Garden Party

“We’re all mad here.”
“But, I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
                                                             
                                                       ~Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
 

Mad, Fearless artArtists are an insecure bunch. Not all, but many seek constant reassurance and direction. Newer artists may do it incessantly. They’re liable to make a career out of “what do you think?” and lose the spirit that had them fearlessly making art in the first place.

Some time ago, I made a vow to liver fearlessly…Freudian typo.
This was not entirely possible without reconciling myself to a certain degree of madness. While the decision to live fearlessly included putting myself and my art “out there,” it did not preclude the insecurity that would accompany “spreading my wares” before the masses, showing artwork publically, and the challenges of defining and refining my artistic “voice.” I also didn’t count on the Ego voicing Her rather paranoid concerns. As the stakes got higher, Her inflated decibels were on a mission to drown out reason. My motto – Starve the Ego, feed the Muse. (click to Tweet)

In the book, Art and Fear – Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING by David Bayles and Ted Orland, I read the following passage :

“Artists who need ongoing assurance that they are on the right track routinely seek out challenges that offer the clear goals and measurable feedback – which is to say – technical challenges. The underlying problem with this is not the pursuit of technical excellence is wrong, exactly, but simply that making it the primary goal puts the cart before the horse. We do not long remember those artists who followed the rules more diligently than anyone else. We remember those who made the art from which the “rules” inevitably follow.”

BAM! Bayles…or maybe Orland, nailed it. I spent this last week in New York City and had the privilege of visiting some of the finest galleries with a very accomplished art professional. As I observed a variety of artworks – some of them very sizable – I realized the work was not remarkable because it was technically sound. No. What made the art remarkable was the story it told, its expression. The tale was woven with traditional design elements, but offered so much more. These very accomplished artists did NOT make an effort to be technically perfect. They were busy story-telling, problem solving, paying homage. Upon further reflection, the art was remarkable not only due to its size and

fearless art
Robert Burridge in the Studio

venue, but because it also possessed a quality that, at this point, remains unnameable. The artist was not trying to “impress” the viewer; he worked for himself.

When viewing some very stellar art, it was apparent the work did not ask permission or search for acceptance. It was an extension of the artist, a bare, honest story; intimate, confident and did not seek approval. It didn’t need to. Had it sought approval, it would have missed the point. (click to Tweet)

Looking for constant assurance in artmaking, only confirms one is not yet ready. Making a career of seeking assurance can be a dead-end path – and one that may well have the artist chasing their work into various corners of the studio – never creating a cohesive body of work that tells their unique story, from their own, original perspective. The spirit of excellent artmaking, (in my humble opinion), is the fearless, audacious, mad expression and the STATEMENT the artist makes. I venture a guess that if you do it often enough, you just don’t give a shit anymore. You forge ahead like a lunatic. Look for lunacy, rather than approval, to confirm you’re on the right track (click to Tweet). I can only assume some very wonderful art has been created in asylums. My only advice would be to avoid the straight jacket, because most of us need to keep our hands free.

That’s what I think! Insecurity be damned! Go ahead, do your thing. Do it fearlessl. Be mad. All the best ones are!

You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself,

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Michelle Andres is a writer and artist who cultivates her own Well Lived Life by drinking in the beauty around Writer, Artist, Coachher, following her passion, respecting others and doing her best to own her own dookie.
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23 Replies to “Garden Party”

  1. Oh Michelle! I love the lunacy of Lewis Carroll! And the wisdom of YOU! Straight jacket be damned! You go girl – you are an inspiration.

  2. I’ve been a lunatic for quite some time! Always hopelessly
    explaining my “differentness”, as because I am an artist.
    How comforting to have run into you, and to know that
    there is a lunatic ‘tribe’ to join! Thank you…..Elaine

  3. Thanks for the write up on “madness”. I enjoyed reading it and could relate to my own experience of being a Collage Artist. When I started painting full time, I went about trying to please other people. I have now learned I was going about it all wrong. I am now painting for myself and enjoying my life so much better. Am I “mad”? Happy to say YES and glad of it.

  4. So, you think mental illness is fun? Not so much. There is a cavernous difference between following your own ideas of what your art should look like and suffering with mental illness. Van Gogh suffered from debilitating mental illness. He produced amazing art and was rejected by those he sought to impress and then he committed suicide. Do you honestly believe his came from his illness? I would propose that his unique way of painting, his beautiful art, was made in spite of his mental illness. And what are you really talking about anyway? Schizophrenia? Bi-Polar Disorder? Organic Brain Disaster? PTSD? or any other myriad of mental illness detail in the DSM ? Get real. I can agree that an artist who makes their art as a way to receive positive feedback is on the wrong track. Most of us feel we have to do the kind of art that we do. We have a passionate need to express ourselves visually. But suggesting that untreated mental illness, your romantic notions of ” madness” do not produce great art. Occasionally great art is produced in spite of great suffering, not because of it.

    1. WHNishi -I have the greatest degree of compassion for those who have mental challenges. That being said, there was never a mention of mental illness in the post. The context in which the word “mad” was used, was much lighter than that. Apparently, it triggered you, somehow. Perhaps if you read it again, you’d get a different take on the matter. When you said, “I can agree that an artist who makes their art as a way to receive positive feedback is on the wrong track,” you really hit the crux of the content.

  5. Dear Michelle,
    I have bipolar disorder, and in my experience, it has greatly stimulated my imagination. Besides this, my hallucinations, my paranoia, the way I saw the world, were all part of my genuine experience of life and how my sensory organs dealt with the circumstances around me. I didn’t put my life on hold during mania or depression. I was there and lived it.—John McWilliam

    1. John, I’m glad you’re able to be work despite your challenges. Thanks for sharing. Truly, this post did not address mental illness, but rather focused on being loose, taking wild risks and not seeking approval. In other words, being true to yourself. It seems you’re doing that…congratulations to you! Well done!!!

  6. Michelle
    Alice is my mentor. Love that book.
    A little mad is good.
    Each artist has a job to do and only that artist can do it. If he/she does not do what they know they should, never mind the negatives, it will never get done.
    Love your blog.
    Judith

  7. Insecurity be damned! Go ahead, do your thing. Do it fearlessl. Be mad. All the best ones are! As an 86 year old wanna be, I’m hesitant to publish my first book. I’m going to copy the above, paste it on my forehead and look in the mirror each morning until I put a cover on it. Thanks, Michelle.

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