You Can Do

Pats hage

Allow me to continue the discussion from my last post where I stated that Talent Matters Not. Because, there is a crazy presumption that art is not created by ordinary people but produced by the likes of da Vinci or Beethoven. Assuming that only geniuses produce art is a notion that only leads to self-destruction of any art form. We all have the potential to create art and to be extra-ordinary. If you do not believe this, your path will be riddled and rickety with fear.

If you believe you are «not worthy» of creating, you won’t ever even try, will you? – and you certainly won’t ever experiment, but instead stay rigid and stuck. Experimenting is necessary to develop your creativity. Experimenting means breaking with accepted rules, preconceived ideas and what others might think is the right way. Here we are at the core of something very important. Because what does this «not worthy» mean? Is it in the eyes of others? Is it the public opinion that judges over you? Remember; most great painters were regarded as «not worthy» by their contemporaries.

Hanging yourself on a line to be examined by others is tricky business. If you make yourself vulnerable to every criticism that comes your way, you will impede your freedom to explore your creative potential. Don’t let others tell that you have no artistic talent. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt once said: «Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.»

Her message was very simple: Never let anyone discourage you or tell you what to do. I know it’s easy to say. But if you let others take control over your own perception of yourself and how talented you are, you will very soon be so discouraged that all creative activity will complete cease. Art is about whatever uplifts your soul. Don’t clutter this beautiful notion by listening to what «they say». We create with our heart and if we trust ourselves and use the heart as a guide in our creative life, there is no saying how far we can go. Certainly there is no limitation to our creative development and fulfilment.

Of course we cannot live in a vacuum, making art completely unconnected to the rest of the world. But instead of listening to all those, maybe well-meaning critics, we should rather surround ourselves with others who validate us and who will understand the flow of a creative life. Remember what the exceptional singer, Janis Joplin, said: «Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.» Unfortunately she was not able to free herself from others judgment.


113 thoughts on “You Can Do

  1. Thank you for the encouragement.
    “It’s not the destination, it is the journey, that is important” comes to my mind. It is not important whether anybody calls your creations “art”, it is important that you created something.
    Otto, maybe in your next installment you can give us your view on the definition of art.
    Thank you for stimulating discussions.

    1. Oh, you are asking a big question here, my friend. Just in this post I wrote; Art is about whatever uplifts your soul. But I will think about your challenge a little and see what I can come up with. 🙂

  2. Have you read or heard of “Bounce” by Matthew Syed? Essentially he debunks the ‘myth of talent’ in favour of ‘the power of practice’.

  3. If I understand you correctly, the gist is: “By all means listen to the critics, but don’t let them get you down. You are your own best critic”.
    Easier said than done,but I’ll try. Do my own thing.

    1. This is really my message. I do teach a lot of workshops and give away my opinion about others work all the time, but in the end each and every one should take what feels right and leave the rest to its own. And, no, it’s not always easy. 🙂

  4. Experimenting, breaking with accepted rules: this is the point, the starting point. And you need to believe in yourself, you need to work on this. Sometimes a “broken rules” gives a good result, other times not. But from that “unsatisfying result” you learn something and try again and maybe this time the result is better. if not and you believe in what you are doing you try again, again, ag….It’s an hard work, but this you already said earlier…

  5. ” Art is about whatever uplifts your soul.” — That is a great quote, and I hope that it inspires many who lack the self confidence to stick with it. A highly-talented younger artist friend of mine was recently asked why he did’t paint any more. He shrugged and said that he didn’t think he’d ever make money with his art so why should he waste time. He looked sad when he said that.

    I was ‘lucky’ enough to overhear that conversation, and I gave him a pep talk and am planning to start showing up at random times with paint and paper and say, ‘Timeout! We’re going to take an hour and paint.’ He is multi talented and owns a little hostal and night-time cafe, so his hands are full. But his art gives him joy. Plus: He’s good!

    Thanks, Otto, for your inspiring posts. You are a natural and gifted teacher.

    1. Thanks your lovely words, Lisa. On the other hand it’s quite sad to read about this young guy who thinks art is about making money, when that is the least important aspect of being creative (and I know that sounds somewhat ignorant since we all need to survive one way or another). But then lucky him – to have you overhear the conversation. And what a great idea, to just show up at random to make him learn to enjoy the creative process itself.

  6. I love this photo. I can imagine it hanging on a wall and providing endless things to look at within it. Great message to this post too. The more creating the better we all are, and the better the world is too.

