Thursday, 13 February 2014

why I post

I've noticed quite a lot of posts on an online artists' forum that I visit regularly about people's reticence to post images of the paintings or drawings that they're doing. This reticence doesn't seem to be simply that they can't be bothered, or don't want to, or don't feel that what they're working on is ready for anyone else to see. I can't know, but it seems to be more that - and sometimes people actually say this - folk don't have 'confidence' in their work.

They make images, the love images, they look at images all the time. And my guess is that some of them probably would secretly like, at least from time to time, to share the images that so mysteriously appear before them. But they don't, because they fear judgement, perhaps even ridicule. Or maybe, and this is the very worst of all, perhaps they fear being ignored - that they will finally pluck up courage to post an image, and there will be no response whatsoever to this thing that means to much to them.

Hearing so much about these kinds of thoughts got me wondering how my fairly regular posting might be being interpreted. 'Does she think these are 'good'?' 'Blimey, I wouldn't bother sharing that.' etc. When I started painting again I realised that the only way I was going to be able to draw or paint a single thing was if I focussed completely on trying to find out what was interesting to ME, and to completely ignore what anyone else thought. I knew that I had been derailed by art tutors and the fashions and judgements of the art world at a very young age, and instinct told me that I could only overcome this derailing by turning my back on everything.

But I also knew that I didn't want to paint 'in secret'. I didn't want the idea of someone seeing one of my images to be a big deal. I knew that I could confuse praise or criticism of my work with praise or criticism of my self, or, at least, I had some kind of instinct about this that I could never have articulated at the time. I had to find some way of de-sensitising the potential sense of self-exposure and fear.

I started putting almost everything I was doing on Flickr. For all my fears of exposure, I soon learnt that the number of people who might be looking at my pictures was likely to be a nice round zero. And the same with this blog. I started writing it as an experiment in getting used to being seen, after a lifetime of hiding behind my defences, and behind various professional identities. And I learnt that the blog, too, was likely to be being read by about zero people per week. It was perfect. I was letting my images be potentially seen, and sharing my artistic vulnerabilities potentially, while all the time knowing that probably no-one was actually seeing and reading at all.

I soon found out that having an online Flickr record of my work was an invaluable resource when I hit periods of feeling that I was getting nowhere, or that I wasn't working enough. I always thought I wasn't working enough, but sometimes I would look back and see that there was not only a lot of work, but that there was all kinds of stuff that I had completely forgotten that I had ever done. It wasn't the same as keeping it on my computer, because I soon had endless files of work on my desktop and could never be bothered to sort and order them all. I lost stuff on the computer all the time. But with the Flickr record, I could always find out where I'd been. I could also learn from things that were done months and months before, that I hadn't been able to see anything in at the time.

This is how it has become my habit to document the process of my working by posting about 90% of everything that I do. It's invaluable for giving me a feeling that I am actually moving along, that something is happening.

A post a day is the tangible evidence that bricks are steadily and consistently being made. It matters less and less whether I'm pleased or displeased, whether the brick is a better brick that yesterday's, or a worse one. It doesn't matter whether anyone sees the brick or not. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of the brick. All that matters is that there is brick today. That I can see it.

And that, in five day's time, when I have an off day, I have somewhere where I can go and see that I have been making bricks, and putting them out into the world, and that nobody really cares one way or another.

This last point is very, very important in terms of keeping to my own, private path....


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