"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.” —Steven Pressfield
The same thing happens every year. I have a show at SYNC Gallery in the Santa Fe Arts District. First Friday attracts an astonishing number of people—sometimes 1,000 people will come through to look at the art. Sometimes the gallery is packed so tightly, you simply cannot move. The great thing is watching people come in and react to your art. Of course, there are people who may not like what you do, and that’s okay. But the extraordinary thing is that a great number of people will have a reaction that is close to awe and wonder. They will stand back and look at your work for a long time with excitement or bliss or enchantment, and they will begin to talk with their friends, waving their arms around, moving in close to the paintings to see the texture and color and detail, moving back to get a sense of the whole. And then they want to talk about it.
The whole thing makes me want to jump for joy, to laugh, to wiggle with delight. Because, you see, I realize in those moments, that after painting in relative isolation for a year, dealing with doubt and uncertainty and the Unknown throughout the whole process, that what I have done has lifted those people up in a way that I had not anticipated. It has meant something to them. It has given them a gift. And that, in and of itself, is a huge gift to me.
As many artists will agree, it is a scary thing to show your art. Why? Because it is like putting your heart out there in a very tangible way. People can trample all over that vulnerable expression so completely that it can make you want to stop painting and showing your work entirely, to never experience that level of rejection again. Indeed, many of the artists I work with struggle with the specter of Rejection. The thing that we all have to learn is to detach from whatever reactions people have toward our art…and to know that however they respond is not really about us.
That’s why it is utterly thrilling to engage in conversation with people about the process of making art, to answer questions about what inspired the work, to find out what they love to create, what their dream is.
As Steven Pressfield says in his perfect quote above, “[Our art] is a gift to the world and every being in it.” It’s sublime to experience that.
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