    1. Yes, I try not to limit myself to my comfort zone – but with pictures like this, I do start to do exactly what I am talking about in this post – being worried about what others might think of it. For that reason I used the photo here. 🙂

      1. I fully understand your feelings Otto. I’m in the privileged position of having no serious reputation or standards to protect and consequently can experiment with patterns and abstracts to my heart’s content! I spend a lot of time trying to expand and improve my picture-making skills – mostly failing miserably – and I’m careful about what I allow others to see.

        1. You last argument is a very good point. I believe we should all experiment more and be willing to fail a lot more. But of course then not all will be great art either. That’s when editing comes in. I use to say that a good photographer doesn’t always take good photos – but only shows his or her good photos.

  7. Well said Otto, but easier said than done. It’s very hard to ignore criticism when it’s rammed down your throat for over 50 years (as I had from one of my parents). In fact, it made me get a ‘proper’ job when I came home from overseas in the mid 1970s, and every time I deviated from a ‘proper’ job thereafter, I was criticised and ‘put down’ again as being a failure and never finishing anything.

    Took me til the age of 56 before I broke free, and even then, it was severe & chronic ill health that gave me the reason for quitting a job I hated and started exploring more of my creative side.

    It’s sad that a lifetime of negativity, drained and suppressed that creativity.

    Yesterday, I had an email from the Director of a certain Museum who had come across some images on my blog and wanted to know if he could use them for a small exhibition.

    My immediate reaction was………..they’re not good enough (and don’t have sharp enough focus to be worthy of printing). Just goes to show that when opportunities crop up, we can still be influenced by the worst critic of all – a parent (who is no longer alive). I must have re-written my response a dozen times before I finally pressed the ‘send’ button last night.

    Glad to hear ‘Lisa’ was around to give that young talented artist a pep talk. Hopefully, it will be the positive support he needs.

    I have several positive quotes on a page on my blogs and I think I’ll have to start re-reading them every day (to remind me of what I can/should do).

    1. I think you are very brave, Vicki, for telling your story about a not very supportive parent – and for finally freeing your creative self at a later stage in life. And, yes, I understand that it’s hard to ignore criticism when it’s ingrained in the soul, but do listen to all those encouragement that come your way. Believe that when a museum wants to showcase your work it’s because it’s good enough. I for one, have seen you lovely work on your blogs – and never thought that you were not an artists. You can do!

  8. These are words I need to hear, and tell myself daily. I have never considered myself an artist, can’t draw, can’t paint, not very good at design. But I do try to push myself with my photos, and this helps. But if someone asks me who the artist is, I point to the hubby.

  9. No truer words spoken “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent” ~ there may always be disappointment and criticism as one creates, but if belief remains strong, miracles do happen. You can do ~

    1. As long as we don’t give up because of those moments of disappointments and criticism – and see them as stepping stones for development instead. Thanks for you comment, Randall.

  10. This post has struck me with such impact this morning, Otto; you help me remember the importance of being true to myself. Your photo at the top is filled with beauty in its circles and swirls, lines and light.

  11. This is a good post. If I compared my VERY amateurish photos (I only have an iPhone5) with the many beautifully outstanding photos that are posted, I’d never snap again! But, I have decided that I photograph what I like and, if it turns out that I really do like it, then I share it. If someone else enjoys it, then all the better! 🙂

    1. You have exactly the right attitude, Linda. And who cares what camera you have! Great art is being created with iPhones these days. So just enjoy your creative spur. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  12. Purtroppo le persone sono più portate a demolirti, sono poche quelle che incoraggiano come fai tu. Leggere le tue parole fa sentire più forti, danno il coraggio di osare. Penso che ognuno di noi racchiusa in se stesso un artista, l’importante è capire quale tipo di arte piace e poi osare. Non è detto che vada sempre bene, ma almeno si può dire di avere tentato, altrimenti rimane sempre il dubbio. E poi bisogna anche imparare a non ascoltare sempre chi sa solamente criticare, ma cercare di andare per la propria strada e tirare fuori tutte le forze per non cedere.
    Grazie caro Otto.
    Ciao, Patrizia

    1. L’unica cosa che possiamo fare, è fare del nostro meglio. E se lavoriamo duro e con il cuore, qualcosa di buono verrà fuori dello sforzo. Ma, sì, è importante seguire la propria strada. Grazie per il commento riflessivo, Patrizia.

  13. Otto, you usually lead me to thnk further. It’s not about art at all, is it? It’s how we lead our lives. Perhaps we can eventually free ourselves, to like, to love ourselves enough to not need some outside approval, which then leads to being with whom you want, doing what you want. Having said that, constructive feedback is of great benefit. I could go on…

    1. Art and the way we live our lives are indeed closely connected. Our life should reflect in our art. We are what we do – and we do what we are. Thank you for reflecting further in this, Robert.

