Thursday, November 04, 2010


 Apple II - crop
Pastel  19 x 25" Canson paper

They're back.

You know the ones.  Those taunting voices in your head that tell you your work isn't worth the paper its on.  They argue with you that you're wasting your time.  They jog your arm to make you screw up.  They nag and torment and make you doubt yourself.  They keep you awake at night with snide remarks.
They're here in spades these last couple of days and I'm busily trying to evict them.

I think I know more now when to expect them and what they'll say.  It doesn't always mean that it makes it easier to deal with, just that I know how to brace myself more for their attack.

It usually happens when I'm pushing myself to accomplish a lot.  Right now I'm nearing the end of my gyotaku project and need to start finalizing pieces, framing, exhibition space, workshop, book, promotion, etc., etc.  And I also have a number of other pieces happening as well, some more important that others, as well as commissions in the run up to Christmas.

I don't need these doubts right now.   Early this morning as I tried to push a drawing into its final stages, the voices of self doubt were there, asking why bother.  Its only a stupid drawing.  No one will like it.  Its not good enough.  The had me so rattled that I grabbed the wrong can of fixative which turned out to be matte varnish.  Luckily only a light spray was done before I noticed and no harm was done to the drawing.  Of course that made them happier.  "See, we told you you were hopeless." they snickered.  I sprayed them with varnish and left for work.

The voices remain off and on but I WON'T let them get to me.  No, I'm not crazy.  Don't all artist have these same voices that appear from time to time to shove you around a little and make you rethink your role as an artist?  What's your fighting strategy?


Billie Crain said...

I have those voices in my head, too. They don't usually stay long but if they hang around more than a day or two I've found ways to deal with them. One tip...I go looking online for websites featuring really bad art with ridiculously high price tags attached. I'm not talking about artwork I don't really like...I mean BAD art.[:[ Then I think...if these artists think their art is so great mine must be amazing! Sounds awful but it works for me.:D

Jeanette said...

Good tip Billie, thanks!

vivien said...

oh yes! I know those voices - and as you say, usually when you are under pressure to produce work for a show or something crucial.

My crit partners help with honest detached opinions. I know they won't pull their punches so if they are approving or give constructive crit then the voices can be silenced.

You are doing some lovely work so don't listen to them :>)

Jennifer Rose said...

i hate those voices! they come around at the worst times :/
love billie's idea, but it might just make me wonder why I couldn't get that much for my art and really think its rubbish :/ then again, looking at bad art can sometimes be worth a laugh

sue said...

OMG! I thought this only happened to me ... thanks for posting, its really reassuring to learn that someone as talented as you gets crippled by 'the voices' too!

I haven't found a way round it ... but I do know if I revisit one of my 'rogue' pictures after a decent interval it never looks quite as awful as those voices had me believe at the time!

RHCarpenter said...

Those voices should be banished from our heads - but they are there and so powerful at times. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. Your work is wonderful and you have such a strong following and people who love seeing what you're doing and are amazed at your dedication and work. And if hearing from others that your work is meaningful and worth continuing doesn't work, buy a very large, family-sized chocolate bar and hit those inner critics over the head with it until it breaks in smaller pieces - then eat the pieces :) We all have our failure faeries inside telling us no, don't, you can't, you lose, etc. I'm not sure where they come from but I hope you don't listen - fight them with anything you can and keep painting/creating - that's the best revenge!

Julie Broom said...

We are our own worst enemies, Jeanette. ;-) Who can think of the worst things to say to make us feel awful? Who knows our achilles heels and how to really get us where it hurts - why ourselves of course! I learned mindful meditiation a few years back and I think it's a great way to deal with an overactice and hypercritical mind!

Jeanette said...

I wrote a long post in response earlier today to all your messages, but Blogger ate it. :(

Thank you for your support and reminders that we all go through this and that we are stronger than the voices tell us we are.

And the word verification for this post is 'runts' - very appropriate for those voices, that's just what they are!

Jean Spitzer said...

Time helps and voices whose opinions I trust help. The rational part of me knows that I can only tell about a piece over time--that first love or sometimes hate isn't the final word.

Allowing some distance and returning over time to re-evaluate are key for me.

Jean Spitzer said...

Oh, and I like these complex apples a lot.

Christiane Kingsley said...

I have those voices all the time...i think that they would not bother to come and bother us if they did not think that we were doing something worthwhile:-)

Jeanette said...

That's very true Jean. Sometimes the rational and the irrational mix and mingle too much.

These funky apples were fun to work on full sheets. I wanted to see how much I could get away with in terms of colour and still have it as a recognizable object.

Christiane,there's truth in what you say in that unless we believe in our abilities to some level then doubts would not creep in.

Christiane Kingsley said...

Jeanette, I have just written a short feature on your Gyotaku project on Artalee:

I hope that you will approve of my selection of paintings.

Jeanette said...

Oh fabulous Christiane, thanks so much. It looks great and the choice of pieces gives a broad range of species. Thank you!

tracywall said...

Love this multicolored apple!

And the voices in your head? They lie. When you get to the point that you can detach and recognize them, know that they lie like a rug.

Yelena Shabrova said...

I agree that all artists probably have those pesky voices in their heads, its a part of the creative process, isn't it? They make us hesitate to put the first mark on the blank canvas or a sheet of paper because surely we are going to do something stupid in the process, so why bother. They are right there discouraging us when we want to try somethign new or when we are stuck half-way through the piece. And they don't seem to get quieter with time. I find it helpful to walk away from the easel when it happens and just sketch random objects around me. Does not matter what it is or how good the sketch turns out, really, but somehow putting pencil marks on the paper without correcting anything shuts the nasty voices off, invalidates my fears, and gives me the confidence that I lost. I guess it's a "stop mulling, start doing" effect or something like that :)

Love the apple, Jeanette, and love how the light hits it.