I had a conversation last night with my art group about showing work and why we should or shouldn’t do it. I have shown my work (two times, at restaurants) and I told my friends that, even when everyone seems to like it, I come away feeling really awful.
The terrible feeling of showing my work was fresh for me this morning, because I showed my recent figure drawings to the group. Even with such a safe and supportive group I feel bad showing it. And they liked the drawings. So what’s going on?
Writing in my journal this morning I had an idea: The feeling I get from showing people my work is a fear that they will think I’m showing off or fishing for compliments. When I get a compliment, I have the automatic reaction: oh, she is being polite; she feels like she has to say something nice about it. And immediately after that comes the fear that she thought I was only showing it so that she’d say something nice. That’s it, I’m sure of it. Because as I sit here and type it up, my insides are squirming.
There’s also the possibility that the person seeing the art will say nothing. The question then pops up in my head: doesn’t she like it? Does this scenario mean that I am fishing for compliments? Is it so uncomfortable because it’s true?
There’s no denying that I would like people to like my work. I would like to be thought of as an artist, not as a pretender, not as pretentious. But how do you know what you are? How do you know if your work is worth anything?
I thought about other things that I do that I have no problem with showing. My knit socks for one:
There’s no problem showing socks. It’s a craft and I know that they are good when the knitting is even and the size is correct. When people like them, I’m happy. I don’t feel any of the same qualms with my knitting as I do with my artwork. Why is that?
There is also work that I do completely for myself, not to show:
I showed my art journal to my art group and what they thought of it just didn’t even seem relevant to me. It’s not something that’s there to be liked or not liked. It’s outside the judging realm. It’s for me only. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything when they looked, but that I dismissed it immediately because this is not artwork whose value has any sort of dependence on what other people think of it.
And recently I had submitted some graphics to the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival Pattern Project:
Two of them were used (along with many other submissions) to make a gorgeous backdrop for the concerts on the main stage. For some reason I didn’t feel blah when I was complimented on them. Why not?
And, finally, this blog:
For some reason, I don’t feel bad putting my work up here. Perhaps that’s because I’m pretty sure no one’s reading my blog anyway. (Okay, I know of one person – Thanks, E!) But of course it helps that I’m not seeing my blog visitors face-to-face, it’s clear in my own mind that I’m not putting the work up for compliments but as a motivation for myself to keep working, and I don’t even have the post comments turned on anymore. I suppose it’s a kind of practice in letting the work be seen without the dangers of feeling bad.
I’m sure I’ll be working through this latest revelation of mine in the coming weeks. Let’s hope I find a better approach and attitude to showing work, because I believe that creative work should be shared and I want to feel good about sharing mine.