  14. I don’t know any other people in my “real” life,
    that do more photography than family pictures.
    I do want to get better at this, so I am showing
    my pictures in public, hoping I get some critiques
    every now and then. I take any words I get,
    bad and good ones 🙂 And I try to do better if
    it sounds good to me. I think I do have my own
    style taking pictures and I can’t / won’t get
    away from that, I like them the way they are 🙂
    I just want to improve, I look at other pictures
    I like and try to do it myself.
    No, I won’t let anyone take me down, I keep
    going! 🙂
    Thank you for this, it helped me alot in my mind.
    Have a great time

    PS: I don’t like your image, I hate flash pictures 😀

    1. You have the right attitude. Keep doing what you believe in – take whatever feedback you think can improve your photography and leave the rest out. As for the photo following the post, I have no problems with you not liking it, but there was absolutely no flash involved in taking it. 🙂

  15. Well, of course I agree…and yet, I feel like there’s another part to this. I mean, yes, keep creating your art and don’t be discouraged — but then also understand that not all art is financially profitable. Or that your ART will sustain your financial needs. It’s what I keep hitting up against with people I meet who are starting up design firms and such. They create with such passion, with such heart, but then are so discouraged because they can’t pay their rent.

    I agree with everything you’ve said — in theory and in truth. But in the reality of living a certain kind of life, you also have to really understand what ART is…. and part of what ART may be, is NOT always profitable.

    I hate to be a downer — because it’s not my intention — but as one of your commentors posed, I’d love to hear your definition of art. I think I have one true definition — and then, I have caveats to that definition. I look forward to reading more…. thank you Otto! You always make me think!

    1. I don’t think there is any disagreement between us, Carmen. In this post I talk only about the creative act itself – not whether it’s economically sustainable or not. That is a complete different ball game. What I am aiming at here is to bring the artist out in anyone who would like to try. That doesn’t mean you can make a living out of it. If that’s the point, you need not only approach your creativity with openness and confidence, but have a more shrewd attitude economically as well. For me, though, developing your artistic voice comes first.

  16. it’s a strange world, people, deep down or up front, are not happy if you surpass them in anyway, and often in self protection, to remain part of the tribe, we stifle our creativity or even destroy it… this doesn’t matter to the people who judged us, they go off and forget about us… even if they left pain in their wake…. it is really that we dishonour ourselves, by not willing to be killed by the tribe to keep our souls….

    1. We don’t have a tendency to conform to the tribes ideals don’t we. We certainly don’t like to be killed by the tribe – even if the tribe is wrong – as it often is. It’s a hard balance… 🙂

  17. Anyone who has put forth the effort to write, draw, build something, repair something, imagine something unknown to themselves– no matter the degree of success or appreciation– there can be at least a thread of satisfaction that “I did this.” I think back to an article I read about an old painting attributed to some School of Artists worth a ton of money. (No individual names to these artists.) It was later verified to have actually been done by some famous artist, thus making the painting even worth more in millions of dollars. So it’s worth was increased not for its quality, but by a brand name associated with the art. I think I may have read more than I should have into your post, Otto. Forgive me if I did. It’s been a long day and I may be rambling here. Peace.

    1. I think what you touch upon is a continuation of the discussion I have started. What you say only goes to show that the only thing we can trust – as artists – are ourselves and out creative spur. Whether we will become rich or not is in the hands of people who value fame or anything else but the actually creative result.

  18. yes,you are wright,may be we all “can do”” …but some of us are doing things,arts,words..better ..deeper…or special…than the others…!!
    what I realise now is that janis joplin sang so special, because of her special drugged soul, that freddie mercury sang so special because of his special homosexuality, that van gogh painted so special because of his …wonderfull madness !! so…everyone can do but, not everyone can be “SPECIAL””!!

    1. I think I will have to disagree with you. 🙂 We are all special – not like Mercury or Joplin – but we are all unique individuals, and if we are able to put that into our art, we will also be able to create something very unique.

  19. I just love playing with cameras and software programmes, don’t much care if people like my efforts or not but it’s always nice when they do, I’m good enough for me 🙂

  20. I think it is best to do my art for myself -and then share it with others. In the end it is all interconnected. Whether the results are “good ” or “bad” I need to keep creating to keep myself open.

  21. ” Art is about whatever uplifts your soul.” Wonderfully said and something I need to keep reminding myself of lately. Thank you so much for this very uplifting post, so very needed at the moment as I’ve been doubting myself a lot lately. I feel better now. 🙂

  22. An excellent post Otto. We can so easily get hung up on the idea of being popular, having our work thought well of and being successful. It’s so much more fun and liberating just to go out and shoot for one’s own pleasure and ignore what everyone else thinks. I came across a great quote by Julian Schnabel the other day: “One of the great things about getting old is the kind of freedom you have as a painter”. Amen to that! The freedom to be ourselves as artists is the way to true enjoyment.

