As much as I do fixate on proportion and accuracy when I draw, fluidity when I write, and complexity and ambiguity when endeavoring to complete other artistic projects, my work’s apparent quality and the technique involved is rarely the source of my frustration as a creative individual. In fact, the creative individual is the part that troubles me. My fear of failure has, indeed, proved to be a hindrance to my process, but it is my tendency to assess my integrity that has contributed to indecision and stagnation.
It only occurred to me this month why I was reluctant to pursue an undergraduate degree in fine arts. I have an issue with identity. Of the three Enneagram personality types that my online assessment suggested, I am beginning to identify most with the Individualist. I value individuality and introspection, and I think that both require a certain honesty with ourselves and with others. According to the Enneagram website, the Individualist’s basic desire is to “find themselves and their significance (create an identity).” In doing this, I am in constant search of what is genuine and real. My sense of self transforms quite rapidly. I have, in the past, made conscientious decisions to alter my personality, and have been successful. Doing so has exacerbated my frustration and confusion. I am compelled to question if I have gotten any closer to solidifying my identity or if I have somehow digressed. My quest for authenticity led me into a very deep hole last year that I am only now climbing out of. I grew terrified that I was beginning to define myself as a visual artist in the same way that I built my identity around ballet throughout my childhood. Though I was not really concerned that I was repeating the mistakes of my past. As a junior, I feared I was undeserving of the label. I became hyperaware of an internal sensation I decided was passion and ultimately, after months of deliberation, concluded that my passion for visual arts was not as strong as I had thought it was. I was, thereby, an imposter. I deduced that I had simply assumed a label in an attempt to build an identity; an identity that I came to reject for its lack of authenticity and integrity.
Finally, in January of my senior year, I arrived at a new conclusion. I have made it my goal to embrace the present and have found that in order to do this, I basically need to work with what I’ve got. And what I’ve got is art. I have considered various careers in hopes of declaring a major related to one of these paths and miraculously stumbling upon a fervent, internal bonfire, bursting with enthusiasm for production possibility curves or our nation’s Constitution. I do not think the absurdity of this expectation requires further explanation.
So this is where I am now, but I do not want to be misleading. I am the Individualist and the battle of identity and authenticity is one that I will forever fight. My understanding of creativity has caused me to consider my integrity yet again. Creativity perplexes me and my confusion seemed to culminate during improv in STAC on Tuesday. Throughout class, there were many instances where students would pose before me and my brain would instantly provide context. There were also times when it would not. I have been informed, on many occasions, that in reality, the seeming absence of ideas is the result of a rejection of ideas that I have identified as “bad.” I have certainly experienced this in the past and have recognized it as such, though there have been instances where it seems as though I have skipped this process entirely. Is it possible for me to have suppressed these “bad” ideas subconsciously? How can we truly know that this occurrence is unanimous when we only exist within our own minds?
I then consider the process that typically follows the instantaneous blurting of ideas. After being an art student for a few years, I have gathered that the artist may at this point endeavor to execute a concept. He or she would engage in a conversation with the work and would probably make spontaneous alterations, allowing the artist to find his/her narrative from within preexisting strokes, words, etc.
In an interview with David Sylvester, artist Francis Bacon revealed that much of his creative process is accidental. I remember one of my instructors at NYSSSA two years ago declaring that he did not believe in “happy accidents” because they can not be repeated. He asserted that he did not see the value in arriving at an unexpected, but favorable mistake if one has no idea how he got there, and therefore, could not deliberately arrive at the same product ever again. I can definitely see where my instructor was coming from, though I am not sure that I agree with him. To me, his declaration seems to be indicative of a power struggle and a desire for control. It also strikes me as coming from someone who is in denial and is living in constant fear–fear that one’s greatest success is behind him. Someone with this perception likely views their creativity as entirely internal. Something that is possessed and is imposed.
The idea of happy accidents used to terrify me immensely. I was convinced that only a select few of us were lucky enough to have these serendipitous discoveries appear in our work. My artistic identity was once again compromised because I was certain that I lacked this gift. I have recently questioned, though, whether it is a gift at all. I think this is where my instructor and I may have been wrong. “Happy mistakes” are not luck. For many of us, they can go unnoticed. It takes a certain individual to recognize an inconsistency and find potential in it. They must then strategize and decide which elements of the mistake they will preserve.
Ultimately, I have encountered two blocks in my process and my artistic endeavors that I may have resolved. I spent quite some time invalidating an identity that is likely nearest to my truth because I feared that
a.) my passion was not comparable to that of my contemporaries
b.) creativity and happy accidents were gifts that had not been granted to me
Creativity is not a gift. It is not miraculous. My process will develop. Passion is relative. Work with what you do have instead of dwelling on what may one day come.