The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Art and Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking
by Bayles & Orland

This section of chapter 3 reminds me of the many individuals who, upon retirement, find themselves lost. Their identity was their job. Here, Bayles and Orland observe that a dry spell in artmaking would be a serious blow; for a few it would amount to annihilation. I hadn't thought about this before, but it's very true that when I'm forced to attend to matters that take me away from my studio for more than a day I become anxious. Painting IS my purpose and I can't imagine having a dry spell. Maybe I've succumbed to the second observation made by these authors: avoidance. Some avoid this self-imposed abyss by becoming stupendously productive, churning out work in quantities that surprise even close friends. Yup - that's me!

I've definitely confused "doing" with "being" when it comes to art.

But, this might not be unusual. After all, if I stopped making art then a part of me would die (or at least wither). The authors note this, and write that the depth of your need to make things establishes the level of risk in not making them. For me, that's a huge risk.

What are your thoughts?


Celeste Bergin said...

Kathy, yesterday I said to one of my artist friends: "Hawthorne writes that all artists should have one other interest, aside from art. If you don't, you will bore other people". He replied.."oh, I gave up trying to explain myself to people long ago". It made me laugh! But it goes to what you are writing about here. I can't imagine that man without his 100% full time passion for painting--if he were to have to stop painting I am pretty sure that would translate to "annihilation". For myself...well, yes, painting and creating is everything to me, but I'd like to think if I couldn't do it for one reason or another I would still be a vibrant/vital person. I'd LIKE to think that....but I don't know. It is an interesting question to ponder.

RH Carpenter said...

This is somewhat frightening to think about - who would we be if, for some reason, we couldn't create? I know that anxiety when I'm kept from painting for a few days - a week is a dry spell for me - so I'm aware that my art is such a part of me that I might be lost without it. Perhaps it's time to take up the banjo or salsa dancing?!?

Mark Sheeky said...

Yep "when I'm forced to attend to matters that take me away from my studio for more than a day I become anxious." and yep "Some avoid this self-imposed abyss by becoming stupendously productive, churning out work in quantities that surprise even close friends."

Art relaxes me in some way because it gives me a sense of purpose and fills a need lacking with other activities, but saying that reminds me that I have no other activities. If I had a pleasurable existence outside art, would I still make art? I had years before art but even then my "job" was my life.

I could stop making art if I wanted, but I'd rapidly realise that I have nothing to live for, and at that point find a new sense of purpose which would become an obsession.

Dan Kent said...

Here's how I look at it. I love the digital age because all creative endeavors: words, art, music, film, pictures, are the same: zero's and one's. This matches my perspective. All creative endeavors are different versions of creativity, and all are available to me. Being a healthy mix of happy-go-lucky and morbid, I have thought about what would happen if I were, say, stricken blind and couldn't draw/paint. The answer: I would devote myself wholeheartedly to music or writing.

When I decided to devote myself to art later in life, I figured it would be wholly enriching. It is, but there is an unpleasant side effect. It has become all-encompassing, and is virtually all I want to do. I hunger for it. Yet I have a full-time job and other responsibilities that keep me away from art almost all of the time. Sometimes this struggle impedes my concentration on non-art tasks, and sometimes it creates anxiety of the kind you describe. Not only am I kept from what I want to do, I am limited in the art that I can create. My ambitions far exceed my work product mostly because of time constraints. I do not have a remedy for this except that I hope to create a workspace at home that will permit me to more easily jump into more ambitious art tasks in the time that I have.

-Don said...

I can definitely relate to this post. If I'm not in the studio creating for any period of time I feel like I'm letting myself down - like I'm a useless slacker. I am my own worse boss - and I've worked under a few bad ones...

I worked in a factory for 14 years. During those years I went through hot and cold spells of creating. I found that if I had not created for a significant period of time I would explode into a creative frenzy. I was never obsessing about it - it would just build internally until that explosion occurred. I also found that I would sometimes act out in unhealthy ways during those long periods of 'drought'. I never gave it much thought at the time, but as I look back I realize that the creative beast HAD to be fed or it would find something else to feed upon - namely me.

I don't know that I've confused 'doing' with 'being' so much as my being is fulfilled by doing.


Unknown said...

Hi Celeste - I guess it's true that I wouldn't wither and die if I didn't make art. But, I would feel like something big is missing from my life. I've done many other things, too, and still have a variety of interests. However, artmaking has always been a part of my life.

Hi Rhonda - I like your alternate choices!

Hi Mark - I, too, find artmaking therapeutic. It's like breathing - need it!

Hi Mark - it's called an "obsession" and, in my book, it's a good one. I hope that you'll soon find all the time you need to create art. I like where you're going!

Hi Don - I can tell by your high level of productivity in art making that you, too, are obsessed. And, I'm glad you are :-)

hw (hallie) farber said...

I think art exists in all parts of our lives--the way we dress, the way we lay a brick walk, centering statistics on a page, or designing the tile pattern we want on the bathroom floor.

I have survived periods when it was impossible to paint or sculpt. That's when you collect ideas and wait.

Anonymous said...

I have found much truth in "Art and Fear." When my mother developed dementia, I was struck with a concern that if I too developed this illness would I forget how to draw? I resolved that fear, concluding that one can always draw. It just might not look the same, but it would always be an expression of what was still "me." Anything that would take me from my work is a fear. A fear of loss. A loss of a part of me.

Unknown said...

Hi Hallie - I agree. You can take the gal out of the studio, but you can't take the studio out of the gal.

Hi Bilby - I can understand your fear and your resolution about it. I often wonder what I would do if I couldn't paint, but there are so many other ways to be creative. Perhaps who we truly are on the inside never fully disappears.

Eva said...

Thank you Kathy for stopping by my blog and commenting on my fears of "annihilation" Your post on this subject hit a lot of buttons for me and my struggle with retirement.I draw a wealth of inspiration from all of your blog posts.

Unknown said...

Hi Eva - thank you very much. You have a wonderful way of sharing on your blog.