If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. — Vincent Van Gogh
I must say, this quote appeals to my inner orneriness! After many years of stubbornly making art, I don’t hear this voice much anymore (see, it works!), though it has affected the direction of my work in the past from time to time, when I have heeded it. The voice doesn’t have to come from within, either; so many times our insecurities about our work are rooted in what other people say to us about it.
You all know the self-appointed critics. They are with us from childhood, telling us we cannot sing, or our drawings will never be any good, or we look silly when we dance. Or they say, “what use is this thing you’re doing? Get a real job!” To them I say, “who are you to tell me not to do what feeds my soul?”
I teach adult and seniors art workshops at a local recreation centre. I’ve had so many students who tell me that some teacher or classmate told them they couldn’t draw, and so they stopped, and held in all that glorious creativity, until at last, maybe as late as their retirement, they thought they “might try a little art”. They are tentative at first, remembering that ancient injury, but as they lay their hands on the tools and watch the colours and shapes flow, they blossom. All that’s needed is encouragement.
I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and save each young budding artist from the years of sterile dormancy! In my fantasies this usually involves slapping silly the adult/child who told them that, though I am not normally a violent person…
I’ve never tried putting a video on this blog before, so I’m giving it a try with the one that inspired this rant. Watch it full screen. This is from our local (British Columbia) art store chain, Opus, which I have mentioned many times. I like them not only because it is Artist-Nirvana to wander through their store, but because of their active support of the artist community and creativity in general. The staff is all artists, and just going to the store to shop is sometimes like going to an artist party!
If you liked that video, they have a whole series of them with different artists at this link.
Great post, Karen. I’m going to share it!
Hi Dixie! Thank you! And now I’ve found your blog, I can catch up with what you’re doing! (about time I figure out how to make a blogroll, so I can put all my artist friends on it!)
Thank you for sharing this wonderful video here! I’m amongst those who suffered at school from art teachers and lived for a long time thinking that “I couldn’t paint”. It took me a long time to overcome that injury, but I have and I encourage everyone to be creative!
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I’ll put your art teachers on my “time machine hit list”! I’m glad you made it through. I love your sharing attitude, and your willingness to experiment — to me the heart of creativity.
I’ve learned a bit ago that people that tell me I can’t do things, aren’t really my friends. I purged them from my system, mostly.
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So true! Good for you! It took me a while to get that — but I finally did, and I’m so glad.
Life living with Art (drawing, painting, writing, philosophizing, loving, creating…) is an often arduous and solitary one. To risk it all and perhaps stand out from the crowd, typically causes a state of aloneness to descend. Like a Thornbird, we might have to impale ourselves for one glorious moment of pure bliss.
If it’s for “one second of happy’ then all Art – like life itself – comes at a great cost and it’s because “We’re worth It”.
Is it worth the struggle? I wonder how Mr. VanGogh might answer this…?
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I can tell you are a poet!
I think Mr. Van Gogh’s life shows that he thought it worth the struggle. He kept at it through great odds, though he didn’t have to. And it doesn’t have to be solitary, though it’s sometimes easier if you are of an introverted kind of mind when doing the actual work. There are many, many of us out here, and it’s easier than ever to find kindred spirits, not only on the internet, but in the physical world. Collaborations, discussion groups, and friendships with other artists are part of the richness of life as an artist, for me. I belong to a studio co-op, and have been in several groups over the years in which I still have long-time friends, and now am finding the comics community opening its arms to me.
I know there are some art milieus that are competitive and hierarchical, with people hoarding their “secret techniques” and vying with one another for the “top galleries” — I choose not to participate in such poisonous pursuits. As for people who are not artists and don’t understand why we might act differently than what is considered normal, be subversive — attempt to access their inner artist. Everyone has one, whether they know it or not!
And though I can’t really speak for Vincent, I can speak for myself: if you are driven to make art of any kind, then making that art is part of your being, and to cut it off or hide it in hopes of being normal (whatever that is) can only injure you. Create. Shine your light upon the world. Be whole.