Competition Suffocating Self Expression – An Artists Journey To Life: Day 677

Creating an Experience - Andrew Gable 2012

I have spent a great deal of my life making art. It was something that I remember doing allot as a child and had already developed a certain ability with it by the time I was in high school to then identify this as a strength which then contributed to my decision to get a degree in this field and make this my profession which I currently do full-time.

In this blog, I want to begin opening up a point that I have become aware of within and throughout my life during my artistic process, that, in the beginning and even during college years and my early career, I hadn’t fully understood in terms of some of the internal mechanisms so to speak of how I approached doing art, and how this approach was not really supporting and nurturing what art ought to be about, and what art is assumed to be about, or even what art is currently presented to be about which is a kind of Self Expression, though, what I noticed about my own approach and what I see also in the world at the moment with regards to art is it was/is not in fact Supporting Self Expression.

What I have come to see about my own application in creating art was that it was in fact more being done within a starting point of COMPETITION. And so I would like to here, illustrate what I have found for myself in terms of what the outcome or consequence of creating art within the starting point of competition is, versus what comes out of creating art as an actual SELF EXPRESSION, done within a starting point of Self Expression.

When I look back on my development within art, although I do see that I had already in my childhood accepted competition as part of what I was doing with art, that this starting point more solidified and intensified during my college years in art school.

What I see is that the institution where I studied in fact nurtured this competition point within me. I understand that, at the end of the day, I am the one who decides who I am and what I become and so its not about blaming a school, or external influences, or culture for who I became and what we become as human beings, but more simply here I am pointing out what I observe in terms of the contributory points that had a strong influence on how I formed my approach to making art and what I defined artistic expression to be about.

I was already a competitive person when I arrived at art school. Though what I see is that this competitive attitude thrived in this particular environment. I wanted my art to be recognized by my peers, by my teachers, by galleries, museums, by history. I wanted to do something great.

So I decided that I must be the best. I must be the best in the school. So this was what I set out to do to.

I worked long hours, and went above and beyond project specifications to stand out. Though, I found my art did not get the recognition I was looking for. Yes, I was getting some accolades but not like I wanted. So I pushed myself more.

During my pursuit I became aware of other students in the school who I saw as a threat to me. Who I saw as potential artists who were better than me or would be better than me. I was always on the look-out. I would analyze and profile any art and artists that I came across, mapping out key identifiers with regards to what defined ‘good art’ and I would cross-reference and compare them to myself.

When ever I noticed art that I thought was better than mine, this really affected my inner experience of myself. I would experience anxiety, disappointment, fear, self defeat, self judgement, and I would also experience this determination mixed with a frantic almost irrational urgency to “make more art” so that I could get better, so that I could surpass them. And this urgency really started taking over in that it began to drive what I was doing. It became a part of the art that I made. This possession to become better. And through my years at school it became more and more dominant within me and more and more influenced and affected my internal experience, my state of mind, and how I approached art, and so what kind of art I produced.

It completely consumed me in a way. I started to fight and struggle with this. This competition virus increasingly found it’s way into my studio, into my mind, and then when I would create art, there was this entire dimension taking place that was now a part of the process, and I would really struggle with this. It was escalating and I actually started to worry because “I couldn’t get this out of my head”

I remember there was on artist in my school who I eventually came across and when I met this person, this competition possession in relation to creating art really came out full force. I really liked this artists’ work and respected this artists’ work, but within me there was this little voice saying “he is better than you”.

As time went by, this little voice grew louder. This little voice drove me to work more hours, to make more art, because “I had to catch up”, “I had to be better”. But I felt like I was falling behind and this voice inside me started haunting me. “he is better than you” “you are so far behind”.

My art started to now resemble this other artists work. And I started to become afraid of this, but I felt like it was out of my control. Everyone liked this other artists work, and so I figured that that is what ‘good art’ must look like, and so over time I started to adopt different stylized aspects of this persons work. I had no foundation what so ever to actually express myself. It wasn’t really about that. It was about being recognized more than it was about actually expressing myself.

I will continue in blogs to come sharing my experience with what it means to create art from the starting point of Self Expression.

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