Ed, Monet and Ira Glass

Recently, a quote really resonated with me:

‘Claude Monet was nearing the height of the reputation he was to win during his lifetime, producing those water lily masterpieces, when he wrote this letter (in 1912) to his dealer and benefactor, Paul Durand-Ruel: “More than ever today, I realize how artificial is the undeserved fame I have won. I keep hoping to do better...” His latest exhibition was about to open in Paris. “I know beforehand that you’ll say my pictures are perfect. I know that when they are shown they will be much admired, but I don’t care because I know they are bad. I’m certain of it.”
— "Watercolor Bold and Free" by L.Goldsmith

The quote was so good I wrote it down in my sketchbook. The cool dude is my baby brother Ed :)

Monet thought his paintings were bad. Monet doubted himself not any less than I do. If you ask me, that's a good thing to know!

But is it a good thing? Talking about your paintings as being 'bad' is bad marketing. Humility doesn't sell very well. If an artist thinks his paintings are bad, what collector will buy them?

And yet we creative souls are particularly sensitive to our own critical voice. Through the nature of our work, we get to deal with it more than most other people. What makes a difference is how we deal with it:

  1. Denial of the inner critic. I don't know if it's just me, but I get suspicious when I see an artist without any self-doubt. It seems fake when an artist believes he is a genius and his work is worth millions. It's almost like a performance...nay, that's probably what it is. And who knows what happens behind the scenes. Is it a genuine victory over the critic or is it a show you put on?
  2. Giving up. This is the option that goes well with depression and insecurity. You pour your heart into your creative work, put it out there, and the viewer/listener/reader doesn't care. They don't buy your painting. 'Of course they don't,' chimes in your inner critic, 'It's bad and you are worthless.' It's incredibly hard to pick yourself up again and pour your heart out again. So you give up.
  3. Accepting it and being motivated by it. You talk to your critic. 'No, my latest piece is not the best thing ever. I made a mistake here. I need to develop this idea more. I can be so much better.' And you know you have it in you to be better, you can see your work five years in the future. You know it will be hard and you will make more 'bad' art but you will get there.

You are in the 'Gap.'