The struggle is real for an artist.


The struggle is real for an artist. We are often a complete mess internally. We are mostly alone creating and spending the majority of our time with our own thoughts. I received this questions from one of my closest artist friends the other day. She asked,

“We all go through phases of elation then deep doubt and questioning. What do you do to get out of the later?”

There is a troubling feeling that we share as artists, no matter how young or old we are. This feeling is as if we are all alone in the world and can’t quite find out how to exist in a space that is undefined. This space is called the art world, and the art world itself will provide no answers to you as an artist, it just exists and if you are lucky, you get to play within it. There are no rules, only suggestions, there is no road map because everyone’s is different, you are the one that makes your journey into the world. For some of us it is handed to us on a golden spoon for whatever mysterious reason, and for most of us we have to bust our asses, go broke, lose our minds, cry a lot, paint with scraps, eat less and make a whole shit load of art! 

I think I hit a low point today. Like a seriously low point. Here is the reality. Art is fucking hard. If you didn’t hear me the first time, Art is fucking hard. It is literally the most difficult thing that I have ever done, and I have done many, many things over the years. It seemed as if 2019 was going to be the year where everything comes together and emergence becomes a notable fact. But on the heels of two solo exhibitions where not a single piece has sold, the mental fatigue begins to attack the heart and then the heart attacks the soul and it becomes difficult to even breath at times. 

Work from one of the shows.

Work from one of the shows.

I don’t lack confidence. I don’t lack work ethic. I don’t lack in study. I know that my work in both shows was strong, not every single piece, because that is almost impossible. But most of the work was really strong, and I continued to grow in my craft with each piece, each body of work, in a way that I can feel very proud of. One of the shows was a blast and unluckily the work just may not have been a good fit for the clientele, that happens, that is a part of testing the water in the art game. The other show should have sold multiple pieces, again nothing. I knew it was a risk and it fell flat on its face. Lesson learned. It’s not that my work doesn’t sell, it does. I have collectors all over the US that own multiple pieces of mine. I even have a piece that sits next to a Rauschenberg in someone’s home! The hard part about art is we have to try every avenue that comes our way, hoping that one of them is the next step or the next meal. When it turns up short, then we the questions sink in…

Back to my friends question. 

“We all go through phases of elation then deep doubt and questioning. What do you do to get out of the later?”

I have done a lot of doubting in the last few months, not with my work. I know my work is strong and continuing to grow. I have been doubting the journey, the road, the trail, the process, the patience, the self. It is hard for someone to truly understand the emotions and mental/physical energy that goes into creating a large body of work. In my last series I worked 12-14 hour days painting and sewing and framing and stretching for a couple months and this was on the heels of the series prior spending a couple months working the same hours.

Working on art like this is the most joyous feeling that I reach inside, it is worshipful, spiritual, like a symphony playing at the top of a mountain with the sound reigning down on the towns below, it is magical! Once the work is finished, we crash, our spirit drops as the momentum comes to a halt. That opening for the show brings the energy into that second wind, the excitement of seeing your work on a wall amongst its peers while people gather to discuss and become involved with the pieces, this is what I live for. Then when disappointment follows, disappointment that is out of your control and in the hands of others, this is the really difficult part for an artist. The doubting, the questioning, the whirlpool of thoughts that my friend Steven Pressfield would call “The Resistance”, begins to creep in and set its foundations, and you know that you don’t have much time to wallow because you need to be back in the studio painting as fast as you can, because you need it and it needs you!

Shit. Three weeks just flew by and “The Resistance” has been winning. The only way to get out of the doubt and the questioning is to work, using my hands, getting on my knees, drawing lines and making marks and washing colors in pastel dust and cloth. 

Today, in the studio, physically and emotionally exhausted.

Today, in the studio, physically and emotionally exhausted.

So, I have been in my studio the last few days grinding away at a new series that I am going to title, 

“I am a mess, but I am ok. Thanks.”

I read a quote this week from Chuck Close.

“ Inspiration is for Amateurs- the rest of us just show up and get to work.” I talked to my artist friend about this. It would be easy to say, “just find some inspiration to get you through, to get you moving.”

Well,  If you are always waiting for inspiration then you will never be a great artist. Inspiration comes in unexpected moments and they are a million times fewer than the days that we need to work in the studio.

Another quote for my week is from the ever amazing Mark Bradford, he says

“I work when I am sick, happy, depressed, constipated, jet-lagged. I show up.”

Yep, Mark, I agree and damn it is difficult. If we are not able to work these things out with time working in the studio, then why are we doing this? Why are we even trying? 

One more quote than I am done.

“The most important tool the artist fashions through constant practice is faith in his ability to produce miracles when they are needed.” Mark Rothko

Maybe sometime that miracle is simply pouring that coffee at 6am in the morning and heading straight into the studio to see what other tiny miracles show up in the day.

Today, I hit a low point. Discouraged. Upset. Quick to anger. Frustrated. Sad. I am a mess, but honestly I am ok.


7/17/2019 9:28pm