I was very honored and excited to have been ask to have some of my art and writing in The OCD Foundation of Michigan’s Summer 2011 newsletter.
Check it out at http://www.ocdmich.org/pdf_files/2011%20Summer.pdf and please look at some of the great info they have on their website. One of the board members happen to see my post on OCD on my web site and contacted me. It really means a lot if my work can reach out like that. What more can art be about? 🙂
After years of struggling with troubling thoughts sticking in my head and agonizing over thinking them through, trying to solve things that just did not have solutions I have been diagnosed with OCD. Took a huge recent crash to realize that it was more than just being a worrier and look for help. Now with the help of cognitive therapy and medication I suddenly find me discovering my true self the person outside of the OCD.
Why am I bringing this up in this blog meant for art? Well because art has become part of my therapy and getting help has freed me to make more, much more art and to create more freely. I think this could be a lesson for many really. The difference between someone with OCD and some who doesn’t have OCD is pretty simple. Everyone has troubling thoughts that often make no sense that is just part of life while someone with OCD just can not stop thinking about those very thoughts because they get stuck in a very biological way in the brain. Having thought that are troubling and upsetting in your head for extended periods of time can create intense anxiety, panic attacks and can become very disruptive to ones life, including making art. Most people with OCD know that not being able to stop thinking about these things and that the thoughts are not always reasonable but they simply can not stop.
So the things I have done to help me make art despite my OCD and the way doing this has helped my OCD in general must be things any artist or anyone else could use. It’s like I have tested it out in severe circumstance you know like they do to car parts. Let’s see what happens if we do this with wicked high RPMS and no oil and if it holds up to that it ought to be great under normal conditions.
This is going to take more than just one blog it’s been a lot of to digest for certain. I can’t imagine it won’t be a large part of everything I do from now on it has had such a profound effect on my life to find my way through to cope with OCD and become the true me.
In general I always have agonized over my art and would work rework and rework while all the time never finding any satisfaction. (even if I do say “o this is great”) All artist must do this to an extent. I think everyone does this at least some in much of what they do. The first major break that helped me create art more freely despite my inclination to tear myself and my work apart went like so. I was generally hung up on some memory of someone else likes and dislikes of me or my art imagine and real. Very very stuck. So my therapist wanted me to go home and paint and purposefully make a mistake and keep going seeking to be OK with this mistake being a part of the piece. Well I once heard about a art professor who on the first day of every class instruct his students to make crappy art. I’m probably not phrasing this exactly but you get the idea. I thought about doing this many time in the past but couldn’t bring myself to do. So sense I was on the edge of what seemed like the darkest days of my life I got up the courage and went at it. I wrote down on a piece of paper “MAKE CRAP!” and stuck it to my desk. Oddly I found it’s hard to make crap. Something inside just seems to say o we’re making crap and I felt suddenly free their at the drawing board and feeling free, wonderful things started appearing on the paper as I did. I don’t think I will ever forget that day how I felt amazed and made several pieces that week. I try to apply this to a lot of things now though not always successfully but it helps. Helps to remind me I am human and sometimes I may make crap and thats OK. Sometimes a mistake ends up being just the right move in life and in art.
I can’t imagine that many artist have not at sometime asked themselves why make art? It sure is something that has wandered through my mind many times. What is the purpose to this thing I do? Sure, it can bring an income in some varying ways. I find this question comes up particularly in times of creating pieces that are just plain and simply there to be viewed. No real function in a physical way; not in any sense to be used for some advertising campaign to sell goods and or service. Art for art it’s self I suppose is the sort of stuff I am speaking of here.
As I paint today I am even more contemplative on this. I know for myself when I am making art I do my best to listen to my gut and it is in a very large sense a soul searching process. It’s an exploration of self and how to put self and beyond on paper I often have this sense that it is my way to explore the world around me inside and out and sort it out. But why? I can’t think it is just for me and me alone. I sure do get a lot out of it and find it helps me grow as a person. But just for me? What purpose does it give to the world and those around me? I can’t help but feel that anything worth doing brings something to those around us. I certainly do not revel in anyway the idea of making art in a closed up room and just be in there with what I made and nobody ever sees it. I don’t think I would even feel like making art if that was the case. In the very least I’d want someone to see it. There is no doubt that every time I make a piece of art I am driven to run out to someone; be it a friend or my wife and say “Hey Look!”
