The Dreaded U!

I get asked to do commissions quite a lot. I find this extremely flattering – the fact that people like my artwork enough to ask me to do a customised piece. 
However, there is also the flip side – what if they don’t like the finished piece?? What if I can’t get it done on time?? 
I put a lot of pressure on myself and this then can have a knock-on effect meaning that when I sit down to do the final artwork I’m often too wound up to do anything that I am pleased with and ultimately don’t enjoy the process.


I was recently reading an article by artist Lisa Congdon and the following text really resonated with me……

My painting teacher used to talk about the “painting curve,” a line that looks like the letter U. He said that when you begin a painting (or another form of art), you are at the top of the U. Things look clean and wonderful in the beginning. But as you develop a piece of work, it often gets messier; that is the bottom of the painting curve. He insisted that working through the bottom of the painting curve—the point at which we think our work looks horrible or awkward—is critical to making good work. Working through the complexities of a piece to the point where it looks and feels wonderful again—rising back up to the top of the U—helps develop your technique as well as your unique voice.

You can read more in Lisa’s book Art Inc.
I have experienced first handed the dreaded ‘U’!

I am always initially excited at the prospect of starting a new piece of artwork, maybe doing a few preliminary sketches to get going. Then I move onto the main piece – excitement turns to fear – this eeds to be good!! I start working, I don’t like it. Lots of questions – do I keep going, do I start again – arrghhh!! Then I generally do the ostrich manoeuvre (head in the sand, avoiding the artwork), until I go back and face it again, get working again, make some decisions, start to like it again, start to enjoy creating. And then it’s done and I’m pleased with it and so is the client!

And I look back and wonder what I was so worried about. It’s quite an emotional journey!

Essentially what Lisa and her teacher are saying is that you have to push through difficulty when creating. I often used to question myself – am I really any good if I sometimes find creating incredibly difficult? After reading the above article I realise that it’s something that all artists go through. It’s inevitable and such a useful process in order to help you develop and grow, if not always pleasant at the time!

Now when starting out on a commission I don’t dread the ‘U’ as I know it will probably happen. I embrace it, I factor it into my time.

I now realise what a valuable process it is and I look forward to all the future challenging commissions that will help me to keep developing as an artist and find my unique voice!

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