Yes, real artists do quit. But they also restart. My last blog post was about exploring new avenues of creating. I wanted to know what would happen if I dropped everything and tried brand-new endeavors. Now, I'm interested in why it's important to find the way back.
It's an age-old story, the hero finds the way back home, the prodigal son returns, and the grass wasn't greener on the other side after all. Artists are naturally inquisitive. Exploration is part of the process of creating great art. No matter how confidently one might create, an urge that it could be better always whispers and beckons. Artists sometimes heed this call and embark on journeys that seemingly lead to nowhere.
The story we rarely hear is the one where the hero leaves the village to accomplish great things but later returns with nothing accomplished. Or, maybe we have heard this story. Dorothy returned home from Oz with no other accomplishment than the understanding that there is no place like home. The experience of the journey itself might be the truest accomplishment.
I took a few weeks to explore different types of painting and different subject matter. It was a wonderful experience to lose my confidence. Trying new things pushed me and stretched my capabilities. I also learned what I don't want to create. As much as I love to look at straight-edge, architectural art, it isn't my thing. I learned how unpleasant it is, for me anyway, to work with perfect perspective and lines. It is soul-sucking drudgery--to me.
My artist soul yearned for curves, soft shadows, and gentleness. And in this way, I found my way home. This small adventure into new territory helped me to appreciate my art with new eyes. It also gave me a lens through which to view other art. There are no finished paintings or artifacts to show for this journey. But my confidence is changed for the better. Trying new things brought me the realization that just because something is different doesn't make it better.
I once heard a metaphor about the relationship between spinning tops. If you spin two tops at the same time an interesting phenomenon occurs. They will circle on their paths and occasionally spin very close to one another without causing each other to fall. That's the same phenomenon that can occur in an artist's relationship to the work of others. We can get really close and explore, and appreciate the work of others. But we must keep our own momentum and eventually spin back into unique paths.