Something I have learned in my path as a witch and an artist is that life is filled with many small beginnings and endings, ones we might not notice amid the more obvious milestones of our lives, like going to school, getting a job, or moving to a new place. I’m beginning to realize how much power the smaller, everyday beginnings and endings contain, how they shape us along the way. This post is a bigger beginning, but it’s been crafted by a complex weave of daily choices, as I learn to be a better artist and blogger. I hope you’ll join me while I figure out all this tangled magic.
You see, back in 2011, I created a version of this blog that was somewhat doomed to fail.
Perhaps “doomed” is a bit dramatic , but here was the premise: I wanted to get better at art. I’d been floundering for four years since graduating college. Hell – during college I never really found my illustrative footing to begin within, even while learning to excel at web design. I just felt stuck in so many ways when it came to illustration: intimidated by all the talent out there, weighted down by stress and the resulting procrastination, and my favorite (not) art block — perfectionism. A perfectionism which whispers that I shouldn’t make art unless the outcome is good enough. And I certainly shouldn’t share it unless it’s near perfect.
So with that bubbling soup of anxiety, stress, and post-college “what does this all mean, man?” feeling, I decided that I would use an online blog as a motivational tool. I just wanted to get moving in any direction, just start making stuff daily. I’d amassed a large-ish collection of art books, so I decided that working through each of them would be an easy way to know what to do without feeling blocked. It would be right there — no thinking needed, just follow along!
Being the anal-retentive, control-issues obsessive that I can sometimes be, I cataloged all the books into Goodreads, put them into subcategories (drawing from observation, figure drawing, medium-specific, etc.), then ordered them into the “best” order I thought I could learn from. At that point, I was ready to tackle each and every suggested exercise and practice piece within the books, in the prescribed order set out before me.
I should have seen the massive art block I was creating a mile away – it was like bright, blinking traffic cones, barrier boards (yes I had to Google what the hell those are called ;p), and flashing signs that said “here dies your creative urges, be prepared to suffer.”
Can you spot the red flags of a massive art block?
- There was barely any wiggle room to explore day-to-day whims and the styles of art that inspired me.
- The massive book-reading plan was a huge undertaking, which weighted me down daily.
- The path assumed I would just be able to try something once and move on, barreling ahead with disregard for whatever I might be creating in the process.
- It was totally analytical, logical, devoid-of-emotion path that grabbed my artistic energy and stuck it in a sterile box to wither and die.
And I thought I was being dramatic before!
But seriously, it sucked. It sucked the four years I had the blog and it just — I don’t know a good enough word to describe the sort of way a car that is about to breakdown but just keeps going in stops and starts and beltching horrible black smoke and noises the neighbors will complain about moves through the world. That word, that was what my blog did. I’d update it in fits and starts, feel angry about still being horribly art blocked; in fact, art blocked so much worse then before. I felt like I’d die of old age before I posted one freaking digital painting to DeviantArt that I actually was happy with.
So, I did the best thing possible. I chilled the fuck out and I deleted the thing. I threw up a “hiatus” site at delightedmuse.com and I told myself “make art, don’t make art, whatever, I just want to be happy”. And I started learning, in little ways, here and there how to relax about my art. I’m not going to lie – it was hard. It also probably helped that I started seeing a therapist for my General Anxiety Disorder and began working through my perfectionist issues via Internal Family Systems Therapy. Okay, not “probably” — that was definitely the reason I was able to start making art and not feel so ashamed if it wasn’t perfect or what I thought art should be. Everything became so much easier — I was able to make art and just do it. I could have a goal without obsessing and comparing my current artwork to that of a distant future goal. Matt Khor at CTRL+Paint has a great video about this – how to just work daily and not psych yourself out about where you want to be as an artist.
So this beginning, this new blog – it has no map, no future plans, no tightly bound decrees, no promises. It is my art and my life, unfolding as it will.
[Photo courtesy of Pexels.com – CC0 license]