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What Breaks Your Heart About Creating Art?

Updated on October 17, 2019
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Every artist's nightmare.
Every artist's nightmare. | Source

The Question

Recently I asked a number of my friends this question: What breaks your heart about your art (visual, musical, or writing) and how people see you/see it?

The responses were very profound and totally relatable. I have felt all these emotions at one time or another and learned to deal with them and even overcome some of them.

Art is meant to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.

— Unknown
Drawing Group copying nature.
Drawing Group copying nature. | Source

Copyright Infringement

Mary: It’s always frustrating when someone copies my work to sell.

It is true this is very annoying especially when we are talking about the average local artist who hasn’t the means to hunt these people down and prosecute. I think the only way I have gotten past this dilemma was to remember that it is more embarrassing for someone to have to copy from someone else than to be the one copied from. Also, I should feel honored that someone thought my work good enough to warrant copying.

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between, he does what he wants to do.

— Bob Dylan
Photo taken by one of my ancestors in 1940 in Yosemite National Park, CA.
Photo taken by one of my ancestors in 1940 in Yosemite National Park, CA. | Source

Time and Patience

Becky: It’s tough when I don’t have enough alone time to really immerse myself in my art. Sometimes, I want to sit in one spot for as long as it takes to get a great shot, but my body and mind feel rushed.

This is something we are all feeling in this rush, rush, rush society today. I can imagine the great Ansel Adams a hundred years ago, just sitting on a cliff face waiting for the light to be just right to get one of those iconic Yosemite photographs that he is famous for. But not many people have the time and wherewithal to do that today. We have jobs and families that pull us away, not to mention, phones, social media, and devices always calling for our attention. It is a rare person who can turn it all off and wait for that perfect lighting, that perfect moment, that perfect mood to capture. That kind of photography and art should be even more revered today that a hundred years ago for the sheer rarity of perseverance to capture it.

As for myself, I have to deliberately tune everything and everyone out to be able to immerse myself in my art. At one point my mother thought I had a severe hearing problem because I literally could not hear her calling me but the doctors didn’t find any evidence of it. I simply have the ability to tune out when I’m in another world with my art. Mom called it selective hearing. I call it selective deafness and focus.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.

— Henry Ward Beecher
Taken by a dear friend of mine of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park, CA.
Taken by a dear friend of mine of Half Dome at Yosemite National Park, CA. | Source

Would you wait for hours for just the right photo shot?

See results
My fairy photo composite.
My fairy photo composite. | Source

The CRAP Syndrome

Ruth: I hate it when I have no clue what I’m doing, and I’m doing it anyway. Sometimes it feels like artistic talent, and other times it feels like I just turn out CRAP.

I feel like that every time I start a new canvas. I stare at the pure white and I’m sure I have no idea what I’m doing. It might as well be the first thing I ever painted. The CRAP syndrome is especially strong when I just spend a boatload of money on a new canvas for on the perfect watercolor paper and I’m afraid I will ruin it and waste money. I remember reading that story that Winston Churchill wrote about his first real exploration into the elusive universe of painting. He called it the Power of the White.

Another Fairy photo composite.
Another Fairy photo composite. | Source

We have art so that we shall not die of reality.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Power of the White

It happened after the war when Churchill was at home and idle. Being a man of action, he never liked being idle for long so he thought painting would be a good diversion. He had always wanted to try painting, so he sent his butler to the store for all the materials and then set them up in the garden. When he looked for the first time at all the paint and brushes and the pristine white canvas, he became paralyzed. Where to begin? What if I ruin it? What if it turned out to be CRAP? So there he sat with thoughts of doubt until people began arriving for tea. Lady Churchill had invited a few friends over for tea. One large lady spied Churchill out in the garden and instead of going inside, she waddled out to where he was. When she got close enough to see his painting accouterments, she asked what he was doing. He really didn’t want anyone to see him and was annoyed by the questions, so he grumbled, “What does it look like I’m doing?” But she could see he was doing nothing and she laughed. Trying to be of help she snatched the brush from his hand swirled the colors together on his pallet to create a brown goop and made three muddy swipes across his perfect white canvas, then turned and walked back to the house. He was appalled. In his autobiography, he stated that if he had had his wits about him he would have tackled her to the ground and beat her about the head and shoulders. However, as the mud slowly dripped down his canvas, he realized she had done him a distinct favor. Now, anything he painted would be an immediate improvement. She had destroyed the Power of the White.

When I’m teaching, I try to help my students by reminding them that when they get home they will want to paint and think that they cannot do it without me because the white will paralyze them. They must destroy the power of the white to create anything. You must make a mark or sign your name or anything to mar the surface so the white no longer is paralyzing.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

— Maya Angelou
Winston Churchill painting.
Winston Churchill painting. | Source

Final Thoughts

We all think what we are doing is going to be a disaster but it is practice and experimentation that makes any artist worth his/her salt. So keep making crap. Treasure comes out of that.

What breaks your heart about your creative endeavors? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Brian Leekley,

      You are a rare steak. Very few people will take that kind of time for their craft these days. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      3 weeks ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      If I were into landscape photography, I would wait for hours for the best natural lighting for a shot, provided I had my smart phone and, while waiting, could pass the time emailing, reading ebooks, and so on.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Cynthia,

      Thank you so much. I'm happy you like watching my dancing paintbrush. As you can tell I have a YouTube channel where I record and publish videos of my work. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Ann Carr,

      You made me chuckle. You remind me of my mother. She had her pet peeves where grammar and words were concerned, always correcting our English, and announcing 'there is no such word' as this or that. Mostly she hated the use of "ain't" and would say if it isn't in the dictionary it isn't a word. When Webster's dictionary included that one year, she was disappointed in them. I'm so glad you got some positive out of my Hub. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 

      4 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Denise,

      I love your question and your having interviewed your painting friends to arrive at the topic of the fear of creating crap and your subsequent wise lessons. I also enjoyed watching your "dancing paintbrush." This was an inspiring article. Thank you.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 weeks ago from SW England

      This is such a great article; brilliant subject! I'd never considered the question before.

