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Today I am struggling with fear of failure, why I draw and paint, and how to feel value in what I make if it is intended as some sort of gift.

I generally draw and paint just for my own enjoyment or as a mind-calming practice, but decided a few weeks ago to make a painting to donate for the silent auction of the annual fundraising event for the school that is affiliated with my city’s ballet company.  Tomorrow is the deadline to drop off donations.  In the wee small hours of this morning, I came close to finishing three paintings I’ve been working on this week with the intent of donating whichever one I liked best.  I couldn’t decide–actually liked all three–so I sent digital images to a long-time, dear, creative friend with a good eye and a gentle sensibility when it comes to critiquing creative output, asking for her vote on which to donate.  Then I went to bed, buzzing with joy.  I had painted! I liked what I made!  And, hopefully, it will help raise some funds toward helping some kid pursue his or her dream.

This morning I woke up feeling inadequate and ridiculous for thinking someone would want to buy one of my paintings, that the ballet school would be embarrassed to offer it even as a donation, and other general feelings of artistic worthlessness.  Getting only 4 hours of sleep probably exacerbated the self-defeating thought pattern.

Then my dear kind friend wrote back an encouraging email, thus bolstering my confidence.

So I filled out the online form committing to the donation.  Gulp.

Tomorrow I will drop it off, and try to hold my head up high and smile and feel good about wanting to help.  I’m also going, as perk of being a modest financial donor to the company, to observe the ballet company class, so I can’t just drop the painting off and bolt.  I should probably wrap it up so there is no way I’ll see anyone’s reaction to it.  I’m certainly not going to the event at which it will be silently auctioned.  That would be crushing.

Watching the company class is something I’ve been very excitedly looking forward to.  I’m bringing a sketchbook, and hoping nobody asks to see what I draw in it.

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20 Comments

  1. Good for you – do we get to see it?

    It’s a very personal thing art and I’m sure someone will love your painting – even if what they see in it isn’t what you put into it; people always see something in art that speaks about something within themselves I think not necessarily the artist.

    Too many somes in that.

    • Thanks, Jane. You’re totally right about people seeing something that speaks about them, and some is a good word here. I didn’t put it up here on purpose but you can see it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gravitysalad/11891600196/

      • It’s so pretty – love purples and pinks together – and love that little pointy foot. I’m sure it’ll make one of those someones very happy.

        • Thanks and I hope so! Funny about the foot – it looks mutant to me now, and out of proportion to the other leg. Anyways … thanks for your kind words.

        • Lol, well thats what I like about it – my eye went straight to it. I’m sure ballerina’s have some pretty weird shaped feet anyway.

        • Ha, they do! It amazes me how such flexible ankles can be so strong.

  2. When you bring a sketchbook places, doesn’t everyone around ask to see what you’re drawing (or try to take surreptitious peeks?

    I’m glad you have a friend who can bolster you. Yes, four hours’ sleep will really play havoc with a creator’s confidence. I have no pithy insights, just that I think it’s wonderful that you went through with donating the painting. It is out in the world on its own now, and someone will want to have it. I can commiserate on the self doubt — I’ve been mired in writing and rewriting the same chunk of my novel-in-progress for months now and told a friend I could just about give up writing not to have to be bothered with it any more.

    • I’m pretty adept at shielding my sketchbook and sitting in a way that doesn’t encourage attention. Thanks for the empathy, Laurie. I know this is something everyone who creates something has to deal with at some point. Sounds like you are at a very frustrating point. When writing, is it hard to know when it feels right? I struggle with over-tinkering with paint.

  3. I’m happy you were able to donate your painting which I’m sure is lovely (I hope you’ll share it here?). For some reason, it seems like human nature to doubt our abilities… especially in anything creative. I feel more comfortable sketching unnoticed too.

    • Thanks, Steph. I wonder why we are wired for self-doubt, and if it is it something we learn through socialization and schooling. Oh my gosh, I hadn’t realized you are an artist, but just noticed the arts’n’crafts page on your blog and OMG I LOVE the Nicholas Cage cards! (to be continued in comments on your blog)

      • For sure I think we’re wired for self-doubt… but I hope it’s the sort of confidence that can be practiced. Thanks so much for looking at my projects! It was such a treat to see all your kind comments. :)

        • You’re welcome – I really like your work!

  4. I saw your painting on Flickr and thought it was wonderful. Don’t doubt yourself! Maybe you’re comparing yourself to “other artists,” though I’ve seen a lot of poorly done work by supposedly professional artists.

    The poet Anne Sexton wrote to her friend Erica Jong,

    “Don’t dwell on the book’s reception. The point is to get on with it–you have a life’s work ahead of you–no point in dallying around waiting for approval. We all want it, I know, but the point is to reach out honestly–that’s the whole point. I keep feeling that there isn’t one poem being written by any of us–or a book or anything like that. The whole life of us writers, the whole product I guess I mean, is the one long poem–a community effort if you will. It’s all the same poem. It doesn’t belong to any one writer–it’s God’s poem perhaps. Or God’s people’s poem. You have the gift–and with it comes responsibility–you mustn’t neglect or be mean to that gift–you must let it do its work. It has more rights than the ego wants approval.”

    Yes, it’s about poetry, but I think the quote refers to all art, and how it takes courage to let it go out into the world. You have the gift, so let it do the work.

    I don’t know if it makes any difference, but if I had the money, I’d buy the sylph painting.

    • By the way, I don’t know what happened, but I wasn’t receiving email notifications about updates to your blog. I just found out I’ve missed a ton of posts. I’m sorry! I blame WordPress. :(

      • No need to apologize! I’ve been pathetic about keeping up with on WordPress (people I follow as well as posting my own) anyway.

    • Aw, thank you, HG.

      The Anne Sexton quote is great – thank you so much for sharing that. That’s something that should be shared with every student of every art form.

  5. I think your painting is gorgeous. I love the colours.

  6. here is my secret for a good night sleep:
    What’s rejected I keep and I add more of whatever is rejected.
    Rejection tells me I’m onto something. It’s delusional! no?

    • I like the sound of your approach. Historically my reaction to rejection has been to crumble and abandon, but this has never lead to anything positive, just avoidance of further negative. Maybe it’s time for additive vs. subtractive.


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