A Reflection on the Artistic Life
by Nanette Balchin
It’s 2am and I’m awake, conjuring up ways to deal with my feelings of deep self-doubt and worthlessness. Why be an artist? Why bother to make art and put yourself out there to be judged? No one really cares and no one ever buys anything no matter how accomplished your work. Basically even my best is just not good enough. Do I give up or is there another way? My solution? Pack up my studio full of unsold art works, throw them all in a wheelie bin, and head down to that spot on Farnborough Road where people leave their cars for sale. Make up a great big red sign that says “Art for sale … Gold Coin Donation appreciated” with a little money tin provided … and wait and see if anything is taken.
Every artist experiences these demons of self-doubt, anger, frustration, feelings of being undervalued and worthless. So it was after much soul-searching I stepped up and applied for a challenge that really excited me. One I truly knew I was ready for – a project at Rockhampton Art Gallery. But my EOI was not accepted. Rejection hit hard. I was totally unprepared for how deeply hurt and angry I felt. I felt anger at my dear friends who were the successful applicants, anger at the system which judged me too old or not appealing enough in some way. I took it very personally because artists always put their souls out there. I felt that after 12 years of collaborative exhibitions and 12 years of creating opportunities for 100’s of artists that the time was right for me achieve my full potential as an artist. Yet the door was not open. As an artist and a person I felt completely undervalued and not respected. I felt worthless. I really hated myself for feeling angry at the success of others, all who are fabulous and passionate artists in their own right.
So what’s the purpose of this merry little tale of woe? As an artist, being judged is hard. It is ‘personal’ and it is difficult to be the resilient and optimistic person you want to be. Ultimately I asked myself what is important to me. Who am I as an artist? What have I always strived to achieve for my artist self? Feelings of self-doubt are real so don’t bury them, feel them. Grow by feeling them. My arts practice has always been defined by collaboration and being an optimist in a community of wonderful artists. Through working alongside artists friends I have found my artistic voice. Through giving my time and talents to others I have thrived.
So that’s my solution for me: be giving, collaborative, open to new ideas and always be respectful supportive and generous-hearted to fellow artists. Let judgement not define you. Find your way to negotiate the inevitable highs and lows of your creative practice. Feel empowered and proud to be your artist self. Put your creative energy, curiosity, and daring into your work. Be authentic and the rewards of your creative talents and desires will flow.
But still, spread the word … Gold Coin Donations are truly appreciated!