Crisis of confidence February 9, 2010
by Robert Genn
Lately I've been studying the plight of several painters who claim to be having a "crisis of confidence." All of them began painting in their youth, sold work in their teens, had at least one hyper-critical parent, enjoyed moderate success with their art, and now find themselves, in mid life, "losing it." While there are variations in their styles, media and techniques, all three suffer from indecision, dissatisfaction and overworking. All are having trouble finishing, signing, and getting work off to shows or galleries. I'm not going to dwell on all the possible reasons. Suffice to say they may include too many works under the belt, knowing too much, thinking too much, lack of joy in life, the misplacement or loss of the inner child, the feeling of never being satisfied, health issues, economic pointlessness, boredom and other depressing thoughts. A thorough vacuuming is nevertheless in order. Here's a little program that can play out over a week or so: Line up a hundred or so small inexpensive panels, papers or canvases and have them ready to go. Give yourself a more limited palette--perhaps half your normal range. Put all reference material and prior works out of sight. If this is not possible, work in a new environment such as a hotel room or friend's cottage. In preparation for starting the program, bring yourself to a mentally uncluttered, dream-like state. Now, over a relatively short period of time, fill the first support with a limited number of strokes. Get your subject matter from the deep well of your memory. Don't finish, move on to the next. Even though you may consider yourself a real pro, try not to lean on what you know, but rather take yourself back and try to paint as if you were four years old. For some folks, this can be mighty difficult. Persist. Keep in mind that the exercise has nothing to do with creating great art, but is rather a ruse to free yourself from an all too common crisis. You'll be temporarily re-routing tried-and-true habits and exchanging them with temporary new ones. The program is based on, "If what you're doing right now isn't pleasing you, try something else." Anything goes. For the sake of the program, the wilder the better--the more childlike you are, the more confident and fresh your regular work will become. Best regards, Robert PS: "It takes a long time to become young." (Pablo Picasso) Esoterica: Here are a few predictions: The first few attempts will be filled with timidity and resistance. But because there are so darned many of them, you'll find the middle ones getting more and more cursory and loose. Then, toward the end, you'll feel yourself tightening up and incorporating some of your treasured knowledge. At the very end you'll become thoroughly wild and unruly, partly in the knowledge that the program will soon be over, and partly because you have learned something and know that you could go on like this forever. Some pieces you'll want to frame. If you do, that won't be bad either. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Current clickback: "Fighting the after-show blues" looks at the letdown that some artists get after an exhibition. A remarkable range of advice was given our subject Megan Moore. Your further input is welcome. http://clicks.robertgenn.com/after-show-blues.php Read this letter online and tell us about other mid-life creative breakdowns and how they've been successfully beaten.