When I hear a negative voice in my head saying, “I am in over my head, they are going to find out,” this little voice reminds me I am not good enough. It seeks to devalue my self worth causing me to underestimate myself. Then I come to the conclusion that l must be mad about choosing to be an artist. I realise that l have volunteered myself for all this self-doubt. I feel like l am pretending to be an artist.
If l am not careful the voice gets out of control and my self-confidence is eroded. It is hard to break the psychological patterning in which I fear l will be exposed as a fraud. The term ‘imposter syndrome’ describes the situation well.
Like a lot of artists when I started on this journey I asked myself, How do you make good art? I realise anyone can call themselves an artist. However, there is a problem with this question. It sends you in the wrong direction. It leads to you questioning everything you make.
Pretending to be a painter
Then I had the idea. ‘What if I practised failure instead?’ What if I focus on my weaknesses? If l remove the need for quality and perfection maybe it would help. I realised l needed to give myself permission to make mistakes and remove expectations.
The strive for quality and perfection causes so many paralysing difficulties. Malcolm Gladwell said in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants; “You can’t concentrate on doing anything if you are thinking, ‘What’s gonna happen if it doesn’t go right?”
I slowly realised that the reward in painting doesn’t come from making a perfect painting. It is in the daily practice of getting your work done. When I am practising failure I don’t have to know what I am going to do. Ideas often develop from a previous painting. The trick is just to get started and get something made.
Pretending to be a painter
Now when I walk into an art gallery I am fully aware that not every painting I see on the walls made by the artist is on show. In fact, far from it. The artist has carefully selected their best work and kept the others away from view. Many artists from Picasso to Francis Bacon are well known for destroying their work in a rage. I now know the selection process happens much later, not when I am making the work, but instead when I am selecting work for to show. I realise;
“There is a key to success in every failure” – Tony Robbins.
and that “What others may call a failure is only a temporary set back if you really believe in your dreams” – Kory Livingstone.
“Are you are paralysed with fear? That’s s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.