The artist's ego is a tricky thing. It tends to live at either end of the spectrum between "my work is garbage" or "my work is brilliant" - often it's both at the same time. It's no wonder artist's are often portrayed as flamboyant, flaky, and just a little bit crazy.
While in the process of building this website, I was combing through some older works. Works like "Lead Thee Weeping" and "Song Sparrow" which have long since left the studio. I didn't have the confidence back then to know these were really good paintings. I kept working to create better paintings, taking the advice of many different peers, which steered my works towards different styles. More control, better or more accurate representation of the subject. Better composition. On and on....... But in my quest for betterment, I lost my voice. I lost the quality that made these paintings special.
I look at these paintings, and many of my other earlier works today, and wonder what the heck I was thinking, and why I didn't have the confidence to just stay the course in this more impressionistic, or expressive, style. I love these early works now and wish I could paint like that today.
The opposite is also true though. I look at some of my work that I thought was brilliant at the time, and wonder what the heck I was thinking. Some of those works are truly cringe worthy. So now, when I've finished a painting which I think I've done a really good job with, I wonder if it's just my artist ego. Is it truly a good painting? Why is it good? Maybe it isn't. I second guess and overthink my thoughts.
I hear so many artists expressing the same things, so I know this must be a common phenomenon within the arts world. I hear very accomplished artists, who I admire, express doubt in their own work. It's no wonder though. We artists can do a dozen really good paintings, and then the turkeys come out one after another, and we feel like somehow, overnight, we've completely lost our ability to paint.
I think part of the lack of confidence in ones art stems from outside influences. How often do we observe ugly work being given high praise, and beautiful work being totally ignored? Family and friends will (usually) always like what you do, even if it isn't very good. Art instructors often offer lots of praise and encouragement rather than kind honesty, so it is very hard to have an unbiased, outside opinion of your work. How do we know if our ego is being over or under confidence? How do we know when it's telling us the truth? Does it even matter?
I have reposted an old blog post written at the time I made "A Dream Of Joy And Sadness". See the previous post "Telling Stories".
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Roberta Murray, ASA