Anytime you put yourself out there, you open yourself up to the opinions of others. While many people you come in contact with will want to see you succeed, others won’t. There are the i the world that exist purely to “get back at” the people that originally crushed their own dreams. You didn’t have anything to do with that other that. You weren’t the one that hurt them. They see the Spark in you as a long lost friend that abandoned them or was stolen from them.
Critics and haters have a bitterness toward all Sparks. It is hard not to take their cuts and jabs personally, because the work they are cutting and jabbing is very personal to you. Realize in these times that they don’t even see your work. All they see is their own stolen Spark and they can’t understand why you can keep yours going.
I had the opportunity to study for a semester at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In many, many ways, I was totally out of my league. These people were so far out of the box, they forgot where they left it. At any given day there would be a (insert any of these words here: shocking / gruesome / silly / dangerous / nude ) performance piece happening in the atrium coffee shop wether you liked it or not. Or someone in the ceramics division would get pissed and start smashing their work to bits. Or the nude models from the drawing class would forget to get dressed and wander the halls naked to the their next session. A student could completely snap there, totally lose touch with reality and not a soul would notice. In fact, they would probably be awarded their own studio space.
I had no experience working this free and I had no idea what my visual voice was. I had been studying art diligently until then, but most of the information supplied to me were the rules – drawing by grid, perspective, capturing what you see. I had never been asked to explore paint for paint’s sake, never mind in front of a group that had.
For the first several weeks I was miserable. I couldn’t get past trying to create literal interpretations of the lessons. I had been brainwashed into coloring within the lines and had no idea what to do with a blank canvas. I was trying to Escher when I should have been Van Gogh-ing. And all through my ugly duckling scribbles was one girl that made it her mission to let me know how off the mark I was. At the end of each class we went around the room, explaining our work and getting comments from the other students. Every time it was my turn to talk about what I had worked on, my critic’s remarks would boil over and fill the room knee-deep in a vile stew consisting of steaming chunks of condemnation simmered to perfection in a thick acid broth. A bully. But seemingly, my own personal bully, as the attacks only hit my work and she was silent through the rest of the student’s critiques.
I tried everything to make peace. I compelled myself to give her work a glowing review at the end of each class even when – just moments before – she verbally puked on mine. I tried talking to her between classes or working near her to try to build a camaraderie. It didn’t work. The worst part was that in a group setting like this, it was quite apparent to everyone around that I was being singled out. She offered no such poison at other student’s projects.
Could she see the uncertainty inside me? Did she recognize a newbie that was not yet up to the task of working with the big kids, and she was serving as some kind of “intruder alarm” for the rest of the group? Was she somehow the ghost of my own internal judge and jury, possessing the body of this fellow Abstract Expressionism 101 student? It pained me to see her walking into class each morning and the already excruciating pressure of creating art in a group, slathered on an added layer of anxiety frosting to my perform-in-public cupcake of doom.
After the first few weeks, I really did find a visual voice. It was as if I ran out of pre-fab art lessons to draw from and I fell into a whole new version of myself. I started looking at the colors and associating them with emotions. The assignments began to sound differently in my head, the painting prompts and still life set ups became suggestions not laws. Other students at the end of class began commenting on my progress and giving me positive pointers. The day my totally-not-worthy-to-be-in-the-same-room-with instructor made the comment that I had ‘come a long way’ was also the day that my nemesis from an alternate universe dropped out of school.
Coincidence? Maybe. I just know that keeping with it – pushing through the awkward beginnings and nay-sayers is always worth it. My personal artwork went though such a transformation during that time that all the haters in all the world can’t take away.
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