Process: Working Through Fear And Doubt

25 Squares, Yellow & BlackA few weeks ago I talked a little bit about the process of the 25 Square series of works that I’ve done. Mostly I talked about how the idea started and how the image has evolved and the materials have changed. Today I want to write about the attitudes and emotions that go into making art and maybe a bit of the technical aspects that went into making this piece.

Originally the plan was to do a yellow work of art featuring the 25 Squares. This was just a continuation of a theme in keeping it in the primary colors. I had a sheet of bristol board all ready to go with the squares as a base for weeks. The more I thought about how a yellow piece might look, the more I didn’t really want to do a yellow piece. Yellow seemed too happy or bright and I just wasn’t in the mood. But yellow is what I said I was going to do, so yellow is what I did.

This piece uses some non-traditional tools and methods. I started with a worn out toothbrush and started smearing yellow screen printing ink around, the squares, but not on the squares. As I pushed the yellow ink around I remember the dash of black that was added to the blue work. I knew I was going to add that black and stifle the yellow, keep it from shining so bright.

The first round of black was screen printing ink diluted with water. I dripped it, splashed it, let it pool on the paper and drip down the front. It got turned upside down and rubbed on the sidewalk. It was a good start, but still not dark enough. I took the drink stirrer that I’d used to mix the ink and water and got ink on it. Over and over again I smacked an ink covered drink stirrer in vertical lashes on the paper. It still wasn’t quite dark enough so I went back with a paper towel and ink and pushed and dabbed to my satisfaction.

Somewhere in the midst of this I started to ask myself “What are you doing?” However much I enjoyed the image and the making of it, I couldn’t help but entertain doubts about it. What would my parents think of this? What would my coworkers think about it? “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, I drew some squares and pushed some yellow and black ink all over them.” Even fellow artists might balk at it because it’s not their scene. It’s not an exacting portrait or landscape. It doesn’t require a lot of technical experience. Some of my other illustrations may be silly, but I don’t harbor the same doubts with many other works because they do reflect previous experience in art. It’s difficult to ignore this fear and doubt.

It’s one thing to tell yourself that it’s not important what other people think, it’s quite another to actually not care. If my friends and family said “John, this is stupid. You’re wasting your time and should stop,” I would be upset. However, I wouldn’t stop because I am happy with it. Sometimes you have a client who wants a specific image and you need the money so that’s what you give him. Sometimes you have some art supplies sitting around and you make something for yourself and if you’re lucky a few other people out there will like it too. Whatever you do in life there will always be someone out there who can do it better. Keep at it, do what makes you happy, and don’t let others’ doubts become your own.

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