Self-Portrait in Pixels, 2007    |    Oil on canvas    |    48x48"

I have felt at a standstill with my art since I graduated college more than eight years ago. 

To many that know me, this might not make sense; I am a freelance artist, and I am constantly producing new work. But my personal artwork has been almost non-existent. One hundred percent of the art I made in 2016 was for someone or something else: commissioned work, or art made for a specific gallery or show.

It became clear in the past year that I am actually avoiding making art for myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned to go to the studio, only to tell myself I need to do the dishes first. Or eat… or take a nap… or literally anything else.

It took six months of therapy for me to understand why I am avoiding my artwork. In short: fear

I’m scared of making bad art. I’m scared of failing, and I’m terrified of my inner critic. My inner critic is a nasty one. So cruel, in fact, that the thought of what it will say if I make anything less than perfect makes me cry. And making perfect art is close to impossible. So, you see why doing the dishes might be a more inviting activity.

The “Bad" Art project is dedicated to overcoming this fear by making daily personal art a habit.

For two months, I will be heading to my studio and devoting at least 15 minutes every day to making a piece of art, even if it’s awful. Especially if it’s awful. I've put the term "bad" in quotations because I'm aware that not everyone will think this art is bad. It's very likely that I may even create something I like through this exercise. But preemptively labeling the art as "bad" reduces the pressure I put on myself to make only good art. 

In order to make sure I follow through with this, I’ve asked for some help. According to author Gretchen Rubin, I am an Obliger. A BIG one. Obligers struggle to uphold expectations set for themselves, but are motivated by external responsibilities (that’s why I was able to make all that other artwork - because it’s my job!). Posting my work to the internet can be helpful as an external motivator, especially if the work is for sale, but the internet alone wont quite work for me. I have given two of my closest friends my credit card number, and asked that in the event I lapse back into avoidance, they donate money to Donald Trump. One slip-up will gift him and his horrible administration $10. More missed days will increase the donation exponentially: a second consecutive misstep will be $20, a third will be $40, and so on. The external motivations are threefold: the internet, my friends, and the risk of supporting a truly abhorrent human being. 

Do you experience creative blocks? How do you overcome them? I would love to hear from you - please feel free to send me a note using the button below, share with friends and on social media! 

With love and ("bad") art,

 

Jolene