11 February, 2012

Fear of mediocrity

I wonder if it's better to never really try at anything at all, than to go all in on something, and never be great at it.

In my newly found strategy of completing old blog entries that were sitting in "draft" mode, I come across this entry. There was nothing but the title, and the first characters above that you see in red. So, I am left to pick up where the story left off, little story that there was, and take it in a direction that means something to me now.

Truth be told, I do not even know what I was talking about. I do not know if I had been discussing music, or if I was just in a phase of self-deprecation, where everything seemed bleak and pointless.

But how is this true today?

I can say for sure that it is not better to never really try at anything. But I do experience fear about trying and being mediocre. That's something that is incredibly important to me. I want to be good at everything I do, which means that I either have to work really hard, or choose really carefully.

Lately, I started exploring "art." I have never thought of myself as an "artist." In fact, even when I look back at the things that I did as a child, I have to say that there is little evidence of a budding creative genius. I could start telling you about how maybe it's because my mother never let me play with the Play-Doh because it would make a mess, but that is probably best left for a different blog entry.

The art interest started when I dated Denise, her being an artist and all. I had always known what I liked when I saw it, and had fairly strong preferences in particular directions. I was not what you'd call an art appreciator, but I definitely enjoyed Art Walk when someone would invite me to attend one. Dating an artist, I became attached to a collection and a style, and took an interest in what was involved in creating these works. I appreciated not just the work itself, but the fact that a person could have a vision in their mind, and then just set out and CREATE something. Seeing Denise walk up and down the aisles of an art store, sometimes briskly, sometimes in a pensive meandering way, I could tell that she already had an idea in her mind of what something was going to be, and it was just a question of finding the ingredients; almost like cooking. During our relationship, I had the luxury of having all of her "art overstock" hung on the walls of my place. The walls would have been barren, since I owned not a single piece of art, but instead they were filled with at least a dozen, maybe more, paintings of hers. It made my place look like someone lived here. Of course, after we split, most of the art went back to her, except for the few pieces that had been gifted to me.

But I think that planted the seed in my head about liking art.

Then, in the past couple of years, I finally decided "I am going to buy art." I am not sure what triggered it. I was in a new relationship, with Melissa, and we had gone somewhere that there was art, either to a cafe with things hanging, or a gallery, and I saw something that I really liked. Actually, it might have been that she was buying a gift for a friend of hers, and she wanted to get a small painting. Seeing that she was buying art made me think "Well, maybe I should too." There has always been this feeling that, if I have no art, then the first thing I buy somehow says everything about me. And it felt like that was a lot to say about myself, and I never bought anything. But on this particular day, in this particular mood, I decided it didn't matter if these were the first things I had ever bought. I am now not even sure I'm correctly remembering this, but I believe the first pieces I bought were tiny landscapes by Jennifer Phillips. They looked a lot like what's on this page. I saw them, and I could afford them (truth is, I could afford most art that I see, but these were only $60 or so, and it felt "safe" to dip my feet in the arty waters with a small purchase rather than a big one). And most of all, I liked them. I felt comfortable with the idea that, even if someone might think I'm defining myself, that these are pieces that defined me.

And that broke the ice. I have purchased a fair amount of art since then. Some of my favorite local artists, whose work I own, include Deborah Stachowic, Jacqui Beck, and Kelly Rae Cunningham. While there are several different styles and media among the pieces I own, I have a bit of an inclination toward encaustic. I didn't mean to buy like ten pieces of encaustic, but it just happened. I'm attracted to the texture of it, and the bright colors, and the crispness of the lines that the colors create.

So... all that brings us to the original topic, which was fear of mediocrity. I decided that I'd like to learn to do some art (this long story will become rather short at this point). A couple of months ago, I took a mosaics class with Melissa and her coworkers. I felt like the piece that I made was nothing special. I felt like it could have been done by a third grader. I felt like anything anyone said about it that was positive was probably just some platitude to make me feel good about myself. But, after letting it be for a while, I decided that maybe it wasn't that bad after all.

So, now I am taking an encaustic class (actually, with Deborah Stachowic). I've had the opportunity to make a few pieces during a 4-week class. Again, I don't really know if what I'm doing is mediocre, good, great, or what. I will post those pieces when I get them back. I learned some things, and I know some of the mistakes I made. I had some struggles, which I wrote about in my other blog. But I also had the experience of coming in with an idea, and having it become something completely different, and better. I took something that was originally going to be closer to imitation, and transformed into creation. I guess I feel good about that.

I do fear mediocrity. But I also realize that sitting around and doing nothing because I don't want to fail would be a miserable way to live.

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