I think back to times when I would be making art but had little outlet for others to see it except close friends and family. They would on occasion see my work and comment “O that is really nice”, or “wow your talented”. This is all good and fine in it’s self but truthfully I didn’t make so much art during those times. It was after finding an outlet where a broader scope of people would view my work that I found something in it all. It indeed drove me to create even more art as the work got to be seen by more and more people. In the social part of that is where perhaps someone would say how the piece made them feel. At times when some one would remark on how some piece reminded them of something in there lives. At times someone may say it seems you where feeling or thinking this or that when you did this. It dawns on me that is why I want to paint and is the purpose. It’s this communication between my fellow humans. Somehow art reaches out and it creates a sharing a path between people and each others thoughts and feelings.
We are social and we do much better when connected to others. Art, Music, Literature all of that brings to our world a means of connection. As an artist there is nothing more inspiring than when I realize that something I made touched another person. In that moment we connected with each other in what can be a very deep and profound way. Perhaps this sharing is also a way for each of us to gain understand of others. I hope that this understanding is then carried out to the world in a broader sense. If this in the tiniest way helps people be more understanding of others in there lives then that art piece has served a very good purpose.
If you find yourself around an artist and they share there work with you please show them the respect that we all deserve. The creation of art is a very courageous, emotional, spiritual and psychological labor. When commenting about someone’s work keep in mind, that work is most often a part of the person who created it and to a great extent represents that person in some way. Now I’m not saying that constructive criticism is not important and needed, I myself find it very helpful. It is common in art courses to have group critiques of everyones work and there are rules that are followed. These rules make sure that the critique is constructive and most importantly not destructive. Since many have never been involved in one of these or have forgotten the rules, here are some guidelines when speaking to someone about there work.
Always remember that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Don’t make sweeping statements like those colors should never be together, the composition is all wrong, the proportions are not right, or no one is going to buy work like that. Statements like this do not help anyone and after tall there are truly no rules for creating art. There are guidelines, but artist accidentally and purposefully bend or even break these guidelines all the time. Some of the great innovators did just that and now there work represents great artistic movements such as surrealism and Dadaism.
Ask the artist about there intent. If you understand their intent you can now speak to them with that in mind. Perhaps they used some seemingly conflicting colors to make a point or strayed from proportional guidelines to express something in particular.
A term you hear in management often these days is a compliment sandwich. Start with something you like, insert a constructive criticism and end with something else you like. Such as; I really like the colors you choose for this, perhaps the composition could be a bit stronger but the piece shows off your skills with texture.
Don’t speak in unequivocal terms like; it is, you should never. Use words like I think, I feel. After all there really is nothing unequivocal about art anyways and using unequivocal terms only shows you are ignorant to that fact. Art is an expression and no one has the final word.
Ok so you’re asking, why should I pussy foot around about what I think about someone’s work? Well I guess it’s up to you, but try to keep in mind just how would you feel, and remember that it takes a lot of guts for an artist to put their work out there and thereby them selves out there also. It makes no sense to crush someone when you can help lift them up. Who knows; you may be stomping down the next great artist or you could be a part of helping lift up the next great artist.
Finally I would like to share with you that as an artist many damaging although often well intentioned things have been said to me over the years by friends family and yes even art instructors. As with many artist when I sit down at that drawing table staring at that blank white piece of paper working up inspiration from deep inside my soul the stupid negative crap from others crept in and has many times blocked me and left me frozen. Creating is so emotional and extra baggage never helps.
PS. For all you artist out there who find them selves over analyzing your work because of words from the past. Keep going, the process of creation is a beautiful thing and just doing it will help clear out the garbage. Always remember there are no rules, only guidelines that you choose to follow or not to follow. Well there is one rule always follow your gut and be free. Maybe that’s two.
Creating art is a journey. With each brush stroke or cross hatch there is always something to learn and experience. For my self these journey’s have often been a reflection of life and not only taught me more about creating art but also life it’s self.
One major lesson that I often find my self working on is just simply letting go and enjoy the process. So often I find my self over analyzing a piece and everything comes to a screeching halt. I just can’t finish, I’m lucky if I can get started. I remember every little comment and harsh criticism about past works and freeze up terrified that the same flaws from before are in the current work.
But; I am learning every day and I remind my self to just let go, move on and do something. When I finally do I am often pleasantly surprised at the out come. You see the truth is nothing is ever perfect and if you pick at anything you can find flaws like a drill sergeant looking for that speck of dust. If you allow those imperfections to stop you, nothing gets done. You have to let go and enjoy the process. Sometimes you get a mess sometimes you get a master piece and after all beauty is still in the eyes of the beholder; the last I checked.
Perfect your self but be Ok with the fact that no one can be perfect.
Funny though how much every minute of life is just like this. If you think to hard and long about any task in life it never gets done. Success comes from enjoying the journey, make a decisive decision and move on. More often then not you will make the right decision and the times you don’t; chalk it up to a good lesson hold your head up and march on. The next great master piece is right around the corner you will never get to it if you just sit there thinking about it.