Sometime in January, my heart froze over. I just gave up, like when a blizzard hits and you cancel all your plans, resigned to curl up with your book and your cup of coffee. Like a glazed creek covered in white that refuses to move, I stopped even feeling the desire to paint. The perfect storm – entry and subsequent rejection from four art shows in a row; and those long-suppressed misgivings came swirling back in with the power of mighty winds and arctic temperatures. My heart locked in a cryonic state – not really dead, but not beating either.

Yesterday, it thawed a little.  At my dear friend’s invitation, I meandered the streets of Old Colorado City with her, both of us clutching cameras. Spring warmth chased away lingering traces of snow from the day before and lured white and pink tree blossoms into full glory.

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Penny, who finds the beauty in the broken

As we explored, we talked. We are both part of an on-line artist discussion group of 3 artists in Colorado and 4 in Virginia. And we noticed a common thread in last week’s communication. Across the board, all 7 artists wrestle with the same two issues (full credit to Penny for co-development of these ideas):

I’m not a real artist…

… because I’m not talented enough, I don’t create in 2D, I don’t work in oil, I don’t sell my work, I was rejected from four shows in a row, etc…

I remember those first awkward weeks after I left formal employment and strangers asked me innocently, “So what do you do?” I recorded those sweat-inducing conversations in my blog entry “Am I An Artist?” Five years later, I spend the bulk of my days painting (although not in recent months), photographing, and writing; so, I guess at this point, I don’t know how to say I’m anything but an artist. After all, each day passes somehow, and there’s no other way to account for all those hours! But, I haven’t painted for months; and I’m not sure I ever want to again. So, I still wonder – am I a real artist?

It’s doesn’t matter…

… because I’m not talented enough, my work ends up in the basement or hidden in a corner of my computer, in a gift shop instead of a gallery, as a gift instead of being sold, in the trash can, etc…

I’ve spent five years creating full-time with some success, and a lot of failure. Why is it that one failure equals about ten successes? Being a creative requires thick skin. I now know I don’t have it. And whatever impenetrability I did have when I started is long gone – rejection wore me down, punctured my skin, got into my bloodstream. The stacks in my basement taunt me – believe me, it’s crossed my mind more than a few times to simply roll that artwork into paper logs, lay it carefully in my fire pit, and light it up.

I’m not going to lie and say I have answers to these barricades for myself. I do for you – whatever the cost, creating is worth it and valuable to God! After all, He shaped those gorgeous wildflowers in the alpine heights that no one ever sees. I am eager to convince you, but somehow the same truths don’t migrate from my head to my own heart. Nevertheless, realizing these same subversive doubts impact most, if not all, artists, somehow changes the scenery… Perhaps the first step to thaw them out is to bring them into the light…

And, if these barriers are so common, I wonder…. perhaps it’s more than a personal experience, and more of a concerted effort to silence us all?

Below, Old Colorado City photo-shoot with my dear friend Penny Taylor.

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6 thoughts on “The Lies Artists Battle

  1. I think all artists struggle with these thoughts. We all feel at times we have not enough talent and things will never work out the way we want. I certainly have been through many such periods and will again, no doubt. The thing is to keep creating and learn that creating in itself is why we do it. Rejections are always hard on anybody, but I have seen your work, and it’s wonderful. So please don’t give up. Inspiration will come back. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much Otto. I was actually telling my friend Penny about you during our Old Colorado City photoshoot! Your blog on creativity is one of the truest, most encouraging, ongoing discussions I’ve ever read. I also told her about the photography workshop you gave to me, and how it has forever changed the way I record, and, in fact, see the world. You’ve blessed me more than you know, Otto!

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    • You are most definitely not alone! I pray our paths will physically cross again soon. Those days at SDS were so sweet, being able to rub shoulders with other creatives. I’m so glad I met you then, Skylar. Your work is extraordinary.

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  2. Like enduring a very-long winter, we appreciate the springtime when it arrives. It’s also easy to compare our work to others and get discouraged, feel ours is inferior – yet those other people also faced those same problems.. they’ve just done more/invested more hours – most likely… it’s one day at a time, and it’s ok if we sometimes need a little space just to incubate, digest our thoughts/inspiration, and we’ll move forward when it’s time.

    I predict you’ll be full throttle again, and looking back at that time as ‘incubation.’ your eyes have never stopped working as an artist, and the images support that statement!

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