Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking
by Bayles and Orland
The last two sections of Chapter 3 conclude the authors' discussion of our fears about ourselves. The first section, "Magic," begins with an insightful quotation from Mark Matousek:
There's a myth among amateurs, optimists and fools that beyond a certain level of achievement, famous artists retire to some kind of Elysium where criticism no longer wounds and work materializes without their effort.
This is the "magic" and it isn't real. But, many aspiring artists are under this spell and this leads to constant disappointment in their work. Maybe they don't have what it takes - that special spark of magic that's necessary to create great works of art. And, when something turns out well it's a "fluke," and if it turns out poorly it's an "omen." The authors note that buying into magic leaves you feeling less capable each time another artist's qualities are praised. This leads to a defeatist attitude. It's more important to recognize that each artist has "something" that gives them the ability to create. But, one artist's "something" can't be substituted for another artist's "something." As artists, we arrive at solutions for our work as individuals. My magic isn't your magic and vice versa. There isn't a single universal type of "magic."
Moving on the the second section, "Expectations," we're reminded that our expectations are a delicate balance between imagination and calculation; between intuition and logic. The temptation is to become too fanciful in our expectations so that we can't begin to fulfill them. Unfortunately, expectations based on illusion lead almost always to disillusionment.
But, the authors point out that expectations can also be one of the most useful tools that an artist can possess. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The last piece taught us about our materials, designs, and ideas. Our work is our guidebook. It shows us where we've been and helps us intuit where we might go. From that, expectations arise. The trick is in finding a way to look at our work objectively so that we may learn from it. That's the only way we can develop realistic expectations.
Now that we've concluded chapter 3 and considered a number of fears about ourselves, it's plain to see that all these fears are self-inflicted. Isn't it interesting that we'd engage in emotional and psychological self-destruction when we'd never, ever do it to someone else? We often treat ourselves worse than we treat others. That's sad and destroys our ability to create uninhibited truthful works of art. The authors have exposed these fears as lies, and that's the first step to banishing them from our thoughts. Next time, we'll begin chapter 4, which is "Fears About Others."
What are your thoughts?