Saturday, February 28, 2009

Art and Fear

I have a dear friend who is also a weaver.  I think all of us artists who use weaving for a medium need a friend who is in the same boat.  This evening we were climbing a hill overlooking Abiquiu talking about the challenges of being a tapestry artist and I mentioned that I was reading a book called "Art and Fear".  Maybe we operate on the same wavelength, because she said she was also reading the same book.  (Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils--and rewards-- of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.)  The opening quote by Gene Fowler, "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead" was an indication to me that this book might have something to say to me.  Sometimes I feel like that at the design table--or when I have a design that I have worked with for a long time and then am trying to figure out the colors.  I need to read this book again... and remember that all the things I'm afraid of can't possibly be worse than actually trying to make the art.  It doesn't really matter if I get into those juried shows, or if I sell any of it at all, or if I even finish the piece, as long as I start.  Starting is the thing.  The authors of this book propose that we make the very human connection that as artists we consider art equals self, and when you make flawed art, you are a flawed person (p. 7).  So that is when I come around to not starting the work.  If I can't start, I can't fail.  But the extension of that is that if I make no art at all, I am not a person... and that I can't accept.

I was telling my friend Conni how proud I was this week at getting the Harrisville loom together (see prior post).  But that the fear crept back in when I looked at the cartoon I'm working on for my first piece on the loom that is now together (a cartoon I'm certainly not certain about!) and I went back to just being glad I got the loom together.  I'm going to think about this one this week as I spend three days at the loom at my teacher's studio starting tomorrow.  Maybe the starting is what I need to focus on to start with.  Start.  Begin.  Be a Nike commercial (just do it).

Some of the fear is about TIME.  It takes so long to finish a tapestry that I'm afraid to call a design ready to begin.  If I start it and I hate it once it is on the loom, it could be a very long haul to get to the end when I can start another piece.  But honestly, I have only once cut a tapestry off the loom unfinished... 

This photo was taken today during a morning hike near my house.  The petroglyph is a deer dancer according to someone who knows a lot more about rock art than I do!  That was the hike before the one to the top of the hill overlooking Abiquiu.  I am a peripatetic fiber artist to be sure.


  1. Art & Fear was one of the first "non-tapestry" books I read when I started pursuing my art full time after leaving nursing. Such a great book! How timely that you are pondering the joys & trials of creativity... that is the theme of ATA's first newsletter this year. If you aren't a member, try to "borrow" Koehler's copy, the articles are fantastic & very inspirational!

  2. Thanks Lyn! I'll certainly ask J.K. if I can peruse his copy of the newsletter. I have the form to join ATA sitting on my desk... have no idea why I haven't done it in all these years. Must be time. And I'll keep reading "Art and Fear" until I get it or until I feel the drops of blood forming on my forehead.


This blog has been moved to Please visit there to comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.