I mentioned before that I was going to start answering some my own odd questions that I laid out for myself in my art plan.
I’ve been working on this art plan on and off for a couple of weeks now and I began the entire thing with a set of questions that I felt I needed to answer before I could really streamline the rest of the plan. I’ve been “free-styling” these answers here, like I did with the first one, where I asked myself what specifically made me a Los Angeles artist. I’ve been typing through the process as I go along. I feel I answered that one and you can check it out if you feel like reading a lot.
So here’s the next one, a little more complex now.
Do I want external validation?
In other words, what kind of acknowledgment am I looking for with my art? Or is it really self-recognition that I’m looking for? Is it financial? Do I want fame, prestige? Am I looking to be valued? This is a deep issue for me, and has been for years. And I’m sure it’s an issue for a lot of artists out there. I think so anyway.
However, just when I thought I had this demon beat, it has come up again recently. I call it a demon because there is an episode from Northern Exposure where one of the main characters actually wrestles with a demon called External Validation. His character was the artist in the show too. Northern Exposure was a kind of religious philosophy for me, as I really identified with the main character, Dr. Joel Fleischman, who enters the series as a complete neurotic and totally changes his perspective and philosophy on life as the many episodes and seasons unfold. There’s a great psychology to the show. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it, even though it’s very dated.
So, this issue came up again when I recently felt threatened by a group of other artists that were classically trained and painted more traditional work. They were also a lot more conservative in terms of the art they liked. Maybe I didn’t feel threatened as much as I felt judged for not being formally trained, the fact that I have skipped steps, or just for being a contemporary artist in general. I wanted to pack up my toys and go home and hide under my pillow because I wasn’t getting any external validation for being an abstract artist that liked other abstract artists.
Waaa. Poor me.
These other artists, for the most part, think that most modern art is crap, which I suppose it is in many cases. But so is traditional work sometimes! I’ve seen a lot of bad traditional art – paintings that were meaning to be well-skilled that were just awful. It’s a lot more black and white when judging realism, it seems. You know what it’s supposed to be…
Anyway, the way I behaved showed me that I still had a big problem with wanting to be liked. I wondered, however, if this is a personality issue and/or an art issue. I wonder, is it both?
I obviously know I have had a life long problem with external validation because of my parents and my sad story of my sad upbringing and blah blah blah. But I don’t know if this is true of my art. It seems I don’t care so much about what people think or else I wouldn’t keep doing what I felt like doing over and over. Not only that, I get validation (and invalidation) for my art and it really doesn’t phase me one way or the other. This is true.
So then, back to square one. What is it I am looking for? Because this is an art plan, not a personal one.
Money? Nope. Believe it or not, I don’t care. Money is nice of course, but I don’t want to be rich or famous.
Prestige. Now that is interesting. I do seek out things that will make my resume look better. I can’t deny that one. There are some types of acknowledgements that I am after. Don’t lie, Carol.
Maybe it’s about being of some importance. Being SEEN. Being seen as who I am and acknowledged for it. Who doesn’t want that? I mean, really, who doesn’t want to feel loved? I don’t require all that much love really, but I think the “being seen” thing really hits the nail on the head for me.
And you know, I started writing it above, but self-recognition. I breezed right by that one. Wow, what a problem I have with that one! It isn’t so much that I have problems with hearing whether or not I’m “good” from anyone else, it’s not knowing it myself!
Jeez, what a dilemma this has been for me.
You’d think I would get it by now, especially since I have had so much external validation! Ha! But no. My head is so thick, it still doesn’t register.
There are moments though. The trick for me is that I have to piece together the tiny moments from when I feel good about myself. I have to string them together so that I can make one consistent and permanent idear.
I also have to lessen the self-deprecation. There’s a lot of that that’s going on over here. A kind of cartoon mucus party happening in my brain, like in that stupid sinus commercial. All those mucus guys live inside my head and say mean things to me. It’s a constant battle. But I think I’m winning the fight a little more every day.
The first step is to recognize. That’s what they say anyway. I’m getting pretty good at the first step, that’s for sure. What up with the second steps? I gotta invest in some walking shoes and get steppin’.
In progress: Untitled, Mixed media on birch panel, 18 x 24 inches: