Doubt and art

July 17, 2006  in  Art as a profession       Related posts:  

I read the most troubling statement on an online forum today. The question was posed “How do you know you are an artist?”, to which one person responded:

If you wonder if you are an artist, then you must not be one.

What a misleading and arrogant statement. But unfortunately, a popular one. Many people believe that this is true. Many people in the art world make this claim, probably in a misguided attempt to elevate their craft to the realm of a “religious calling”. But it is wrong. Completely wrong. Doubt is a contant, and even necessary, component of creation and art. If having doubt precludes someone from being an artist, then most of the world’s art would never have been created.

Doubt is a lifelong companion of the artist. Doubt is the voice of your internal critic, that questions you, and drives you, and if it doesn’t kill you (to paraphrase Nietzche) makes you stronger. Doubt is the recognition that you are mucking about with forces that are much bigger than yourself, and therefore a little humility is in order. If you don’t feel some doubt about your ability to harness and shape the creative forces you are working with, then you are probably not doing anything worth creating. The more you feel that things are out of your control, and the stronger the urge is to quit, the more you know you are onto something…. big.

An artist who is without doubt is an artist who is in danger of becoming arrogant. And creativity fueled by arrogance is as dry as dust.