Thursday, June 11, 2009

artistic ego

artistic ego

I think that the single most detrimental barrier in becoming a better artist is the brick wall facade of ego.
Most artists are raised in an environment surrounded by accolades- at an early age, being praised for their artistic talents.
Positive reinforcement from your peers, especially at a young age, can lead to the misconstrued belief in ones own genius.
Years of being 'the best in class' and winning chunks of brass trophies may definitely stroke the 'masters' subconscious.
It's a high hurdle to jump, but it's possible with the leap of critical faith. Sincerity, honesty, self criticism and a big ole piece of humble pie are a perfect starting point. Understand first that you're actually not that good at what you do and you'll never be as near as good as the greats- and you're ready for the life long journey as a student of your chosen craft.
If you step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to acknowledge your weaknesses, are completely critical of your shortcomings, and sincerely internalize your habits (good and bad), you will be amazed by the progression waiting ahead of you. Critically analyze how close your work reveals it's influence, however narrow or broad, and consistently add new influences into the mix. Fear of change or, even worse, external judgement from fans of your art, will destroy any hopes of real progress. Authenticity comes from fearlessness. Take the leap.


Blogger Jesse Smith said...

Inspiring Words:)

9:56 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Aller said...

Amen to that!

2:41 PM  
Blogger ladolceveta said...

quite wise, true, and much on my mind of late too, thanks to the tangential musings on the topic of "genius" in this TED talk:

hope you (and your genius) are even better than the world reports.


7:38 PM  
Blogger Adam Paquette said...

fearlessness - definately becoming a 'cure-all' in my toolbelt. I find that almost EVERY problem I encounter, deconstructed, always roots in fear. And it is such an easy thing to surmount, when you name it for what it is, and look it in the eye, it just dissolves like mist.

I was taught a lesson in ego recently (it always gets the better of me!). I was on stage (off to a bad start!) for a live painting competition. As the only 'painter' amongst the competitors, who were mainly designers, i thought I had it in the bag. Ego was licking my balls already, and I didn't catch it.

The universe in its usual smart-arsed way, let me progress all the way to the final round replete with cheering from the audience and a general swelling of my head. It all came down to the final round, neck and neck with 3 others, and the unthinkable happened - photoshop crash!

Instantly my ego reared up - THIS CANT HAPPEN! I was handicapped, etc etc. The time was up, the round was over, I sat back and amid all the (americanised) intensity on stage, something went quiet in me. I barely even noticed the announcement of the winner - who was the guy sitting next to me. He was genuinely amazed. His eyes lit up. He had NO idea it was coming. And I thought i 'had it in the bag'. For a second the dust settled in my mind and a wash of ease came over me, and all I could feel was genuine happiness for HIM, that HE was off to the finals in new york, that he was up in lights, I was just genuinely happy for him.

I felt so stupid for being so full of myself, so overconfident, so stuck in my ways. Incidentally it was the same day as the Buddha's birth, death and enlightenment and I was told int he morning that it was a day where the things I learned would be multiplied. I came out of that venue so happy - and what I learned will stay with me the rest of my life.

That night I feel like I came to the very bitter end of a 23 year habit of self deception, of wanting to be number one but outwardly acting humble. It was the burning out of the cigarette of my single child syndrome, the end of my selfish, walled up defensive nature. But it wasnt recessive - the contrary. It taught me to absolutely, completely whole heartedly embrace my skills, my successes, to be proud of what I did, to love it, to strive, to go at it with my all - but it took out the 'spin' of ego that externalised my success and made it about prizes, accolades and heirarchies. it seems to always be ironic like that - by being MORE self-centred, you actually become LESS selfish. Now that I have started to paint purely for myself - because I want to, I enjoy it, and not because I'm getting recognition for it, it has actually opened me up in a massive way to freedom and honesty with my own work.

It was a huge experience for me, internally, that probably noone had any idea of from the outside - but I felt like sharing it here.
Thanks for this cool post Sean, and I'll try to remember it each time I'm in the studio, or on stage ;)

9:23 PM  
Blogger Megan Wolfe said...

Great post, and very true. :D

10:34 PM  
Anonymous ivor scott said...

very true, an ego is something a successful artist must maintain or it may blind you, like Kanye West. :D did you know he paints!? ugly, but you can't tell him nothing.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mr Benn said...


8:59 PM  
Anonymous Lionel said...

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

-Max Ehrmann

8:17 AM  
Blogger Daniel Fishel said...

true that.

7:32 PM  
Blogger James said...

Well said and very VERY true.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

agreed, once you get comfortable with your work it starts to die, great to see you this May!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Who is the REAL Heathir anyway? said...

Beautifully said.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Nightmares Rider said...

Hi there dear,
No one ever teaches me how to draw that's why I'm strugling. I'm working now on big projects of my own paintings & I'll post it in my blog. If you want to drop by & comment on my sketches please feel free. I loved your kat von D painting it's a fine peice of art.
Here's my blog link:

4:29 AM  
Blogger C.G.C said...

i love your work ...your paintings..Absolutely beautiful, also I do paint, study art here in chili, regards from this distant point of the world bye sorry my stupid english.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Xela Purple said...

I think it’s a major misconception that artists have big egos. Most are unsure of themselves and their work...
...but then again maybe you need a bit of an ego to become successful (eg Damien Hirst?)

9:28 AM  
Blogger DoThat said...


9:59 AM  
Anonymous Inferno said...

Awesome post. So many artists have huge ego problems and they for sure start at a young age.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great words of wisdom! I have tried to instill such thoughts and actions to my painting students. Hope you don't mine me passing your words of artistic persistency to them!

7:34 PM  
Blogger Fiona Wilson Art said...

I agree totally with this. I have seen my style and content of my painting change gradually over the years, moulded by the tastes of galleries, the clients and for competitions so that I have become a shadow or what I aspire to be.
I long to find the strength you have in creating something that I love rather than following the crowd.

1:54 AM  
Blogger benjamin clarke said...

Thank you.

2:48 PM  

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