I’m a non-practicing artist. I want to paint again, but I’m stuck. All my fears, expectations, and insecurities are bubbling up and I just can’t start. I keep buying supplies and thinking about painting, but I don’t pick up the brushes. I bought acrylic paints. I only played with acrylics once in college. I’ve heard they are wonderful and the smell/mess factor swayed me to try them. I thought maybe if I had plenty of blank canvas and canvas board I’d lose some fear. I bought about bunch of 8 x10 and 5 x 7 canvases. This is tinier than I ever worked before.
I walk around my condo looking at my stuff and can’t see anything I want to paint. I’m drawn to paintings of food, but this may not be the best idea for a compulsive overeater. I want to work on still-life paintings. I wish I’d done more of that in college. Most of my teachers were all about concepts and meaning. It’s hard to paint what you see in your head if you can’t even paint a convincing apple. So basically I want to start at the basics. Paint what I can see. Not worrying about the results, just practicing and exploring the medium.
I don’t really want to practice though. I want to sit down and be brilliant. I want too whip off masterpieces from stroke one and sell my work at etsy.com and become a full-time artist. Yeah, I know. No pressure there. No fantasies to be shattered. For years I’ve been making piñatas and Halloween costumes. They are good. I put a lot into them and enjoy the praise I get. People say I should do it for a living. This is lovely to hear, but not reality-based.
In program I’m learning to be honest with myself and others. It isn’t fun. I am afraid to paint because it is hard and I’m pretty sure I’m not as talented as people think I am.
When I was a painting major I said painting was the best and hardest thing I ever did. I was very into my disease of compulsive overeating in school. I did the bare minimum to get by and never quite finished anything. If you don’t finish a piece you can ignore any criticism because “I’m not done with it yet.” So here’s the thing. I have a natural talent for art, but I’m no genius. Nor have I ever had the drive that can take talent and with enough work, mimic genius. I never intended to paint for a living. I was going to open a book store/art center/tea shop. This was, of course, prior to the big book stores moving in to every town. Plus I really don’t like retail. So that dream died.
I have a good job; some might even call it a career. It’s good to have fantasies, but I want to paint because I used to love it. My therapist told me once that non-practicing artists scare her. I forget what she meant by that, but for me it’s another way to hide and live an unfinished life. If I love painting, but don’t paint there isn’t anything to judge. I get urges to create. I sometimes have to get out of bed to capture an idea for some piece that is keeping me awake. But those ideas just sit in journals and never go anywhere. I’m tired of not being done yet. I want to put aside my internal judge and just learn to paint for the joy of it.
I can’t remember ever painting purely for the joy of it. Even as a child I was approval seeking. I was the artistic smart one, so I did artistic smart things. I may never learn to shut off my internal critic entirely, but I need to shut her up enough to risk failing. If the process itself gives me pleasure, than the only failure is to not start.