Robert Genn September 25, 2009 Dear Rodney, Among the emails that came in after my letter about Low Self-Esteem, Ralph Giannattasio of Wyndmoor, PA wrote: "I don't believe I have LSE (if you listened to my wife she'd tell you I suffer from the opposite) but when it comes to my artwork I'm a real apologist. If art-LSE were painful I'd be rolling around on the floor in agony. Julia Child's motto was 'Never Apologize' and I believe I need to adopt that motto with my artwork. What do you think?" Thanks, Ralph. Don't move too fast on that one. I've noticed a lot of really fine artists openly denigrate their own work. They're not doing it to attract compliments, either. It seems to me it's part of the stabilizing act we need for creative progress. It can even be false and self-delusionary, but it just might be a smart ploy. Evolved artists compartmentalize their confidence. They tend to be audacious at the primary easel and critical at the secondary easel. Allowing themselves the satisfaction of dissatisfaction, they stealthily check their efforts for the quality they seek. We all know of perfectly incompetent artists who never apologize for anything. This, too, is a form of self-delusion that sends a lot of substandard work out and about. The real art is to develop the skills to vet your art prior to its completion. Clarifying and isolating elements in the work that may need revising--and doing so verbally--is not a bad thing, even in front of others. The first trick is to identify those elements that are fixable and those that are not. The second trick is to know how to fix the bad stuff without losing the audacity you had in the first place. The third trick is to know it's all an illusion, and with the help of your devious creative mind you have once more done the best you can under the circumstances. The fourth trick is to avoid the trap of perfectionism. At some point you must abandon all your façades and get on with the next project, no matter what your wife says. Best regards, Robert PS: "Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clichés, it would be time to call in the undertaker... So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life." (Thomas Merton) Esoterica: Dissatisfaction is a significant key to quality. "Art," said the American sculptor John Chamberlain, "is basically made by dissatisfied people who are willing to find some means to relieve the dissatisfaction." In the midst of dissatisfaction ways are found. Without dissatisfaction it is swiftly possible to fall in love with your own mediocrity. Utter dissatisfaction can be liberating. "If the wine is not good," said Michelangelo, "then throw it out."