I have so many drafts of this piece written because it was difficult to decide who to calibrate it to. And, ultimately, like I always do when it comes to something creative, I ended up writing it to please myself—but hear me out! Part of the deep pleasure I extract from creating is anticipating the connection others may feel to my work once I put it out there. And part of the guard that people can build against their fear of failure in a creative endeavor is the idea that making art is this really self-centered act, and maybe that’s true—but only to the extent that we believe expressing ourselves is self-centered.
For me, making time for personal work each day has become synonymous with self-care and vitality. Writing is like having a check-in conversation with someone who loves you. Photographing is like zen meditation that calls for confidence, awareness, and connection. And the experiments I make with photographs, collaging, and mark-making are a way let myself be curious about and express the things my subconscious is drawn to: the wild feminine, nature, and mythology.
Making the time is simple: I say, “At 8 p.m. tonight I’m going to sit down and write in my journal.” “At 3 p.m. tomorrow I’m going to ask my friend if we can make some portraits in the woods.” It’s the excuses for not doing that make it complicated, and those are endless. No matter what the medium, I think the real task is to show up and be confident (or fake being confident)—even if we don’t feel ready. We’re never going to feel ready. No one around us feels ready. We’re not going to like everything we make; sometimes it’s ugly and awkward and misses the mark. But I think something that’s second nature in writing that can carry over to visual arts is that we rarely get things right on the first try. There’s a rough draft, revision, first draft, revision, second draft, revision, revision, revision, until it’s tight. Most people don’t punish themselves for not getting a piece of writing right on the first try—why should it be any different with a painting or photograph?
And speaking of tasks: I think the gap between vital and nourishing personal work and work created for clients isn’t as gaping as it’s made out to be. I struggle with this one a lot since the photographs I’m currently making for clients are oriented towards travel and adventure, which I enjoy doing, but not necessarily photographing. But since there’s no shame in paying the bills, I do the work with the mindset that it’s a way to put my personal stamp of authenticity on something. When we’re hired to do creative work, we’re hired for that bit of our personality that shines through—as an artist there’s this delicious prospect of being a tastemaker that I can take full advantage of, even while working professionally. Hopefully, we’ll look back someday and see that everything we personally make is connected.
Above all, we should understand that our creating inspires others. My own vulnerability has been propped up so many times in part by the choices of the confident makers around me—those women who are drawing, photographing, singing, writing, and whatever else, without apology. And that same vulnerability has become an asset that helps guide me through the toughest parts of a project. The fear we feel of expressing what’s going on in our inner worlds passes, and the outer world is better for us having done it.
Photos (C) 2016 Madison Perrins