I didn’t really feel like blogging last week, in part because it was a week of several very sad events around the world, but also because I’ve been filled with an enormous amount of self-doubt after posting photos of my backsplash makeover. That might sound ridiculous, but the closing sentences from that post are really what set me off:
An unexpected side effect of working on this project is that I really feel like painting. Not painting houses, but painting stuff. I feel like designing wallpaper, too. And pillows. And blankets. And everything, really.
Right. So I established the fact that I want to do things, but I am still not doing those things. Last weekend I even went to buy some supplies — paints, brushes, canvases, etc. Until yesterday, they were sitting untouched in my living room. I finally got sick of seeing them out of the corner of my eye, though, so I moved them to the kitchen. Where they are sitting. Untouched.
When I was a kid (and by “kid” I mean birth through age 20), all I did was paint and draw and make stuff with my hands. Both of my parents are artists. I grew up in an environment where expressing myself visually wasn’t just encouraged, it was the norm. That was just what you did. When it came time to go to college, I thought I was rebelling when I became an English Lit major — a terrible mistake, of course, and eventually I transferred to the Fine Arts program. I took lots of drawing and printmaking classes, but my concentration was in Graphic Design/Book Arts…and that’s where I wound up putting in the majority of my focus. By the time I was a senior, I was pretty much holed up in front of a computer all the time. I started my job as a book cover designer within weeks of graduating, and I’m still at that same job now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a graphic designer. I love what I do for a living, and I really do believe it’s exactly what I should be doing, but I always thought I’d eventually make room in my life for stuff that isn’t specifically for a client or a product. I don’t even necessarily mean stepping away from the computer entirely, I just mean working on things where I am the “client.”
You know what? IT’S REALLY HARD. Not having a specific purpose or goal in mind creatively is like paddling in the middle of an ocean with no land in sight. Where do you start? Who is going to give you approval? What is the product you’re trying to sell? And wouldn’t it have been easier to have just stayed on the boat?
On the other hand, I guess all of the work I’ve been doing on my house for the past 7 years is client-free creative work, right? Not really, though — at the end of the day, I guess the house is the client. There’s still a goal.
It comes down to this: I need to be pushing myself more creatively, and not because someone is telling me to. My fear of making ugly things and failing miserably is pretty intense, but what’s the worst that can happen? There is no worst. Best case scenario? I actually wind up liking my work without anyone’s approval, and maybe there will be a few other people out there who like it, too. What more can you ask for?
p.s. I need to go back and re-read this post I wrote last year about advice from Chuck Close. And then I need to actually listen to him.