I remember the first time I encountered a bad food. I must have been about seven and went to a new friend’s house for tea. When our plates were put down I honestly thought that her mum was joking. I sat there wondering why nobody was laughing and when the real food was coming. All my life my mum had fed me beautifully cooked meals that I took so for granted that it never occurred to me that somebody could actually do that to a plate of food and still call it edible…
I think we artists often treat our skills and work with the same lack of appreciation that I gave to my lovely mum’s fabulous food. I’m sure there are hair-tossing superstars out there who are only too aware of their own genius, but most of us are all too ready to beat ourselves up about the details while missing the fact that we’re doing a really good job overall.
A friend of mine asked me last weekend if I ever gave myself a pat on the back for my printmaking skills. I was genuinely floored by this and asked her if she ever told herself she was great at creating indigo textiles. Stupid question: of course we don’t; we’re too busy worrying over little technical hitches and glitches for that. This was also brought home to me by looking at some of Ian Philips’ lino prints with him. I love Ian’s work: it’s fluid and beautiful and a joy to see. He on the other hand was busily telling me that it wasn’t quite right and there was a slight registration error etc, etc. Now I should have seen all that, for sure I would have seen it had the print been mine, but I didn’t. Not a thing. I was just blown away by the image and I’m an experienced printmaker working in lino. If I didn’t see the problems, who else will?
So perhaps it’s time to give myself a break. I’ve just finished putting my exhibition up for my Open Studios over the next three weeks. I’ve worried and bothered and dusted and persuaded the big spiders to move under the plan chest for a while. I’ve dithered endlessly over which prints to show and which not. In the midst of all this angst perhaps I should also find time to remember that I’m being visited by members of the art loving public, friends and family and that they are not the printing Gestapo and will never see the prints with my hyper critical eye.
It’s good to have high standards and I do pride myself on trying to do my best, but perhaps I should stop looking at the trees and enjoy the wood for a bit. I’d advise anyone else in the same boat to try it – perhaps we’ll even relax enough to cut ourselves some slack!