Watercolor by Lynne Hurd Bryant
This is a blog originally posted to my website in February of 2010. It resonates with many artists and continues to be read frequently.
A fellow artist on Facebook inspired this blog. He had a dark night of the soul recently. He gathered all of his work together and decided to burn the lot of them. He didn't actually complete this task, but he was exasperated by his artistic career. I assured him that he is not alone, we have all been there. I am there nearly weekly.
The dark night of the soul is inevitable, at some point, in our artistic lives. It is born of frustration, the inability to do the sort of work we want to do and not being the artists we want to be. Primarily, I believe, it is profound self-doubt. Self-doubt is not a bad thing.
I am a converted Catholic of nearly three decades. There is one particular idea that was presented to me during instruction and it is this: If you never doubt God, your faith will never grow. I turn this around: If you never doubt yourself, you will never grow. This is something I have thought about repeatedly as I have tried to paint again over the past several months.
We have to understand the dynamics of self-doubt and the origin of these feelings. The only way to combat them is belief in one's abilities...to embrace the artist within, not the one who is without in another body doing work we envy. This is a lot easier said than done.
I paint florals because they are my best work, not necessarily where my heart is. Is continuing to paint florals embracing the artist I am, or prostituting my talents? As I have been painting florals since 1977, there is now self-doubt as to whether I am capable of anything else. Will my envy of the landscapes and portraits of others take me back to a point when I refuse to paint? Is there a dark night of my artistic soul in the future, when a pile of flower paintings will be tossed into the fire? Will I burn my dreams and ambitions?