      For me, one thing is that most of my family don't take my writing seriously. It's not a huge problem, but they seem to think I'm just sitting in front of the computer for ages! Only writers truly appreciate writers.

      As for drawing/painting, I understand the 'power of the white'. It is daunting. Your suggestion is a brilliantly simple one!

      Photography? Well, that's something that I can do any time any day. I take photos of just about anything and never have any qualms about it. My inspiration comes from my father and that's all I need. He had no 'automatic' focus or exposure and he developed everything himself. We don't know we're born!

      You've made me think of all the positives, Denise, so thank you.

      Also, I congratulate you on your use of 'his/her' (any artist worth his/her salt) rather than using 'their'; that's one modern usage that I abhor. It only takes a second longer to say it or write it but it's meaningless to use 'their' when there's only one person! Thank you!

      Ann

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Dora Weithers,

      Yes, I hope that is what I do, inspire. I often told stories or asked questions of my seniors to prompt them to discuss their lives and their loves. I love listening to them. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon,

      That is good advice for writers. I love it. Break the power of the white right upfront. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      Draw offs? I'd like to see that. By the way, I finally did get my article about Colorblindness published: Color Blindness All Around Us. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Lora Hollings,

      Absolutely, it is all about patience and learning. Every painting I learn something new about the craft and about myself. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      I've never taken a painting class, but I might if I could sit in one of yours. Such a question makes the student really come to terms with why they paint and what it really means to them. It's about life. Your teaching inspires.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Denise.

      Finishing a crochet piece and realising hours later what I could have done to make it better. Not really heartbreaking but damned annoying.

      I can relate to the power of the white. And it's true if you do something, anything to that white surface, it kickstarts the real creativity. I tend to write down what's going through my mind just to get started writing. With enough practice, rewriting and tweaking, something decent usually happens.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Would not even have a clue here. My young boy and I have "draw offs" my elder is accomplished. I do get a blank slate though. Thanks.

    • Lora Hollings profile image

      Lora Hollings 

      4 weeks ago

      I loved your article, Denise! The part about the power of the white, I thought especially interesting and your story about Churchill which I never heard before. I've done some painting myself, not nearly as much as you, but you're spot on about this phenomena. I can really relate to this feeling which can be very intimidating. For me, getting up the courage to paint is always more difficult than writing. Painting is not only a feat of the imagination but also a technical feat as well. It is an extremely demanding form of art but yet so worthwhile and brings such enjoyment if you can get over this initial feeling! I really enjoyed your article and perceptions about creating art. We all need to remember that art is also all about learning and having patience with ourselves.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Mary Norton,

      I don't know why we care so much what other people think, but we do, don't we? I always love it when people say they love my work. It is a sort of affirmation that you are a worthy artist. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      4 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Jason,

      I have done the same thing myself, ruining a painting or destroying it at the last minute. It IS all about the love of art or we wouldn't do it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Denise. This is a great article. We all have our concerns about painting. My first was the thought that maybe nobody will ever appreciate my work. The first one I did, a friend really liked it so I mailed it to her. For now, I just keep painting and worry about it afterwards.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      5 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      John Hansen,

      It's so true that the power of the white hits writers and artists the same. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      5 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Poppy,

      It is hard being a creative-type and putting yourself out there for people to criticize. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Nicoartz profile image

      Jason Nicolosi 

      5 weeks ago from AZ

      Great Article. I can't even tell you how many times I would buy expensive watercolor paper. I mean stuff that cost like 15 to 20 bucks a sheet! Just to have that same CRAP moment, usually resulting in me ripping up the work. Once I had spent over 15 hrs working non-stop working on an oil painting. Almost the entire thing was finished and it looked amazing. I'll decide to change something last minute. Being tired I put my arm on the thing, smudging it! Ruined! Talk about a CRAP moment. The painting still may even look amazing to you, or them, but not to me! "Smash!" "Pow!" In the trash, it goes. But I don't quit there. Nope, I'll do the whole thing over. Without resting first! There is no time for rest when it comes to art, especially when I have a great idea. I won't stop until I have a new painting that looks great again. Even if that means another 15 plus hrs. Ninety percent of the time the image will come out even better than the first one. The other ten percent goes back into the trash. Here's a quote from me. "What's money? It's art I love."

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      This was great to read Denise, I am sure all artists can relate. Oh yes, “the power of the white.” I tried my hand at painting but gave up because too many times I mad mistakes or wasn’t happy with the result after going to so much trouble to set up etc. I preferred to just stick to drawing so I could erase anything I didn’t like.

      Even with writing there is the “power of the white” or blank page and you just sit there staring at it and not knowing what to write or if it will just turn our CRAP.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I had CRAP syndrome for years and it got to the point where I couldn’t even begin. Then I stopped planning to publish or even show anyone and that’s when I got ideas and inspiration and actually enjoyed it again. We can’t help but compare ourselves to others, especially in the age of the internet. I suppose the key is to do it for the love of it, not get hyper focused on how good the result will be.

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