My dad popped round after work yesterday (as I'm writing this) which he doesn't often do. He caught me on a down day, in a very introspective mood about art, creation, existing as an artist. Casual Tuesday stuff. His father, my grandad, was an artist and photographer, and my dad himself is gifted with paint and design, so it's easy to talk to him about the creative process. He gets it, he's lived it.
He said he was really enjoying my recent work, which always makes me feel good. I explained that yesterday I felt amazing about it, and today I feel so flat. Like I don't know what I'm doing or should be doing. I talked to him about social media and how on one hand it has exposed me to so many incredible artists that I have subsequently learned so much from, but I fall deeply into the trap of comparison. In the back of my mind when I'm shooting or editing - what would Nina think about this shot? Which photo would Kezi choose over another? What words would they pair alongside it? Is this image impactful enough?
Dad nodded and shared that he has been thinking lately about his own art and comparisons. Thinking that artists, whatever their craft may be, surely can't listen to or absorb anyone else's work. That they must be so focused on what they're doing and creating and be self-fulfilling that way, so as to not stray. Going from one flow to another, not thinking about if anyone else is interested in what they're creating or not. Just being.
He doesn’t know if that’s true or not, but I think there's some merit in that. Only the previous hour, I was checking back in with Jessie of littlegreeneyes's work and saw that she had posted 8 black and white photos in a row. My first thought was, oh that's brave! A truly bizarre thought if we really think about it. It's amazing how social media and all it's suggested 'rules' can stifle us so deeply; be consistent but make sure it's all unique, niche down but don't post too much of the same thing, niche down but express yourself, sell yourself but don't be salesy, be authentic but be positive. I digress.
It reminded me of Picasso. He had his blue period. He wasn't thinking that he was doing too much of the same thing. Wasn't worried about anyone getting sick of it, or what anyone thought. He was committed to himself, to his journey as an artist. Creating, going wherever it took him and making what he was enjoying (or needed to make) in that moment. Not judging it.
Contrastingly, I think as artists it is important to view other people's work in order to learn and grow, be a part of and find respect for the community. I personally find it incredibly interesting to view someone's experience through their art. That's important to me. I love it. But there has to come a point where we (or maybe just me) detach from that in order to fulfil our own potential.
I know it's possible to do both. I see it all the time and I long for that capability. But I find it really tricky. I don't think it's purely a confidence thing, I am really quite happy with my work and the direction I'm heading in. Imposter syndrome has gone from being incessant to occasional*. But maybe I need to slightly cut off from absorbing other work until I am a little more sure, firm in who I am. Settled as an artist, to stand by my art unwaveringly.
*Whilst editing this a week later, imposter syndrome has hit like a ton of bricks and I'm feeling very insecure about my work and capabilities. Just proves how quick the tides can turn. No doubt I'll be fine again next week.
I'm left wondering what I could create if I was truly free. If I gave myself permission without having to stumble upon it from other people. If I truly just expressed without all the little hangups; the ones I know of and the ones I haven't caught yet. If I took my time and trusted myself wholly. If I shared exactly what I wanted to share. If I liberated myself completely to make mistakes, experiment, carry out my vision.
I wonder all of that about myself. And I wonder about you; the artist unknown to yourself, the work trapped inside. God do I wonder what you could create too.