Thursday, July 28, 2011
Is There A Cure?
A sad anniversary: today marks the second year of when I was diagnosed with the horrible disease of Hypochondria. I didn't realize the symptoms at first, but as each day went by, I found myself getting worse and worse. Apparently, it's a genetic disease that's the result of ignorance and an over-active imagination. Who knew? Right now, there's no cure, but I am in a support group of fellow sufferers. They all say I have it bad, but that they have it worse. So, I'm resigned to a fate of having every sniffle be the start of the Bubonic Plague, and every ache and pain be the onset of some bizarre disease that even T.V. doctors couldn't fathom. I can deal with all that, though; my problem is when it affects my painting.
It's all well and good to view your work with a jaundiced eye (Jaundice? Jaundice? Is that my problem? I knew my colors were a little off lately...) but when all you see in your painting is the bad--then you might have a problem. Painters Hypochondria can really be debilitating if it keeps you from putting your work out there. If all you can see in your paintings are the weak spots, the wish it could be betters, the my gosh what was I thinking? - then you'll never have the confidence to promote your work. By all means, if you see a flaw that you can fix, then fix it. But after awhile, you just have to say, "this is the best I can do." Just remember to do better with the next painting.
Oh, sure, we've all run into painters so self assured that they come off as Michelangelo, when in reality their work is closer to Mike Angelo-- the guy that works on my car. But I'm betting more of us falls into the other camp. The camp that says we are not worthy. The camp that says we'll never be as good as we need to be. The camp that says, "look at all the great artists out there!" (Except my eyesight's been a little poor recently...) But what yardstick are you using to judge your work?
Look, all things are relative, right? I can finish a painting and be bummed that it doesn't have the sparkle and painterly skill of my hero, Norman Rockwell. But hey, not a whole lot of artists can say they are as good as Norman, so I'm in company with the vast majority. Does that mean I can't make a good painting? No. It means I'm no Norman Rockwell. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. Maybe I shouldn't hamstring myself (and my hamstring has been sore lately, come to think of it) by comparing myself to the Masters. Of course I'm going to pale in comparison! I may be waiting for a very long time if I put off promoting my work until I'm that good. And if I feel everything I do is flawed, I never will.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking, so if you don't hold your work against the high standards of the great painters, then you won't look so bad. Come to think of it, compared to Ms Foontin's third grade art class, your work is awesome! No, that's not what I'm saying; I may not think I'm at a Master level, but that doesn't keep me from entering juried shows, or submitting new work to my galleries or even Fine Art Views on line. In other words, I judge my work against my peers, the mid-level guys like me. Of course I still look at the truly great painters for inspiration. And it also doesn't mean that I'm not trying to get better with every painting I make. But if a contemporary blows me away, then I'm not their peer, am I? No matter how bad I have it, my Painters Hypochondria hasn't got the best of me yet! (Some other nasty disease probably will, though...)
I don't know about you, but all this talk of sickness has given me a nasty, inoperable brain tumor...