A subscriber wrote, “I fear I lack what’s required to be a great artist. My work seems to blend in with the work of others, I have trouble putting myself forward and I’m plagued with self-doubt. Am I just lacking the ego to do it properly?”
Thanks. You’re not lacking ego — everyone has one. You may have merely misplaced your ego’s good stuff while mistaking its darker qualities for the absence of one. Barbra Streisand said, “My ego is responsible for my doing what I do — bad or good.” Not ego, but ego-management propels sustained, quality work. And sustained, quality work breeds what you fear you lack: a signature style, the courage to advocate for your work and the understanding that your doubts can be squashed with creative triumphs. If mismanaged, the ego becomes a block: a prison of fear or an enfant terrible of attention-seeking mediocrity. If understood and harnessed, the ego bolsters the creative soul by allowing it to take the risks necessary to share your unique and personal offerings.
The tricky thing about ego is that it’s in perpetual training. An undeveloped one doesn’t want to be vulnerable, projecting a false competence and fizzling under inevitable pressure. As artists, this is a kiss of death and breeds impersonal, if not meaningless, work — or no work. As artists, a harnessed ego grits through the loneliness of new ideas and the belief that they’re worth realizing. Think of this workmanlike practice as “positive ego force.” Ego force is the energy of your self-belief propelling ambitious projects, making mistakes, quieting negative thinking, bolstering meaning, diminishing comparisons and releasing only your best. Painters need to be believers in their own purpose when no one is applauding. It also helps to be a gusher of enthusiasm when it’s time to share. The fierce chant of your ego force, if even a temporary battle cry summoned through repeated practice, keeps her real and on the field.
PS: “Ego force propels the worker to improve. Ego force brings the worker back and back again to his work. Ego force is the spark plug of artistic vision. Ego force is also key to one of the artist’s greatest needs: the art of letting go.” (Robert Genn)
Esoterica: My dad used to tell me that my work should be recognizable from across a room, supported with quality at nose-distance and confirmed with my signature in the lower right-hand corner. My ego force is the whispering cheerleader in my day-to-day creative strivings who reassures me that this feat is possible. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” said Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own. How to propagate less “ego” and more “ego force?” The answer is work. Work begets skills. Skills beget belief. Belief begets more work.
“For a man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard himself as greater than he is.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Join Travel Journal Sketch artist and Urban Sketcher Darsie Beck at Port Townsend School of the Arts and learn how to create your own travel journal sketch journal to enhance your daily life and travel experience.
Learn the ease of working with watercolor pencils, micron pens and water-brush to enhance your sketching experience.
This workshop provides an introduction to the process involved in creating a travel sketch journal, from page design to material demonstration and hands on field work in and around historic Fort Worden and Port Townsend, Washington.
Workshop is now full.
Monique Jarry is a Canadian and a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal.