advice please.

I have an art show coming up in October, so I spent Friday and Saturday working on my own artwork… weird, I know. It felt amazing to get back into the studio, and then it felt, well, not so amazing. Here’s why {and I’m curious if any of you ever feel the same}:

1. I feel unbelievably guilty taking time away from my family to work on my art. Here’s the strange part though. I don’t feel guilty any other time. I can exercise, work on design projects, or go off for an afternoon of jealous curating… no problem. A day at the studio on the other hand… gut-wrenching GUILT. Seriously, what is that about?

2. I love making stuff. It brings me pure joy – until it’s for a show. Then I panic. I stop having fun, and start worrying about everything. Is this work good enough for a gallery? Will anyone like it? Will I like it? Β It’s exhausting. Why can’t I just relax, and enjoy making stuffΒ {you know, the stuff that brings me the aforementioned joy}?

3. I feel so much more comfortable writing about other people’s art. Half way through my studio day, I thought, “Boy, I wish I had my computer with me so I could just do next week’s posts instead.”

Any advice? I’ll take whatever you’ve got. Thank you!

{16 hours later: Thank you all so much for your thoughtful, helpful comments! I’m feeling a lot better, and have completely exhaled. I’m going to stop thinking so much, and just have fun. Whatever comes out of that will be the pieces for the show. Done. THANK YOU! xo}

comments (32)

  1. relet /// 08.04.2012 /// 9:45pm

    I’m guessing – it means your reason for making art or stuff is not to show off or compete. The pressure in the art world probably tells you you should, and that’s where the stress is coming from.

    Identify your motivations, and derive everything from there. If you like making stuff because you like creating, or expressing, or improving and the show is not necessary for you to create or survive as a creator, give it exactly that value in your mind. You are ok/happy/a bit nervous about presenting your stuff, but you know why you create it, and you create it exactly for the right reasons.

    To present is really just a way to get a bit of feedback, and whatever that is, it’s either going to *help you* or you will have all the reasons to ignore it. The biting one could even help more than the praise.

  2. Laura /// 08.04.2012 /// 9:59pm

    The best advice I ever received as a mom was to remember that the best gift I could give my child was to continue to grow as a human and to pursue passion. Modeling that is great parenting.
    I have no advice for part two of your delimma, as you know. Oh. Maybe just to always have a huge stockpile of work at the ready so that you don’t have to create under pressure! Ha!

  3. the jealous curator /// 08.04.2012 /// 10:54pm

    ooh, i like that! i don’t know why i think i have to make all new work for this show. i don’t. but i’m forcing myself to… dumb. thanks laura, and thanks so much relet – excellent advice! xo

  4. Jennifer Anne /// 08.05.2012 /// 6:05am

    I read every word as if I had written it myself! I am in exactly the same pickle. There is nothing that blocks creativity faster than thinking about whether a finished piece is “gallery worthy”. Don’t let your passion and imagination be judged. (At least that’s what I tell myself). Another thing I tell myself is that not all work has to be for a gallery. The great masters produced work that was junked or melted down or painted over. Not every piece ended up a masterpiece. So keep working on your journey and enjoy each piece as either greatness or the journey to greatness. Also, based on what I’ve read, I would suggest you raise your prices as you likely aren’t putting enough value on them. But I think that is for another blog post!

  5. Juana Olga Barrios /// 08.05.2012 /// 6:52am

    We ALL have internalized critics subtly and no so subtly whispering in our ears 24/7.


    We are FREE to choose what we believe, which in turn creates a feeling. Our thoughts CREATE the feelings. That’s where the NIPPING must take place.

    IMAGINE for one moment, not having the freedom, the luxury of being able to create. Imagine you are in Cuba . . . no supplies, no funds, no buyers, no support, censorship, etc. Take that away from yourself forever in your mind and gratitude for the freedom you do in fact have will flood and overwhelm you with perspective.

    Creating work for a show lines up our internal soldiers in defense of rejection, criticism, abandonment, envy, JEALOUSY! You LOVE art so much, assume that your work will be LOVED as much as you freely love the work of so many others.

    Do you know anything about active imagination, the Jungian concept.? Try a little of that. ALWAYS works for me, in all situations. “-)))

  6. dorion /// 08.05.2012 /// 7:00am

    For one second imagine your child (of course when they are old enough)
    saying exactly what you just said. As a mother you want the best for that child…the guilt should arise when you are not being or doing your best self.
    Children want happy fulfilled parents….they learn by example not by what you say.
    If you want happy fulfilled children you have to be happy and fulfilled. Period.

    Now for the gallery show….it lasts one night… night. After the opening you go back to the studio….because in the studio is where the real work exists. It is sacred space and should be treated as such. The work in the studio is more important than the showing of it. When you do enough paintings that will become apparent. Remember… this will not be your best work….the very next piece is always the best piece. Always. That is the point. so…Just get to work….and see what happens.

  7. the jealous curator /// 08.05.2012 /// 7:20am

    thank you all so much. such great advice… that i have given to so many other people. clearly the jealous curator needs to have a little talk with danielle krysa ; ) thanks again – i’m going to read all of your comments a few more times, and then get back into the studio! wish me luck!!!

  8. Jessica /// 08.05.2012 /// 8:33am

    I agree with Laura – one of the best things you can do for you son is spend time doing what you love. It will inspire him in the end to do what he loves as well, then you can share with him how important it is to your well-being as both Danielle AND as his momma πŸ™‚

    As for the gallery showing: You are not alone. Being as it’s your first solo show I think everything you’re feeling is VERY normal. You are putting something you love out into the world – a place where critics abound, so it makes sense that your inner critic would be abounding as well. Try to be gentle with yourself despite your impulse to obsess. You are fabulous and your work is fabulous and you were asked to do this show because you are more than qualified and worthy to have your working hanging in a gallery.

    I wish I could be there with you. I’m sending all my best thoughts and love and care your way!

    xo – j

  9. Trish W /// 08.05.2012 /// 9:33am

    The guilty feeling might be because you think of your own creative time as “not that important” or “not as important as (fill in the blank).” That says something… do you truly think of yourself a “real” artist, that your work is worthy of the time & energy you put into it? You have the training & have invested massive amounts of time & work in achieving this goal — does calling yourself an artist ever make you uncomfortable?

    Pre-show anxiety (well, ok – panic) can happen to anyone who puts themselves in the public eye: the fear of being judged not “good enough.” But really, how much do other people’s opinions & approval matter to you? Are YOU happy with what you’ve created?

    Loving other people’s art is your comfort zone; perhaps it’s what you aspire to, & you measure your work against theirs. All the praise you heap on the work of others through your blog… do you ever wish your work was “as good” as theirs? Every artist has a unique voice, & comparison is a killer.

    No one has yet said it better than Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way.” Art is completely subjective: every piece has its critics, & it won’t appeal to everyone. But what other people think doesn’t make a work inherently “bad.” What matters is what the creator thinks.

  10. allie kelley /// 08.05.2012 /// 9:40am

    oh my. I do this every time I have a show. I rip myself apart painting. I get to the point where I say ” after this, im never painting again” ..

    what you’re feeling is natural. (i think)

    fight through it and have a lovely show.

  11. Van /// 08.05.2012 /// 1:03pm

    Sounds like you’re letting your insecurities get the best of you and they are manifesting in this inner dialogue. Have faith in yourself and work on ways to get confident about your work. What works for me is distancing myself from the work and acknowledging that art is a group effort. We need all kinds of art from a lot of people in order to have culture. Yo’re important and your work is of value.

  12. Sharon Hinchliffe /// 08.05.2012 /// 7:19pm

    Thankyou for this! Both the post and the comments have helped me think through the very same doubts. The very best of luck getting your art done!!

  13. Hannah Stephenson /// 08.05.2012 /// 8:01pm

    Lots of great comments here already!

    I have a friend that told me something very wise once. She said that in our work, we often do what we wish was done for ourselves…she said something like, “We walk around all day telling other people what we need to learn.”

    For a while, I was teaching courses in Professional Development to artists and designers. Over and over again, I kept telling them, “Your voice matters!” and “Making and sharing your work is brave,” and “Creating art comes from a place of generosity, not selfishness” (and that last one is for you, too!).

    I can’t help but notice what you do for others on this site. You champion their work with generosity! What if you championed your own work with the same energy and lack of fear? What would that be like?

    Your show will be great! You are already enough (and will keep changing and evolving…isn’t that fun?).

  14. the jealous curator /// 08.05.2012 /// 8:05pm

    thanks so much hannah. that’s very good advice, and i’ll try my very best to champion my own work… we’ll see how that goes! πŸ˜‰

  15. Nancy /// 08.05.2012 /// 9:02pm

    Definitely! I feel guilty taking time away to do art because I work outside the home full time, so when I’m home I spend all the time with my kids. Art, when it happens, is in the middle of the night. I also struggle with paralyzing anxiety whenever I’m making art for someone – like a commission – it kills my process.

  16. Melanie /// 08.05.2012 /// 10:41pm

    Back in May I went to this awesome event called Girl Crush led by an amazing artist, Danielle Krysa. A group of creative women spent the day talking to and learning from each other, and gave ourselves “permission” and courage to accept ourselves as artists and believe in the work that we do. I think that the guilt you feel in your studio is just the product of that jerkface negative voice that sometimes drops by to tell us stupid useless lies. πŸ™‚

    You are truly a talented artist and I KNOW that the work you create will be amazing. xo

  17. Katy /// 08.06.2012 /// 1:01am

    I think I might print this out and frame it…

    Everyone has had so much good advice (and so many of us seem to be struggling through the same thing).

    I’m working on talking about my art as ‘work’, as in ‘I have to go get some work done’, to underline to myself and everyone else that while I can fit it around nap times, it’s still a serious endeavour which requires time, effort and respect.

    You’ll be fabulous, and I can’t wait to see the results!

  18. Kathleen /// 08.06.2012 /// 3:23am

    It’s moments like these when I’m so grateful for my sister (also a creative) and my best friend. They’re ladies I can bounce my ideas off of without fearing rejection or harsh criticism – but I also know they’ll give it to me straight. So with that – do you have a trusted friend or mentor that you can bounce your ideas off of?

    P.S. I can’t wait until the day when I can come to one of your shows! And I’m counting down to Girl Crush in Austin next Spring. XO!

  19. the jealous curator /// 08.06.2012 /// 6:13am

    you know, thinking about it, i think i might have just the ladies to talk to. good idea. i always seem to make my art a solitary endeavor (not my design, but my art for some reason). and melanie… this girl crush thing you speak of, maybe i should go to one and LISTEN to the jealous curator’s advice!!!! thx lady πŸ˜‰

  20. Bambi /// 08.06.2012 /// 4:08pm

    When we are children our parents let us play after chores, homework, meals, etc. And what is play then imagination, creation, joy….Now as adults I think we still folliw that same discipline…that we will go play after everything else is taken care of (…which is almost never…). We have to give ourselves permission to elevate play above the rest…or at least give it equal value. Have you noticed that the studios of full time prifessional artists are usually a real mess? They are not getting the chores done first…

  21. Sam /// 08.07.2012 /// 8:54am

    One small note to add. I’ve just started reading “Art & Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. AMAZING, have underlined half the book already. Talks about everything you mentioned.

  22. the jealous curator /// 08.07.2012 /// 9:05am

    oh thanks sam… i’ll look into that!

  23. rebeca /// 08.07.2012 /// 11:23am

    all great advice. you are very fortunate to have so many caring friends share their thoughts on this with you.

    good luck with your show. will you show us your work? i would love to see what you create. thanks

  24. the jealous curator /// 08.07.2012 /// 1:02pm

    yes, i am VERY lucky to have this amazing group of people to reach out to… i feel very blessed. i’m not sure if i’ll show my work here… we’ll see how it turns out ; )

  25. Lianne /// 08.08.2012 /// 10:42am

    I second the suggestion of reading ‘The Artists Way’. I was just like this (and worse) but after doing this course I have a whole new respect for my art and it’s importance in my life. I’m DOING art again which is something I had written off as ‘frivolous’, so the fact I’m playing again shows how effective that book is. Its a fascinating insight. Hell, if you like I can give you my copy! (were meant to pass it on anyway…) lemme know x

  26. the jealous curator /// 08.08.2012 /// 3:25pm

    oh, i’ve done the artist’s way! it’s what inspired this blog. i am so grateful to it for so many reasons… maybe i should do it again though πŸ˜‰

  27. Allison /// 08.09.2012 /// 9:11am

    “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
    Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”

    –Robert Hughes, art critic

  28. the jealous curator /// 08.09.2012 /// 11:44am

    ha! i like that ; )

  29. Jess /// 08.11.2012 /// 10:06am

    I sympathize with you, especially on point two!

    After a long (and seemingly unproductive) day in the studio yesterday, also preparing for an upcoming show, I went home and had a small (okay, huge) meltdown. My husband took me for a walk and we talked about art and why we love it and why we love to make it (he’s an opera singer… different kind of art, but similar experiences). He asked me about my first artistic inspirations. Remembering my original, childlike passion for art made me feel that excitement and love again. I was able to shut my brain off, and connect to that deeper place of inspiration instead. I’m spending another day in the studio today and am stepping away from pieces whenever I find that “show anxiety” creeping into my mind. It’s a happier place to be!

    Hope you can kick those stifling thoughts soon too! Thank you for all of the inspiration that you post here. It gets the inspiration flowing through many other artists’ brains, and that is a beautiful thing to spend your time doing. x

  30. andrea /// 08.12.2012 /// 6:21pm

    I just found your space and came across this post so just wanted to say I’ve experienced the same guilt and struggle with giving myself “permission” to make art.
    I don’t have any real advice except that what worked for me was finding that one time of the day that I’m most inspired and motivated (usually in the morning after I drop my daughter at school and have a cup of coffee). Turn on my music mix or radio programs and just go nuts till I have nothing left. Then I’m done. I find that if I start browsing the internet it saps my motivation so that’s off limits.
    All the best in preparing for your show and thanks for the great content! Looking forward to your posts!

  31. the jealous curator /// 08.12.2012 /// 7:53pm

    you know, i think that might be the problem. normally i have a lot more time to myself, but it’s summertime and my sweet boy is home with me all day. so much fun, but not a lot of time to get into the studio and work. and my guilt probably comes from that too – it’s summer, i should be hanging out with him, not in the studio… although he’s more than happy to spend the day playing in the pool with daddy, so i should pack that guilt away and just make stuff! oh, and get coffee too! ; ) thanks andrea (and everyone who has taken the time to comment on this post!) xo

  32. iva /// 08.20.2012 /// 11:17pm

    I just wanted to thank you for being so honest and bravely opening up about your fears and struggles; reading these comments was very helpful to a budding artist such as myself! You should publish. πŸ™‚