I’ve been thinking a lot about the stereotypes typically ascribed to artists. Some good, some bad. The list includes flaky, unreliable, emotional, observant, imaginative, starving, unpredictable, and complex. One adjective most “non-artists” (a misnomer since I think everyone has some form of art in them) don’t normally use is “perfectionistic.” A little known fact about artists- we’re typically very hard on ourselves. We may not seem that way to those around us, but we are. In fact, I would propose the theory that the “flakier” an artist seems, the harder they are on themselves (yes, I’m aware that should have been a complicated, “he or she is on him or herself,” but that’s cumbersome. See? I’m even kind of perfectionistic about my grammar). We can have extremely high, impossible even, standards for ourselves; letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good” (to paraphrase Voltaire).
Julia Cameron, author of the series The Artist’s Way says that “artists block” is not caused by lack of ideas, but rather by a log-jam of too many ideas. Too much in-flow without enough out-flow. How often have you found yourself discarding ideas left and right, “That’s stupid. That won’t work. No one will like it. That’s too complicated- I can’t pull it off,” only to find yourself sitting on the couch stymied, frustrated, and wailing, “I can’t think of anything to paint!” (or write or draw or sculpt, or whatever)? When I do that (and I catch myself doing it often) I get grumpy and start feeling like all those bad stereotypes. Therefore, I paint because I have to paint. I write because I have to write.
All art doesn’t have to be Capital A- Art. Sketch your dog, paint a wall a different color, make up a recipe. And if it doesn’t turn out, the world won’t crumble. Just create. You’ll feel better.