I have been sick for 2 weeks now, and even though the worst of it is over, I still have not fully recovered. In that stretch of time being feverish & bedridden I watched an enormous amount of NetFlix & Hulu Plus. This gave me a chance to catch-up on NBC’s dramedy Parenthood, my latest guilty pleasure. The two characters that keep me captivated are Sarah (Lauren Graham) & Amber Holt (played by the amazing Mae Whitman), and while I love all the characters (a shout-out to other dynamic mother-daughter duo Christina & Haddie Braverman), I hold a special place for Amber. I really identify with her, everything from her rebellious streak to her artistic sensitivity and teenage maturity. In Season 3, she cut & dyed her hair (causing mainstream America to have a Felicity-type reaction), but I think her new hairdo is kick-ass and brave just like her. Mae Whitman does an amazing job of capturing the many emotional dimensions of this character, and I can only hope that TV-land will have more teenagers like her in the future. For now though, I wanted to kick-start my own new series Inside the Portrait Studio with a portrait of Amber Holt…which simultaneously kick-started the creative anxiety I’ve been carrying around with me.
I have no problem working on illustrations for clients, no matter how high-profile the job, but when it comes to sitting myself down to work on art purely for myself, the anxious frustration roars like a lion. I spent two full days drawing & painting (then re-drawing & re-painting) different portraits until I was at least semi-pleased. I tried so many approaches with Amber and ended up feeling the most happy with the pen & ink (first illustration above), even though I had originally wanted a more painterly portrait.
Somewhere in the middle of trying to capture the awesomeness of Amber, I decided to take a break and dug into my inspirations folder for someone I had less attachment to. I thought this might ease the frustration and help quicken the process. Not the case.
Although this time I was not seeking to copy her face, I still struggled with how I wanted the final product to look. I repainted her face so many times that by the end of it I was most happy with 80% of the paint scraped off of her, leaving a more soft & subtle feel than I had originally started with. Now she reminds me a bit of Lizzie Caplan from Party Down. Too much TV? Maybe. But at least being sick ignited some artistic inspiration.
The truth is, I spend so much of my creative time catering to others, be it illustration, graphic design or pre-press production, that two days working through my own art hardly seems like a great defeat. I need to be less hard on myself and give more room for art-play. How good can we be to our clients if we don’t spend some personal time growing & exploring?
So I’m off to read a book that I ordered awhile ago and has been collecting quite a bit of metaphoric dust: Mastering Creative Anxiety (Eric Maisel, PhD). “This ‘creative anxiety’ can take the form of avoiding the work, declaring it not good enough, or failing to market it — and it can cripple creators for decades, even lifetimes. But Maisel has learned what sets successful creators apart. He shares these strategies here, including artist-specific stress management; how to work despite bruised egos, day jobs, and other inevitable frustrations; and what not to do to deal with anxiety. Implementing these 24 lessons replaces the pain of not creating with the profound rewards of free artistic self-expression.” -Amazon
photography & illustrations © 2012 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio), except for Mastering Creative Anxiety book covers (© 2011 New World Library)