I Think I’m Getting the Fear

bandits original painting
8 X 10, acrylic on canvas

prints available in my Etsy shop

Yesterday was one of those days when a furry partner in crime would’ve come in handy. Since I don’t have a raccoon of my very own, I settled for the next best thing – a cuddle fest with the white dog. She’s soft and warm and is pretty tolerant of me when I feel the need to pull her close to my belly like a hot water bottle. The pug? He’s a sweetheart, but wriggly. Would rather lay on my feet than cuddle right against me. Plus there’s the snoring.

I feel sort of guilty for feeling blue when I’m crafting this incredible life for myself, creating art and taking classes and doing what I love. I should be thrilled. I *am* thrilled. Most days I am.

The problem weighing me down yesterday and still lingering in the corners of my brain today is simple fear. Like everybody else, I’ve got bills to pay and with the near constant fear-mongering in the media about the recession, it’s easy to start doubting if this is the right time to be self-employed. I’ve got credit card debt that feels impossible to chip away at. I really need to get my car fixed. I don’t even want to think about doing my taxes. Though my work is selling and I’m slowly building relationships with some wonderful clients, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks.

And that’s when it’s really tempting to start looking at your work as straight product rather than art. What’s selling? What brings in the most money? What if I painted giant abstract crap that matched people’s couches?

I’m not a highbrow artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do sketch and paint and plain ol’ create from the heart. I like painting girls and silly creatures because they make me smile (even especially the creepy ones). I paint with the colors that I’m drawn to, not what some focus group says is popular.

The White Dog

It’s not that I even dislike painting abstracts; it can be fun and freeing and is A LOT harder than it looks. For the record, I also think it’s fine for people to want a pretty piece of art to hang over their couch. Who couldn’t use a safe haven to just relax and look at your favorite colors without being called on to think and analyze and critique some over-hyped artist’s message? I totally get it. But it’s hard not to feel a sting of sour grapes when you see the art category of eBay dominated by the same boring abstracts banged out every single day on ENORMOUS canvases by (supposedly) the same artist. In oils, no less, which take weeks to dry. I may be the slowest painter of all time, but something just doesn’t add up there.

As I look at other avenues like eBay to get my work out there, I’m forced to start thinking about how I define myself as an artist:

What is the market for your work?

Who are your customers?
Uh…*I* like my art, so my customers are probably people like me. Right? No? Why are you looking at me like that?

Perfectly reasonable questions for a business, to be sure, but I’ve got no answers. I create because that’s who I am. If I didn’t need the money, I’d post each new painting on my blog and give ’em away. It’s hard to think of my paintings as widgets to be marketed. Even harder is trying to not take it personally when those widgets aren’t moving.

At the end of the day, I just need to hang on to why I paint in the first place – because it makes me happy. The only time my ADD brain quiets down and shuts out all the racket is when I’m painting. I pull the brush across the canvas, I dab a tiny bit more crimson red on the bristles and slide it across again. I’m only thinking about that line or that shadow or that stroke. I feel a quiet peace that I don’t get anywhere else.

Except maybe when I’m cuddling the white dog.

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