Art and Fear

I’m currently reading a book entitled Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  I’d highly recommend it as a ‘must-read’ for anyone involved in creative expression, whether a beginner or seasoned artist.  The book explores how art gets made, and reasons why it doesn’t get made. It’s a small book, but not a quick read. I find myself pausing often – my head nods, my breath quickens, my body tenses, the words resonate and I acknowledge similar thoughts and feelings encountered with art making.

Imagination: acrylics, collage, mixed

They say that making art can feel dangerous and revealing – and it is!  All sorts of fears and self-doubts can arise – and can be crippling enough to prevent a person from ever getting started.   As an expressive arts practitioner, I constantly stress that every one of us is an artist – yet the title itself is fraught with all kinds of definitions and expectations that are difficult to shake off.  From “them.”  Mostly from ourselves.

Fabric flower, leaf and wire

Yes, there are those who have a natural talent, a gift, real prodigies who are able to create something magnificently beautiful in whatever they touch or do. Most of us have to work at it, practice and nurture our art through bursts of fertile periods and dry spells.  On the question of talent, the author states that:

          “Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work… when you ask, “Then why doesn’t it come easily for me?”, the answer is probably, “Because making art is hard!” What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.


Glitter, bits of ribbon and bling

Talent is a snare and a delusion. In the end, practical questions about talent come down to these:  Who cares? Who would know? and What difference would it make?  And the practical answers are:  Nobody, Nobody, and None.” 

I call myself a Creative Art-ish (a term borrowed from another good read – Ish). Without any formal training, any art making skills I’ve developed over the years are purely self-taught. What I do has an ‘ish-ness’ about it – a little bit of this, a fair amount of that, nothing about this OR that. Training or talent aside, daily art making, good habits and practice are essential.

Getting started, keeping going, getting started again

…in art and in life,

it seems to me,

this is the essential rhythm.

– Unknown

And in the end, isn’t that what matters?  That we keep on keeping on (as the popular saying goes)? That we stare down fear, thumb our nose at talent, trust the process, throw open the doors to imagination and awaken the life force energy that connects us to our creative core – our soul – our essence?  What better way to bridge and communicate with our inner and out world.

Your thoughts?


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