I am asked a lot about themes in my work and one of my themes is faces and masks. I use both words interchangeably since your face can be a mask and a mask can become your face.
The first thing we see when we meet each other is a face. How that face is presented to us depends on how the person is feeling. You may see a happy face, a sad face or an angry face etc. Most people put their best face forward. If they are having unpleasant feelings, they’ll put the mask on, the face that is just a presentation to the world, so the face becomes a mask, and the mask, their face.
It’s a survival mechanism that we all use. We don’t necessarily want everyone in the world to know how we are feeling. Sometimes we don’t even want people close to us to know.
But how effective is it to wear the mask. Sometimes it is very effective, and feelings are well disguised. Sometimes not so much and the true feelings come piercing through the armour – a momentary flash of weakness or just a vibe that something is not quite right.
Coping with the Holes in My Head, 2014
It is a literal and figurative thing. We wear our faces as masks to hide our true feelings. We wear masks to hide our true selves like at Halloween and costume parties. I often wonder what is going on behind the exterior presented. Are people dealing with “Holes in their Heads” or feeling “Off-kiltered?”
All this is of interest to me. Mostly we are chameleons, changing to suit our environment. Like the lizards I grew up with that can camouflage to the colours of trees. I am not sure why, but I am always interested in the internal workings of my fellow humans.
Everybody experiences self doubt about one thing or another at some point in their lives. For creative people, self doubt is always lurking around somewhere, waiting to pounce at a moment’s weakness.
As artists, we ask ourselves, is our work good enough, will people like it, do our work represent our best selves, is our work improving? These are not necessarily bad questions. We need to take stock ever so often. However, if we allow these questions to seep into our souls and undermine our progress or actions, and cripple us, then self doubt is taking over.
What I along with other artists need to remember is that art is subjective. As good as the work may be, not everyone is going to like or appreciate it. Also, we are all worthy, so we just need to step into who we are and stop doubting ourselves. No one is worthier than you.
Do not change what you do because a certain kind of art is selling. Your art is worthy and needs to be seen. Be true to you. Know that self doubt is natural especially in a creative environment where there will be varying views on what you do.
We should not allow doubt to conquer us. We should be the conquerors of doubt. How do we do this? We replace all negative thoughts with positive ones. We call upon past successes to remind ourselves that we are stars or at the very least, we have accomplished some good things. We should remember that our talents are divine gifts. It’s our right and responsibility to bring what we have to the world. In an uncertain world, the one person you want to be sure of is yourself.
There are times when I receive an opportunity that is so good that I cannot pass it up. However, this opportunity may be on a tight deadline. There are a few things I do to help myself in this situation.
Firstly, I choose a theme that I build my works around. Building a theme for an art show is like writing a story. Each work is like a paragraph that expands and fleshes out the topic. Having a theme gives me focus – a train of thought that zeroes in on a very specific path.
Know the size of the space. This will determine the number of pieces and sizes of works I’ll create. I’ll also go to see the space if I can.
Stay focused. It’s easy to get off track so I stay on course especially with the theme. I eliminate distractions and temptations that will take me away from my work. Just surfing the internet is a big distraction.
I make a list of each work that I have completed so I can see my progress and check what I have done against my target dates. This will let me know how much harder or faster I need to work. This list helps keep me motivated.
Breaks are my best friends. I take lots of them to rejuvenate myself physically and mentally.
The audience is very important, so I am mindful of their needs. I wouldn’t take my paintings to a show where they were expecting pop art. Another way to be mindful of the audience is to know my pieces so that I can have great discussions with viewers at the opening of the show.
At the end of the creation process, I take stock. Is the theme together and well thought out? Do I have enough pieces? Do I know the pieces? Am I ready?
What are some of the things that you do to meet deadlines and stay focused?
Being an artist is literally a hands on job. Using my hands to create something useful and valuable is one of the best things ever. The creative process of placing my hands on the work has taught me a few things.
It has taught me about my own power and limitlessness. If I can take a blank canvas and turn it into a product of value, then I have a certain kind of power. This reminds me that my only limit is myself. My hands are tools that engages my mind to my vast potential. The possibilities are endless.
The mastery of anything comes with practice. The repetitive motion of my hands connects with my brain and brings a synergy that nothing else can. There is power in action; in sitting down and getting the work done time and time again. After doing this for a while the process becomes intuitive. My hands know what to do; my brain tells me where to go.
Working with my hands have also taught me patience. Practice has taught me not to rush the process; to enjoy it step by step. I have waited for paint to dry, for colours to take root, and for my mind to distill an idea. Practice and patience go hand in hand and both assist in mastery.
I become close to my projects. I have touched them; and they have touched me. It is impossible to create art without becoming affected by what you are creating. In the final analysis, my work and I will be touching and connecting with someone else as well. At least, that is what I hope for.
I usually explain my artworks to interested people by telling them my thoughts and intentions when I was creating the pieces. I tend not to definitively state that this is what it is because I want room for other views. My works for the most part have been described as contemplative and interpretive. In light of this, the work is really left up to the viewer’s interpretation and that is how I like it.