The fear of being an artist

Norman Cousins, importance, life, insideDrawing a picture is like revealing a piece of your soul. No matter how far away the image you create is from yourself, not matter how insignificant – it always bears your personal touch, your imagination, your creativity…a piece of your soul. At least that is how Cathy always felt about it.

Cathy had always wanted to create something on a piece of paper and if she felt it was a particularly good drawing she wanted someone to see it. She wanted people to see her. But it was not long before she realized that not everyone did always like what they saw. Critic can help you to evolve your art. But that is the healthy kind of critic – that one Cathy could live with. But it was the vile one she feared.

Nowadays it seems like every time anyone creates something that resonates with people there are those who have the almost insane need to tear it to pieces. Like they can only be happy if they criticise somebody else’s work. So Cathy learned to fear criticism, learned to hide her work and instead concentrated on realising the work of other people. She became a graphic designer for companies one the outside and the queen of all the little images she secretly draws into the sketchbook she always carries with her.

The curse of with being an artist is that you can never stop being one. And the need to create something is almost as strong as the need to show it. You want your art to change the world – even if it is just a little comic strip or a simple doodle you just came up with. Cathy learned how to feed that need by creating a little blog where she releases a few images more or less regularly. And for a while that seemed like it could be enough. There are only very few people who see those images anyway – most of them her friends and family and there are not many vile comments. Her career as a graphic designer is solid, it is good. And awfully boring.

Cathy always wanted to be a creator – a painter, a comic-artist, an illustrator – someone who’s art has the power to move people, to awe them. But in order to be a creator you need to be brave. You need to face the criticism of great and small minds alike. You need to take a risk. And you need to really really REALLY want it. Because being able to live of your art means not only talent but also a lot of hard work. There are no guarantees either. And Cathy never was sure if she could do it. So she chose the save road.

The road that led her to creating advertisement campaigns that originate from other people’s ideas. Creating images whose only purpose was to sell something – a product, a brand, an event or even a person. But no matter how insignificant the images seemed, they always bore her signature. Her touch. A piece of her soul. A soul she kept on selling for way too much working hours, cranky, often ungrateful bosses and colleagues and an okay salary. And the little nagging feeling inside her – the one that wanted only to create, explore and live – it kept getting louder.

Safe. It seems like such a good idea doesn’t it? Stick with what you know. Build a foundation, a safety net. Set reasonable goals. Draw borders and keep the insanity in check. Be good. Be reasonable. Be safe. Cathy began to wonder if “safe” actually was nothing but a synonym for “caged”. Because that is how she felt: Caged and trapped by a life she never wanted. And still…she didn’t dare to break free.

Little images, little pieces of freedom for everyone to see on her little blog. There are not that many people who see them anyway. But those pieces are the ones that keep her sane. At least they do for now. Cathy isn’t sure if they will be enough – neither does she know if she’ll ever dare to step out of the cage. Because being an artist means work. It means confidence. It means believing. And most of all, it means courage. Like Tolkien once said right before “The Lord of the Rings” was released:

“I’ve exposed my heart to be shot at.”

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