    1. I think there is something very true in Schnabel’s quote. I notice in myself that as I get older, I care less what others think of me as an artist. I just enjoy creating. Thank you for adding another point to the discussion, Andy.

  23. Good point Otto! A gentle soul who understands the ebb and flow of creativity knows how to encourage and simply be a friend to the artist, encouraging him to be more confident in his own beliefs about his work. I believe that enjoying the process, continuously, gives the artist more self-confidence.

    1. That is exactly my point. Instead of letting others dictate how you work creatively, just enjoy the process – and grow your self-confidence. Thank you for making the point, Mary.

  24. Hello Otto,
    I’m so glad I popped round today. Your posts always inspire me. A sincere thank you!

    I’m going to print Eleanor Roosevelt’s:
    «Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.»
    on my forehead.
    Hope you’re well.
    xo rosie

  25. I love the continuation of your previous post about talent. When I was struggling to write something and got frustrated and complained to my father about not being like Steven Spielberg and creating a masterpiece like Star Wars. My father, a wise man said, “you’re comparing your first draft to his final draft. Of course they’re not the same. If you really want to compare your work to his, and I recommend you follow your own path, compare your first draft to his, not his masterpiece.” Believe me, this advice has stuck in my head each and every time I try to create anything, it’s just my first, second or third draft, not my masterpiece. Wonderful discussion.

  26. Have you seen the movie “Flashdance”? I suspect you have, but here’s a very brief synopsis. A talented woman who wants to be a dancer supports herself as a welder and as an entertainer in a “gentlemen’s club” while she tries for her big break. Everything you speak of here is in the scene where she dances for her chance to “make it” — fear, judgment, anxiety, self-denigration.. In the beginning of the scene, when she falls, she easily could have walked out the door, but she didn’t.

    It’s a video I watch frequently. I think you’ll enjoy seeing it, or seeing it again. It makes all of your points in a different way. The Final Dance

  27. I had to smile at the two references, Janis Joplin and Eleanor Roosevelt. I admire them both, for very different reasons, of course, but one of the reasons they are so memorable is that they weren’t mired in convention. I really love the statement “art is what uplifts the soul.” That’s so true, and remembering that is completely uplifting! Beautifully said, Otto!

    1. Neither Joplin nor Roosevelt we mired in convention – as you rightly points out. And I think that is an important point. We should dare to go our own way and not look to convention as much as we tend to do. Thank you for sharing this thought, Debra.

  28. “We all have the potential to create art and to be extra-ordinary.”

    Once again, you and I are on the same wavelength. I’ve been saying this for years. Creative expression is intrinsic to the human condition. We’ve been expressing our thoughts this way since painting cattle and wild animals on the walls of caves, although we had not yet developed any form of spoken language.

    For many, artistic expression seems to only be in the realm of the gifted because too many of us have become so convinced that the arts are things to be relegated to mere hobbies, if taken seriously at all.

    1. A very good point, my friend. Yes, creative expression is indeed intrinsic to the human condition. We just need to get out of the cupboard and start creating! Thank you for elaborating on discussion. Allan.

  29. Återigen, underbart skrivet Otto, dina ord gör verkligen gott. Experimenterandet och utforskandet är för mig det som ger energi, om någon gillar det jag gör så blir jag så klart glad och får energi till nya experiment men det är inte ett tillstånd jag strävar efter att bli kvar i.
    Bästa Hälsningar

    1. Det er alltid gøy å eksperimentere og utforske – hvis en bare åpner døren for det. Og, javisst, blir vi glade for hyggelig tilbakemelding, men vi kan ikke gjøre oss avhengig av det. Takk for enda en oppmuntrende kommentar, Monica.

  30. I know I can be creative, I just have difficulties believing I can be extraordinary but I’ll try ! 🙂
    I wouldn’t be discouraged by bad critics, I’d be shaken but it wouldn’t reach so deep in me that
    I’d questioned if I should stop my art But on social media and photos sharing sites, when I don’t get a good feedback I tend to question my photography so I guess I have to work on that. But, like you said, we create with our heart and it’s about what uplifts our soul, and that’s the most important, not other people’s recognition or opinion.

    1. What you right at the end, I think is the essence. But yes, there are many ways we get affected by others’ opinion whether it’s critique, likes or lack of likes. Thank you for your comment, Jocelyne.

  31. Great post, Otto. I think it is very important for people to realize that we are all artists, in our own way, and if people become afraid to participate art will suffer from over inflated fools masquerading as “geniuses”.

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