How can I create art like I don't care whether or not I become an artist?

by phil on Saturday May 1, 2010 1:51 PM
art process

This is my first painting:

I created this in a three-hour fury of passion, where every brushstroke drew a micro-ecstasy out of me. I was elated with the results, but immediately after finishing, I thought, "What if I did this every day? What if I got better each time? What if I became an artist?!" But every painting I did afterwards was tainted with this motivation, and I could barely recover the same innocence that inspired my first dabble. Friends and family have praised my paintings, but I barely trusted or loved any of my later works, not like that first one. This question has plagued me ever since: "How can I create art like I don't care whether or not I become an artist?"


casualhero said on May 1, 2010 11:42 PM:

The most detrimental thought when working on art is how it will be received, thinking about the (non)audience, or even what you will think of it yourself once it's done. Nothing makes an artist more self-conscious and unable to get into that flow state. I think that's fundamentally what's at the base of what you're talking about: fear of judgment from others or yourself. When you ask, What if I get better, you set expectations and start looking for them. And it's easy to ask too much from yourself.

There are many other thoughts to focus on. Instead of telling you what thoughts those should be, I would say, more importantly, to try to control them with questions. A lot of self-help material overlooks this. "Think about how you can improve X!" is suggested without saying how you go about it. "How can I improve this work?" on the other hand engages the mind in a way it's used to, and you'll no longer be thinking that other questions "What will people think of this painting?" Instead of, "Am I getting better at this?" ask if you enjoyed it.

Just some thoughts on something I've been pondering myself.

Philip Dhingra said on May 2, 2010 6:50 PM:

I wonder what successful artists normally do. Do they actively guide their emotions by asking questions in order to shut out what other people think? Is it more natural for them, and that's why they're so good?

casualhero said on May 2, 2010 10:22 PM:

It's divided, at least, by what I've heard from artists themselves. Some authors slave over every word, even in the rough draft, and others are led by inspiration. I don't know if anyone could tell which process, "slavery" or inspiration, created a work. But it affects how the work is made, certainly.

Fundamentally, I think the inspired state contradicts worrying about anything. Inspiration would seem desirable all of the time, and even successful "slaves" probably work hard to get into an inspired state to make their work more enjoyable and easier.

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