Why I almost gave up as an artist.
From my first memory as a child I remember drawing all the time, on paper, slate, walls, anywhere and everywhere. I was always scribbling something even if it was nonsense, and I loved it, but my parents loved it more. It kept me busy, distracted, and happy all the time. Painting has been in my family since few generations, my grandfather ran away from a large family business, and made a living from his drawing skills, and became a street painter. My father followed his legacy, but made very sure I take this skill as a hobby only and never pursue it as a profession. He taught me and my friends basic drawing stuff, and most of the times we would even help him paint banners and boards, it was a fun childhood. I was always-always creating something, and when things got bad around me I knew what to do. I survived so much throughout my childhood because I had a hobby. It was my happy place, a getaway to my own world.
As my family moved from place to place, I met new people, made new friends. It always came as surprise to everyone as how I good was at drawing and they always ended up showering me with compliments. It made me feel good about myself. I had no idea that I am talented, I had a skill, that I am an artist, all this was news to me. You see, in my family drawing and crafting is such a subnormal thing that no one really cares even if you can draw a hyper-realistic portrait, so compliments, appreciation were literally non-existent, and I was okay with it until I knew better. Now that I knew how compliments made me feel(it was some kind of high), my whole purpose to draw and paint changed. I was continuously trying to impress people, chase that high, chase that validation, that I am something, I am good enough.
Then came out Facebook. Do I even need to tell you what happened next? Yeah you guessed it, all those likes, comments, sharing, from people I knew and people I don’t, brought a new high. It was like I was addicted. First time in my life I felt I mattered, people saw me differently as I am more, something more than just a shy weird girl who hardly speaks. I was famous, everyone wanted me to draw them all the time. And I did, I drew for so many people, even the ones I didn’t care about, just so I can prove to everyone and also to me that how good I am. I went a little further to impress boys with my skill, so they’ll go out with me. I know its so fucked up, but hey I was a lonely teenager and I did what I could to survive. I soon realized half of my so called friends didn’t really care about me at all, they only wanted a free painting. Many of my acquaintance were pissed when I begun to say no to their selfish offer, that was fun.
Social media brought something along more, it was the awareness, or self consciousness that I was not the only artist on the planet. There were millions of them, and so much better than me, I was nothing compared to them. My whole belief system as to how good I was shattered so easily. I was full of doubt, jealousy, and under so much pressure to be perfect, that I stopped drawing altogether for few years. I couldn’t do it anymore. And whenever I did people constantly told me how good I was, and how much money I could make out of it, if I started monetizing it, including my own father. Can you believe this betrayal! Because I could not. One guy I dated even went further to say to me, “Okay nice! Now what? You completed the painting, now whats the point? What’s the motivation ahead?” And I seriously had no idea. This one sentence triggered a massive crippling nihilistic-existential crisis in me. I mean he was right, what was the point of all this? Why am I even drawing if I cannot make money out of it? Anyway, I’ll be dead soon and I’ll be forgotten and this paintings will turn to dust, so why waste time?
This particular thought never left my mind. Until one day, my anxiety went through the roof, things got really dark around me and the only way out seemed like picking up a pen and paper. It didn’t matter what I was drawing, how perfect it was, I didn’t think even once how many likes it can get, if this painting is even worth any money, I didn’t think at all. I just painted for few hours, and somehow I painted all my anger, sadness and frustration on that paper. It made me feel relieved, brought a different sense of calm. And it occurred to me, that this is why I do it, I don’t do it for other people, I don’t do it to be famous, I definitely do not do it for money. This is for me and me completely, this is my coping mechanism, my self expression, these are my thoughts, my values. And that should be enough motivation. Since then I am also working on my belief system and making sure, that things like this wont affect my self-esteem, as this is a small part of me, and doesn’t define me completely.
So, this is why I wrote this blog post to remind myself, if I ever forget, as to why I paint, and also to let you all know that next time, do not come up to me and tell me how much money I can make from my paintings unless you’re going to buy them.
Have a good time quarantining!