3.26.12 – The Lonely Work

Now that the fanfare has died, the transformation from the noise and chatter of technology is slowly morphing into introspection and solitude. I knew it would be a big change, but living it is something different entirely. I found that the expectations of myself, and what I perceive in others, has changed overnight- and what used to be, “Awesome, that girl can paint, even though she works at a “real” 9-5 place like Google” has become, “What? She left her job for THIS?” All of a sudden, what was great isn’t good enough.

I received an email from an insightful friend recently (let’s call her Maria Rokas, haha) who has witnessed my work firsthand for the past year or so. She is an incredibly talented writer and playwright, who often jokes that Tina Fey “has her career.” Knowing her, I believe it, and I recognize that a lot of success in a creative’s life has more to do with luck than talent. In any case, here’s what she said to me (I’m paraphrasing a bit)… and it stuck:

“This is lonely work… you need to sit still and overcome the blackness of loneliness and uncertainty.”

Although I’ve always known this, and have been fearful of it…no one has ever said that to me. I’ve also always known that I am a deeply social person, with tons of incredible friends and I feel immense gratitude for it, but some things you can only do for yourself. Scary things like being honest with yourself, admitting that 1. yes, its OK to think you’re talented, 2. things come easily to you, and 3. its time to tune out the noise and listen to your own, critical self.

It’s been easy to avoid myself. I’ve been my own worst critic, and I’m also critical of others who dwell on their own emotions with no regard to others. Maybe it’s the Buddhist upbringing, my grandma has always instilled a virtue in others while discouraging the self “Ego.” But what is an artist but an EGO? I mean this not in a superficial, “Oh, Artists are selfish, emotional loonies” but an objective truth that Artists perhaps spend the most time reflecting upon themselves and expressing their own voice to the world around them.  Unless you’re just an artist who is happy with painting pretty still life fruits and flowers. Even then, you’re imposing your own subjective view onto your work. But, I digress.

Today, I posted another painting on Facebook. Check it out here: http://cindyshih.posterous.com/32612-reflection I do this consistently, maybe due to a misguided, narcissist notion that people care what I’m doing, but mainly because I want to understand what people like, and I want to overcome my fear of showing my work to others. It’s an interesting thing- wanting approval from others, and an affirmation of talent. Sometimes it’s like a crutch, when I’m feeling especially vulnerable and dubious of my own talent, and other times- I feel like it’s my way of getting my work out to the world instead of letting the progress I’m making get buried under my futon mattress of obscurity. 🙂

Today, however, I hesitated for a long time before posting this painting on Facebook. I felt like this one was important. I had so much to say about this piece, so much to convey, and I wanted to share it- but was afraid of being seen as a 30-year old, Emo, teenage angsty, wannabe artist who posts flighty, self-proclaiming profoundness. (see the self criticism? Toxic!) It’s easy to roll your eyes and be critical, but have you ever tried to convey your own emotions? It’s not easy. Actually, it’s really fucking hard. And maybe Facebook isn’t the best venue for it. In any case, it’s my message of choice at the moment, so deal with it.

Anyway, I’m both ashamed and proud of the work I’m doing, and I promise I have a long way to go. I’m nowhere NEAR where I want to be as an artist. But, I feel like I’ve proven to myself and people around me that I do, in fact, have talent. But that’s like congratulating yourself for being tall, and having eyes on your head. What I do with it, and if I have lasting power is what time will tell. Stay tuned for that.

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4 Comments on “3.26.12 – The Lonely Work”

  1. doing something unconventional – including leaving a nice 9-5 job to pursue it – is rarely straightforward and easy. i think it’s great you’re doing it, and i think most people admire it even if they prefer not to pursue something less conventional themselves.. something to keep in mind! as far as the emo and angst is concerned, most people don’t have talent like that. you’re posting pretty amazing stuff that i think people can relate to, and at the very least can (again) admire. i understand why you might doubt yourself at times, but keep it up!

  2. Rick says:

    Props to fighting the good, hard fight and going after your dreams. I think being an artist is all about being able to hold dualities (or multiplicities) in your head at the same time. You need to be confident and happy with your work, but also always strive to improve. You have to always put your work out there for people to see, but not get cocky about it. You need to constantly be introspective, yet also learn to just take things as they come.

    Regardless, I think you need to just keep painting and painting and painting, as I’m confident that with the mileage you’ll become more and more comfortable with being an angsty, emo artist and while I do think that most artists generally aren’t 100% happy with their work (or at least the successful ones aren’t), you learn to live with it, and use that desire to improve as fuel to keep going.

    Keep on keeping on, Cindy! Huzzah!

  3. […] “Congratulating yourself for talent is like congratulating yourself for being tall, or having … […]

  4. […] I jumped off the deep-end of the grid. It helps to re-read what I wrote a few years back, about the Lonely Work. And that it is–it’s a constant push and pull of isolation and being on display, ups and […]


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