As a child I remember plucking petals from a daisy and holding buttercups under my chin. These were magical ways of learning something about myself or so I believed
Later in life I studied my horoscopes and had my tarot read to find out how my destiny was written in the stars or what truths and circumstances were revealed by psychoanalysis.
But it is painting and committing to a full time painting practice that has been the most revealing inner journey I have ever taken, and each day in my studio I encounter some part of me that is revealed by the struggles and triumphs of creating something, and putting it out into the world
This past couple of weeks I participated in a huge open studio event in my city called the Eastside Culture Crawl.
Over two weekends beginning Thursday night, people visited my studio space at The Arc, a live/work building in Vancouver. They viewed my art and the art of over 400 artists in studios all over the Eastside of the city.
Some took their time looking at each painting carefully, reading the studio labels, asking questions, and making comments– and others moved indifferently only scanning the room, more interested in my furniture and living arrangements than my paintings. Some peeked in the door and kept going down the hall, somehow able to determine from a glance the level of their interest. Some people bought paintings and some were there just to look at my living space. I was there to be available, open, welcoming, and friendly.
Hanging your work on the wall for anyone to look at is an exercise in extreme vulnerability. Your soul is revealed in your brushstrokes, your marks, your images. You are judged sometimes with cold disinterest and other times with ebullient enthusiasm. I much prefer the latter but I have to accept the former and take it in stride. I have to learn to limit how much I care about either.
Sometimes friends come to visit and that is often harder than strangers as you aren’t ever sure it they like or dislike what you make and even if they say they like your paintings, it’s possible they don’t, but feel they have to be supportive. You can never really know for sure. It’s all a mystery to me.
It can be painful and confusing but the feelings that come up, expose me to myself and I am grateful for the opportunity to be in dialogue with my deepest emotions to strengthen my sense of myself. I am a painter. This is what I do.
The person I don’t know and may never see again, who liked or didn’t like what I created can have nothing to do with what I create, how I create or why I create.
This is the lesson that is valuable.
My desire to paint and make and express is mine, and it is not contingent on someone’s opinion. Even if I am saddened by a lack of response or elated by the joy of someone wanting to collect my work it can not be the reason I work.
This realization is I hope helpful to others who may be fearful of showing what they make. We have to show what we make. We have to put our work in the world and eventually find the people our work is for. We are not for everybody and that is ok.