“People forget that art is work. Nobody never just did awesome things all the time without pain and practice, perseverance and exploration.”

These wise words came to me in an email this week from a fellow artist.

A few months ago, the painter Lesley Birch told me something similar. “This is hard!” she said, “no-one ever said it would be easy.”

The thing about art is that it’s totally unique. You are the only person who can create what you create. Even if you mimic someone else’s work, it won’t come out looking the same. It will be yours, uniquely yours, because you are the only person with your particular way of looking at the world and your particular style of working.

That’s wonderful but it’s also a recipe for insecurity because how can you know if what you are doing is any good? No-one has ever done it before, so there’s no road map to follow. And even if someone tells you it’s good, what do they know? (funnily enough, if someone tells you it’s bad, you will totally believe every word).

When I talk to people who don’t paint, I get the impression they think it’s a nice relaxing hobby. They say things like ”if only I wasn’t so busy, I might have a go at that” or “you’re so lucky to have the time for art.” (Am I lucky, or am I just willing to give up other things like TV, reading, going out etc. in order to go out into my studio and work until everyone else in the neighbourhood is asleep?).

And it’s not just hard work to create art. It’s also scary. You never create a good painting playing it safe. You never make good art by doing what you’ve done before. The good paintings come when you take risks – but that also means a lot of failures … a LOT of failures. It means giving up your leisure time and then coming up with a big fat nothing. It means taking a promising painting and spending 3 hours making it much much worse than when you started. It means having an idea that you don’t know how to execute. It means painting over countless pictures in an attempt to salvage something.

Here is one painting currently in progress that has been through several iterations and is currently annoying me by refusing to come together!

I’m not complaining, although it may sound as if I am. I feel very fortunate to have been born with a love of making art. It gives me a refuge in difficult times. It means I am never bored. It presents me with an ongoing, exciting challenge. And it has always been the only thing I can count on to bring me guaranteed,  uncomplicated contentment — and often genuine joy. So I’m not complaining about the hard work.

I suppose I’m just reminding myself that this is the reality for all artists. We all struggle.  It was never supposed to be plain sailing. No matter how long I do this, no matter how hard I practice, I will never reach a point where everything I create is a masterpiece. When I forget that, I get stressed and worry that I am no good. When I remember it, I relax and enjoy it all – the good and the bad, the successes and the glorious messes.

10 Comments

  1. Jane Wallbank
    October 13, 2017

    So true, it is nice to hear about someone else going through the same struggles.

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      October 13, 2017

      I used to think it was just me but as I talked to more and more artists, I realized I wasn’t alone. Now I’m committed to sharing my struggles because I think they are actually fairly universal.

      Reply
  2. Emma Mears
    October 13, 2017

    Hi there, I am new on my journey into selling my work as a textile artist and it is scary being an artist! … as well as it the best profession ever and I love nearly every minute, making, it is very rewarding but you are right, people do not realise how long a piece of work takes, and that even though we are lucky and blessed working for ourselves, being creative, making things, it is also a long, journey that is for most of us definitely not financially rewarded,v especially not in the beginning! We do it because we love what we do! It is scary, and we all have confidence crisises … but I have never been happier and no longer stressed! Thanks for your glorious messes! Lovely work.
    Emma.

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      October 13, 2017

      Thanks Emma and good luck with your journey! It takes real courage to put your work out there (another thing most people don’t realize!)

      Reply
  3. Shelley Cameron
    October 13, 2017

    Beautiful post Louise. Perfectly articulated of the need to create and the struggle to get there. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      October 13, 2017

      Thanks for reading Shelley!

      Reply
  4. Terri
    October 13, 2017

    Well said! And lovely paintings. Paint on!

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      October 16, 2017

      Thanks Terri. I wish I had left the second one as it was because it’s much worse now!

      Reply
  5. Julie Kai Barreto
    October 15, 2017

    I love these! They put me in the mind of another painter, Dan Williams, whom I find enormously inspiring as well: http://dan-williams.net/painting/2016/10/14/lismore-lighthouse

    Reply
    • Louise Fletcher
      October 16, 2017

      Thanks so much Julie. I love his work!

      Reply

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