I dislike writing. My thoughts on art and life are inconcrete, often inconsistent, always changing and sometimes self-contradicting. Putting thoughts, theories, and ideas into writing puts a box around them and solidifies them, especially when they’re put out into the world for others to read. Being unsure is something I embrace, because if we have all the answers, we have nowhere to go.
The longer I’ve been doing art, the more aware I’ve become of how wildly artists’ experiences, career paths, and creative processes vary. There have been times in the past where I held on to something I heard, later to realize that it was wrong for me and mislead me for a time, and I often fear that sharing my experience may lead another artist in the wrong direction for their personal journey. I think this is the primary reason success in art is so elusive…there is no single blueprint and no two career paths are alike.
In 2012, a friend asked to stay at my place in Kansas City for some new convention coming to town. I tagged along to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live and my mind was blown. I spoke to someone there who insisted that I look up the Muddy Colors blog and read every single post from the beginning. I did, and then repeated this chronological read-through several times in the following years. The road to where I am now differed from those MC contributors, but I learned so much from their diversity of experiences and the advice they shared. If they had never taken the risk and had never written their thoughts and guidance into existence, I wouldn’t be doing art today.
The fear of putting something out in the world, and that thing going from formless, unrealized potential in your mind to concrete and unchanging certainty on paper is not limited to writing. In art, that commitment means putting a piece of yourself out for all to consume, to judge whether what you care to say or create and how you choose to do so is worth anything. For me, I didn’t always know what kind of work I wanted to make or what was meaningful to me, so it manifested as an avoidance of exploration for many years. I stuck to what I perceived as very safe, expected, and middle-of-the-road subject matter (not to mention impersonal), creating table-top-gaming-portfolio type work, because it was what I felt I was ‘supposed to do.’ Perhaps for others like me, the avoidance of commitment manifests as painting a little of everything. For others, it may be failure to finish, or maybe the work is finished, but never shared.
But, we are always changing, growing, and evolving. If we wait to reach an imagined end-point before we begin making art, sharing art, or committing to a path, we’ll never enjoy the best part of being an artist: connecting with others. Art is a form of communication, after all. Whether you illustrate and so collaborate in the telling of a story, or your art carries an idea, message, or aesthetic taste alone for others to consider or resonate with, what you make will say something about the viewer as much as it does about you as the artist. For the viewer, that can be transformative, self-explorative, or reassuring.
I am not driven to write the way that I feel compelled to paint…in fact, I usually am loathe to do it, and much more self conscious of my words than I am of my artwork. But, there are days that I wake up and I’m not feeling the paint either, weighed down by doubts about my current project. If you find yourself feeling this too, I urge you to push through instead of procrastinate, share instead of keeping it close, follow your impulses and experiment instead of playing it safe, and lean into your passions instead of mitigating risk. Communication is a gift and what you have to share will mean something to some, and if you’re lucky, a few of them might give you the gift of telling you so.