For most of my life, I've felt like I wasn't any good at art or music. This isn't for lack of trying: on the contrary, I've drawn incessantly for most of my life, and took music classes during the height of my chronically well-spent youth. Heck, I was in a choir group, and I guess I was good enough for my mom to drive me there once a week for a couple years. I sat in the back and never volunteered for important parts.
But despite really liking art and music I've always felt like a fraud when I do it, even (or especially) when someone tells me they like something I made. I'm afraid they're just saying that to make me feel better. I'm worried if I accept the compliment, I'll seem conceited. It doesn't help that I've definitely complemented stuff I don't like because it was easier than telling the truth. (This feels like it should be a white lie, but I'm not so sure.)
So what I've done historically is to point out everything that sucks about whatever it is I made. That's the smart move, right? I can't be conceited if I know about the faults, and if I point out the faults first, nobody can hurt me by pointing them out. Right?
Well, no. For one thing, sometimes people agree with the faults I point out. Maybe they would have liked it if I shut up! And for another, as was explained to me by the excellent lady my brother is seeing, when I tell someone they're wrong for liking something I made, I'm dismissing their opinion. I'm treating the other person like they have no idea what's good. "You're making this so much harder than it needs to be," Colleen said. "You can just say 'thank you'."
People have tried to get me to take compliments before, but it turns out that redirecting my fear of offending people was what it took to really teach the lesson. And you know, even though change is frightening and accepting compliments is even more frightening, it's a lot better than being afraid of them. So, phew, okay, that was the first step.
The second step is that I need to actually put my work somewhere people can see it. I need my art to live in the sunlight. I need it to be part of my life, not just what I do when I'm alone. And that takes a whole new level of confidence, a level I'm still working to reach. I can pull out something I painted a month ago and be amazed it came out of my brain, and think "wow, I really might be okay at this", and then fifteen minutes later the same picture is garbage.
As far as I understand it, this might be normal? Like, it definitely could be. Artists are difficult animals, and for every scene feverishly put to perfection over the course of a week-long explosion of restless activity, there are a hundred lumpy sketches where the proportions don't look like anything and I have not successfully drawn a single straight line. That's probably normal too. My creative process is messy, and I haven't cultivated the patience to do it differently.
And that's kind of the rub. I've had thousands of ideas which seemed really amazing, and around a decade ago I started writing the really good ones down. Ideas for paintings, songs, animations, stories, comics, basically everything I like. I keep writing down ideas for the someday when I have the skills to actually make any of them real. But unless I start living like art matters to me, I'll just keep writing software and playing video games and all this material will just be a collection of Notes files my kids have to feel bad for deleting when I die.
Weirdly, the sudden and shocking availability of creative artificial intelligence has only strengthened my resolve. Like, maybe not today, but soon, anybody with my list of ideas can crank out stuff as good or better than what I'll come up with doing it by hand. I feel like that should crush me, but there were already a million humans better at this than me. The thing that makes it important for me to do is that I want to be an artist, not because I want to be the best.
Plus if I go for it and it turns out my art really is bad, well, I'll have tried. It's OK to move on if things don't work out, but never trying is a bad play.
So that's it. I'm going to start posting art relatively frequently, and I'm going to write about the pieces in a little bit of detail. I have a few projects going right now, so let's talk about those:
- The Sequence, a series of nested digital paintings which exist as a loop. There will probably be a real name for this project at some point. There will be 52 in the finished set, and I've painted 31 since starting the undertaking in February 2020. This week, I plan to post the first of the set along with more details about the project and its course.
- Horsemen, a set of four (probably) images representing the faces of calamity. This is one of those ideas I let hang for too long, because with two down, I haven't made much progress beyond the conceptual stage. I'll probably try and figure out if there really will be more of these before I post them.
- I have a pile of short stories which are worth reading, and most of a novel, which isn't. I'll pick the more interesting ones and post them once I've got a little more image-based content up.
- An unnamed blues LP. This is the most tenuous project at the moment, and undoubtedly the furthest from real. On the other hand, I really want it to happen. We'll see how things go when I get to the mixing stage, at the moment I'm still writing and practicing.
In the next few posts, I plan to post more about these and start uploading my work. Stay tuned!