'.

Regardless though, I need to keep crawling until I can stand up on my own. That is what this whole art thing is showing me. Have conviction. Have courage. Don't let tongues slice off delicate new layers of hardening skin. Stop thinking and stop worrying. Have some fun for petes sake because it's still better than working at wal-mart.


BlueJude said...

Thanks. I needed to hear that today!

Daphne said...

There is a reason that you're doing this.

You're doing it because you need to. Because you are an artist.

The more art you make the more you'll find out that it's strong work. How many times can they be good without having a good artist making them?

Steve Kane said...

We are our own harshest critics. I write music for a literary ezine thingie. A friend of mine got a story published there so it made sense for me to wrote the accompanying music. I knew exactly what kind of sound my friend wanted and I spent a little extra time on it than usual.

I finished it and I fucking hated it. I think it is the worst thing I have done for years.

My friend loves it and says it is exactly what she wanted.

I guess the moral of the story is that even if you produce something that you think is absolute garbage there will be someone out there who thinks it is wonderful. Those, people are lunatics, obviously, but never mind. Forget about it and start the next piece.

Steve Kane said...

P.S. I think your latest piece is great. So there.

self taught artist said...

profound reminder ironicisms

kate said...

I like this - you are your own worst critic, which isn't a bad thing, because it can push you forward ... at the same time, you've got to be gentle with yourself too. Some of those old messages need to be replaced with ones of strength and an understanding of how much courage it takes to forge your own path.

JAXTER said...

I think that self doubt and that all artists are their own worst critics - it is something that ties many of us together... but you think about it instead of pushing it away, which is how we end up self imploding. I was very glad to read you confronting what you called the wimp and then turn around and talk about - even though you didn't overtly state it - the power that resides in you.

Shelby said...

"Have some fun for petes sake . . ."

Good advice.. I needed it.

Mary said...

The new piece is wonderful, Paula--and so are the other recent pieces on your site. You found a terrific solution for the bottom section. Keep at it--


Clare said...

Hi Self Taught! I really, really love how you used that bottom space -- it looks incredible! It reminds me of drawers which open to infinite possibilities and hold whatever we dream. I'm happy that the gallery assistant called and gave you good feedback on it. And starting all over again in life is terrifying at first. But crawling until you can stand on your own, like you wrote, is a really good thing -- step by step, day by day. Or as my mom used to say, minute by minute, which helps keep us in the now. Finding the courage to BE is more of a choice to fake it until you make it -- surrendering everything and just saying "this is who I am, this is how I'm wired, this is how I see the world, these are the gifts I have and what I'm good at, this is how my brain processes information, this are my likes and dislikes...." And then making changes in things that can be changed if that is desired, but also staying true to the things you like and that feed your spirit even if other people don't get it. I love how you said "at some point you have to stop thinking you are a dumb piece of shit" -- right on. Early, negative messages given to us imprint so deeply into our psyches -- but this isn't WHO we really are at our source. We have to keep peeling layer after layer off of this shit in order to feel whole and comfortable in our mind and body and spirit. There's an innocence and vulnerability hidden under all those layers that allows us to find wonder and possibility in the world and in ourselves. You are doing awesome work -- in your art and in your life. You are way stronger and wise than you realize.

Kim Hambric said...

Wow! Just came across your blog and I love how you have the nerve and ability to put the truth out there about yourself. I felt I could have written the same things about myself (although not nearly as well). Your art is incredible and unique. There's not much in the way of similar art out there to compare yourself to. Hard to know where you stand, but it seems best to me to do your own thing. Since I started blogging two weeks ago, I have discovered several great and uplifting sites. Yes, these always positive sites are encouraging, but often leave me thinking "what the heck is wrong with me?!?" When I panic, feel alone, and, yes, actually read the want ads for punishment, I want to know that there are other artists who feel the same way. Keep going. I'll keep reading. By the way, after high school my dad tried to steer me toward the military. I always thought he was kidding.

self taught artist said...

kim, thanks for stopping by. you have a great start to your blog already, I'll be visiting you too.

i'm speechless about the military steerage....at least you would be serving the country as opposed to clogging arteries.