I've been a coward lately. I'm not proud of this, and so I figure that recognizing it is step one to getting over it.
I haven't produced art work in a few weeks after having picked up my pencils again after many months. Why?
I allowed myself to get shut down by criticism. I was experimenting with a new style and shared it while in a tentative, thus vulnerable state. One or two people gave me feed back I didn't like and I allowed myself to become deflated by it.
It wasn't until recently, when my dear artistic nephew and I were discussing the progression of Realism>Impressionism>Expressionism>Fauvism> Abstract art, that I realized just how cowardly I was being.
I love the impressionists for breaking away from the rigid Salon system in Paris who could only appreciate realism as "real" art. To the end, Mary Cassatt refused a cash prize equivalent to a Life Achievement Award, because she didn't care to encourage the arrogance of professional critics whom all the Impressionists deemed as less qualified than the artist. The Impressionists put out their new work, and were almost instantly and universally despised. But, did they allow these metaphorically thrown tomatoes deter them? No. They redoubled their determination to create the needed revolution. I admire them. Granted, they had each other... There is a lot to be said about having a supportive tribe.
I doubly love the expressionists, who broke even further from the Salon system, and even from their innovative friends. Daring to produce less beautiful work, they opted to express themselves with bolder strokes, color choices to emote more feeling. It's deeply satisfying to see their work because it's emotional. Creative. In fact, I was brought to tears when I saw Vincent Van Gogh's disturbingly beautiful Starry Night Over the Rhone at the Musée d'Orsay. He made me cry! Real tears. It wasn't so much his subject matter. It was the FEELING in it. I felt his pain, poor tortured soul. That painting is a symphony, and artistic, expressionistic triumph. I LOVE it. (The poster's and prints of this painting do not make me cry.)
I remember my first break into expressionism. What a JOY! Painting became more fun, the more expressive I allowed it to be. The more license I took, the more fun I had. So fun! I got to use colors I felt rather than saw with only my eyes. Eschewing realism even further than the impressionists, the expressionists brought tremendous feeling to their work.
But for some artists, even Expressionism was too confining. The were the Fauvists! (Did I just hear golden trumpets blast?). Henri Matisse is one of my artistic heroes. I LOVE his courageous work. It's SO fun!! The colors are quixotic, the lines are thick. He took all sorts of liberties. I can only imagine the nausea of the Salon judges his work would have evoked. But, I GET it. I really do. I have arrived at that sort of clean, bold, lined, robust expression by doing a painting of one of my a paintings. That other gIant step away from the original subject makes even more room for imagination. I can picture the flowers, his gold fish. Orange. I simply love his happy work.
Finally, someone somewhere said, "Hell with it! I don't want to be confined by a subject at all. I'm just going to paint!" Yes, you guessed it. Abstract art was born. Abstract artists will sometimes use just what they want from a subject, and move on to use whatever they please from wherever they please. There are no confines. Media, canvas, objects, glue, paint smeared across the work..there were no rules about anything... This was JAZZ.
My point in this jaunt through history is that these people were COURAGEOUS! I can't imagine them cowering because someone wrinkled their nose at their work.
I'm ashamed. These are my heroes, and yet this is how I've behaved?
My recent jaunt through history with my nephew was like a square slap.
Evelyn. Don't be such a chicken! These artists would never have produced the work they did if they were cowardly. Don't let the critics stifle you. Let them have their opinion. Enjoy the dissonance of a little dissension!
So. Critics and fans be blessed! I am going to soldier on, remember my heroes and Thank God, honestly that you've taken the time to consider my work and respond to it however you will. It evoked something from you, even if only a "Yuck!".
Critics, thank you. You truly just helped me develop a thicker skin.
I know nobody set out to hurt me. My response was my response. Friends, continue to be honest. I don't feel so alone now that I've considered my predecessors. I may or may not ever reach their heights, but I will enjoy their company as I handle both the positive and the negative input.
I love you all. Especially those who read this through to the end!