Art & Fear: Observations on the Periods (and Rewards) of Artmaking
by Bayles & Orland
We've arrived at Chapter 4: "Fears About Others" where the authors reveal how we artists deal with the opinions of others. Before entering this chapter, I want to acknowledge that I DO care about what others think of my work to a certain degree (but not enough to change direction). In fact, I think that anyone who exhibits their work also cares about what others think of it. We want feedback, and we hope it will be positive. So, let's take just a few steps into chapter 4 and learn more about how we deal with the opinions of others.
First, we're asked to consider the expectations of others. As an artist you're expected to make each successive piece uniquely new and different - yet reassuringly familiar when set alongside your earlier work. You're expected to make art that's intimately (perhaps even painfully) personal - yet alluring and easily grasped by an audience that has likely never known you personally. That's a TALL order.
This reminds me of something that happened to Bob Dylan when he decided to lay down the acoustical guitar in favor of an electric one. The first time he appeared on stage wired, his audience booed and called him a "traitor." They couldn't stand the change - familiarity was more important than Dylan's creative ideas. I'm relating this story because I think that creating in order to fulfill the expectations of others is akin to being a traitor to oneself. It inhibits our ability to freely create.
The authors add that when we're feeling insecure or tentative about our own work we tend to listen more to the opinions of others. Conversely, when things are going well we listen less. I think that we tend to panic when things don't go well, and we actively seek solutions by turning to others. I used to do that a lot, but now I've learned to dig deeper within myself where the real solutions lie.
I think this chapter will be a good read. What I've covered so far is found in only the opening remarks. Next time, we'll consider the first section of this chapter, entitled "Understanding."
What are your thoughts?