Like bureaucrats, artists and creatives have many ways not to get something done. I have been finding a veritable encyclopedia of those ways for nearly two years. It’s time to stamp and file the excuses and take the first step out of the cubicle of terror. The biggest fear for many who call themselves artists is of course a fear of rejection. And the easiest way to avoid rejection is not to show your work to anyone. Even the idea of sharing on social media can be a non starter. Entering work in juried competitions can be even more soul crushing. But only through failure (or perceived failure) can we get better. So. Behold my offering.
Your first question if you’ve gotten this far may be “What the heck is autotelic”? I learned from a friend who learned it from another friend. What it basically means is “a self contained activity done simply for the reward of the doing”. Wikipedia defines it as follows: “Something that is autotelic has a purpose in and not apart from itself”. Thus autotelic art is art made for the pure enjoyment of creation and not with any praise or gain in mind. This is the word I try to keep in mind as I work on whatever project. IF I decide to share it, that happens because it pleases me. If you like it, even better. If you don’t, oh well.
Art in the Now is planned to be a blog about my journey through life and art. Some posts will be informational, providing insights about techniques and things I've learned through doing and making lots of mistakes. Some will be musings on the life of a person who would like to be called an artist but often feels like an imposter when using that label.
It is fittingly ironic that I originally began this post while on a self imposed hiatus from the two social media platforms I use most - Instagram and Facebook. I have to say it was not for some of the more common reasons like being tired of the political vitriol (which I have mostly avoided somehow) or concerns about privacy (waaay too late for that one). For me, the decision was about getting away from the negativity I created for myself through comparisons. I like the convenience of being able to keep up with friends who live far away through Facebook, and I belong to two loosely knit artist groups and a book club that have been extremely supportive and through which I've made many friends. I also enjoy scrolling through my carefully curated (I HATE THAT WORD) Instagram feed which contains almost exclusively photographers and other artists whose work I admire.
However, I found that after suffering a total creative collapse (I can't dignify it by calling it a slump) during the first quarter of 2018, I started to get my artistic energy back and completed version one of a photo book that's been on my mind for a long time. I've even shot a few rolls of film. But then I got stupid and started submitting work to publications and shows and photo streams. All of which was summarily rejected. Often one doesn't even get a personal "Dear Artist" any more from organizers, just a list of who was accepted, which won't include your name. Sort of like breaking up with my machine, for those of you who remember Buffy The Movie. This leads (for me at least) to inevitable comparison of my submissions with the ones that were deemed "worthy" followed by questioning of all my work since the dawn of time.
This time around I decided more drastic measures were called for. I needed to withdraw from the sources that not only provide comparisons and judgments (think numbers of "likes") but also take up inordinate amounts of my time. I needed to focus on what I'm doing, why I"m doing it, whether I want to continue doing it.....and stop spending so many hours of unproductive time looking at stuff on a screen.
My experiment lasted almost six weeks.When I returned, the first thing I did was pare my Instagram feed to only those artists who genuinely inspire me. I stopped being afraid, and actually “unfriended” (rather than hid) Facebook contacts who were toxic. And guess what? The people who really mattered were still there. I've starting working on this website which I've had for two years and done nothing to. I started to make some new work. Just recently I have even submitted work to a few curated streams, while detaching myself from the outcome. My new goal is to continue to make whatever strikes my fancy, focusing on the making, the creative idea - rather than its consequences. More to come.