Being an artist makes no sense.
It’s so incredibly hard to ever find any footing. It’s instantly a struggle once you start thinking about creating something. The whole process is finding a way to say what you don’t even know you want to say. It’s complete nonsense.
There is this urge we have to get this mystery inside of us out. That’s the initial impulse most creatives have. As we grow and continue to work through that impulse, we begin to be able to put it into a real world context. Some of us make paintings of city streets, some of us sculpt old lady heads on to young men’s bodies, or we photograph red cups. Whatever the content we choose to work with, it all started with that impulse. After that first impulse, it’s all up in the air. A life of uncertainty follows.
It becomes about understanding who you are as a person. And you seek to do that understanding through creating. All truly great art is introspective. It comes from a deep within place. Free from all outside noise. Just a dense feeling you know is there. You begin to try and work your way back to that feeling along the way leaving behind a trail of artwork.
It’s a constant battle of finding what you want to say and then IMMEDIATELY questioning it. All the difficult questions must be answered by you so the work can exist on its own, away from your body. You have to question everything about what you’re doing and why. It’s painful to put out work that isn’t exactly what you intended it to be, so the constant questioning is a necessity. In all that, you begin to question yourself. The thought of are you even capable of presenting a cohesive idea comes up, and it comes up a lot. Or if you should even be bold enough to put those thoughts out into the world. It’s so easy to lose your balance and fall far from your goal you began creating with.
Everything about art is endlessly conflicting. All the reflecting is done because you have to create entirely for your own self-expression, with no one else in mind. But once you are done making the work, you must share it with others. That’s when the work is truly complete. It has to live outside of you, with the people. Art is useless; it becomes meaningless if you don’t share it.
Making art for personal fun is something I don’t understand. I’m too dumb to understand it. I’m a painter by trade; painting is the thing that I could not live without. I’d be TONS more insane than I already am if I couldn’t paint. But it would be nowhere near the same if I didn’t share it. That would be so masturbatory. Art is meant to be shared. It’s entirely about you but it’s not for you.
There goes that conflict again. Every thought on art is equally that conflicted. Living in that as an artist is ridiculous. All great art is inherently introspective, but ultimately, other’s thoughts are entirely your life. If the work doesn’t connect with others it can become extremely frustrating. Your motive is to express what you feel visually. That visual representation is you speaking out loud. It’s a visual language. If don’t get the reaction you want from others, it begins to feel like you’re standing in a room talking and no one can understands you, or worse, they aren’t even listening. It’s like you are speaking another language. And ultimately you are. You are speaking art. Not everyone will understand it. That is something you will have to come to terms with.
To actually be able to succeed as an artist, not financially speaking but succeeding in getting your ideas out, you have to take into accountant how your work makes people feel. The goal is to be able to remain free of everyone’s thoughts, but your work must impact them.
For me, seeing Alberto Giacometti’s work changed my life. His work is so painfully true. It completely defined art to me. I’m living and creating in the world of art defined by Giacometti. That’s how powerful his work is to me. That’s how successful at translating his feelings visually he was.
At the highest level, the work must be able to live in someone else. You become so in tune with your thoughts and emotions, and are able to articulate them, that just seeing your work will shake a person up. You change how they feel. That’s tough to gauge when you’re working in isolation. The only feelings you have to consult on the matter are your own and they’re fried from your constant questioning and examining. But you have to learn to rely on those feelings. You must be honest with how the work makes you feel. To really connect with your audience, YOU MUST BE HONEST.
It takes so much time and effort to build confidence in what you’re doing. It’s about trusting that you are being honest with yourself. The honesty is what people feel the most. For a strange reason it can be tough. But you have to get there. You can only get there while you’re making and you must make mistakes. That is your education. The more mistakes you make, the faster you can mature as an artist. The sooner you’ll be able to confidently create new artwork. So much of creating is being confident enough try out new ideas. You’ll make work that you aren’t proud of always, but the confidence keeps you going. It gives you the courage to try again.
By the way, the idea that there is no bad art is a lie. Personally, I have enormous piles of horrendous work. And I’m sure others feel the same way. Bad art is no more than you making something that doesn’t express what you intended. It happens. You need to take risk and give yourself time to fail. Some missteps are positive ones that propel you forward. Other times, those missteps and failures are flat out detrimental. Those can be hard to shake for weeks. That is such a frustrating feeling. Those are the times you begin to question your entire life leading up to that point. You start to wonder who you even are. You can get really lost in a bad run of work. That’s all part of the life. The mistakes start to pile up and you have to learn to understand them.
Sometimes we end up thinking we’ve made mistakes when we haven’t. I find that our mind grows faster than our heart. Even though you can conceptualize and physically create new work, emotionally you may struggle to feel what you’re doing. So once you technical get an idea out, it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t resonate with that deep dense emotion that drives you. That resonation if how we judge our work, so it can be tricky. Trust all the hard work you’ve done. You’ve always pushed yourself to be better and that doesn’t just go away. You have to be patient with yourself and see if the new idea starts to make more sense. Give yourself time to grow emotionally and trust that you will.
Making art, you work so hard to build confidence in yourself. Often times once you feel confident, you start to feel delusional. The rare moments you begin to feel some sort of confidence in what you’re doing, hold on to that feeling. You’ve worked so hard to get to that level. Those moments are checkpoints. It’s impossible to diminish from there. All the knowledge you’ve gained with your years of practice and self-examining will always be there, no matter how much it feels like you are terrible and any skills you’ve ever had are all gone.
Trust yourself and the hard work you’ve done. You probably are terrible. But art is nonsense so it doesn’t matter.
David Esquivel is one of Rare Tempo’s original artists. Learn more about him and his work on his artist page.