I recently participated in an Instagram project created by Tanisha Conrad, the talented maker behind A Boundless Sea. She wanted other makers and creatives to share why they feel they are “boundless” as a form of inspiration and to bring the creative community a little closer. I submitted an entry for her project where I briefly talked about my struggles with self consciousness and how it effected my creative journey. After the post went live I thought it would be interesting to delve further into my story and talk with you all about how self consciousness can impact creativity.
Art Is Vulnerability
As an artist of any medium, you need to be prepared to receive feedback and criticism on your work – even when you didn’t ask for it. Human beings love art and they especially love looking at it and talking about what they see. When we put ourselves out to the world through our artwork, we are showing it how we feel about and how we personally perceive something. We’re opening ourselves up to that criticism and feedback as people, vicariously through our artwork. Because of this, it can often feel like that criticism is directed at us as artists rather than our actual work, and that can be very difficult to come to terms with sometimes.
In my Boundless Project entry, I spoke about my youth and growing up as a shy, introverted adolescent. I spent a lot of time in high school creating art and keeping it relatively secret from the people around me. This included all forms of art I practiced: music, drawing, painting, sewing, crochet, and other fiber arts. I told myself that I was afraid of what people would think of my actual artwork, when in reality I was afraid of what people would think of me as a person. I viewed my art as a self portrait and a piece of me that I didn’t want to share with everyone.
This fear played a part in holding back my creative growth and overall journey. Throughout high school and on into art school, I slowly stopped drawing. Other artistic hobbies I had began to fall away as well, until I finally stopped making personal art altogether. I had started working in graphic design at this point and all of my artistic efforts were devoted to client work. I still felt like I had a decent amount of creative outlet, but it really wasn’t the same. I no longer felt like I was creating a piece of myself through my graphic art, rather it became a task I had to complete in order to receive a paycheck.
Over the years I’ve had time to come to terms with a lot of my self doubt and rekindle my artistic passions. The main focus I’ve recently made is on my fiber arts, and documenting them on this blog. Back when I first started sewing and crocheting, I loved everything about it. I thought it was so cool to be able to look at something in the store and then recreate it in a more customized style to suit me personally. Despite how much I loved the craft and the self expression, I was stuck in a loop of self consciousness and self doubt about what I created. I would make something, then never wear it out in public because I was worried about people judging and critiquing it. I ultimately didn’t want them to judge and critique me for wearing or making it.
Art is Good, Even When It’s Not “Good”
I think that one of the main factors that plays in to being self conscious about our art is that we don’t think it’s good enough for people to accept. Artists know all to well that we are our own worst critics. When we create something, we pick apart every little piece of it because we built those pieces. We have the opportunity to critique the work on a more in-depth level because we become immersed in our projects. This often leads to artists who are shy about sharing their work because they see so many flaws where they could have done better.
The idea of noticing mistakes and acknowledging them is a very healthy mindset to have as a creative. The part that isn’t healthy is trying to hide those flaws from everyone else. Those mistakes and hiccups serve as lessons for us to improve our craft and become better at interpreting our thoughts into works of art.
Learning to embrace the flaws as part of the creative process can be challenging, but just take a step back and look at it from the standard viewer’s perspective. Think of your favorite artist in your craft. When you look at their work, are you picking it apart, looking for every little flaw and opportunity for improvement? Or are you taking it in as a whole piece and admiring it for what it is? I’m going to guess your answer is the latter. That is how other people view YOUR work. They are looking at it as a whole and admiring it for what it is. They may critique things they like and don’t like about it, but that’s all about personal taste, and is by no means a personal critique of you as an artist.
The act of creating artwork is a bold one. No matter what your skill level is, you are using a creative skill or talent to craft something that you like. Even if your work is not what you personally consider “good”, it is still your own and it is still good in a very personal way. Part of growing as an artist and becoming better at your craft is going through the phases where you don’t necessarily like your own work.
You think it looks bad?
What would you do differently in order for it to look good in your eyes?
Whatever the answer to that is, do it. If you’re not sure how, work towards learning.
And open yourself up to critique. Embrace that your art is a representation of yourself and own it. Everyone has the potential to bring something beautiful into this world through art and creativity, you just have to try. Art comes naturally to all human beings when we are children, even if it’s not “good”. It’s still good for us as people, and good for those who view it.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
– Pablo Picasso
Embrace Your Art & Yourself
Getting over self consciousness about your artwork can be a very rough road, but it’s not impossible. It’s a very healthy goal to have and it’s achievable through taking some simple steps in your creative life. Show something you made to a very close friend or family member. Tell them you’re shy about it and ask them to be honest with you. Keep in mind that they will be giving you a critique of your artwork and not your person. Their words will be directed at the piece and how they view it personally, which can in itself spark a lot of inspiration. Maybe they don’t see exactly the same thing you were going for. That’s good feedback you should use to your advantage. That doesn’t mean that you’re a bad artist, it just means you need to figure out how to better portray your message.
This may sound a bit in depth for a lot of creatives who read my blog, but it applies to all sorts of forms of art – including fiber arts. When creating clothing, we are often looking to make something that expresses our personal style. Being able to accurately portray our tastes and the style we’re going for is a big part of feeling proud of our work. Always look for areas to improve on and stay open to critique from fresh eyes. There’s no need to hide your work from the world if you are proud of who you are.
Embrace your art and embrace yourself. Your art will thank you for it. ♥