Artists write to say that they can do it one day and not the next. Simple as the problem may sound, it has always been a great curiosity to me. Some time ago I invented a method called “IAEAS.” It sounds Zeus-like, like a Greek god, and in a way it is. It stands for the “I’m An Extraordinary Artist System.” Before you turn me in, let me explain:
Lack of confidence is an ongoing scourge to both amateur and professional. It presents itself in the form of a block. Compositions self-destruct, brushes fiddle, ideas wither and abort. The causes are many and specific to each artist. They include negativity, jinxes, attitudes, fears, clutter, anxiety, guilt, debt, previous failure and the plain ordinary blues. Can’t do it, won’t do it, takes over.
Artists must know that bouts of incompetence come with the territory. IAEAS works by allowing yourself short blasts of acting in an extraordinarily confident manner. It’s almost, but not quite, what the Greeks called “hubris” — insolent pride. The artist tells herself that she is not troubled by the sorts of concerns that other artists are prone to. She sees herself as a goddess of art and an island unto herself. If she so wishes, she may come to a primal state where trodden paths are not taken, where old tapes are overwritten. If she so wishes she may simply find a rebirth of her energy, her vision and her stroke. High hubris overcomes a tired brush. Flying from a prepared workspace (paint well squeezed) she takes a stand (stand up for a change) — an “attitude” that sweeps impedimenta aside. It’s a ploy — a Trojan Horse that you drag into your studio. Artists who try this system have found that when they keep it up for an hour or so, they can repeat the action. With repetition the habits are formed or reformed and the blocks can be sidelined. With this minor and forgivable self-delusion a kind of honesty arises. Simply and brilliantly, disabilities melt, process takes over and miracles begin again to happen. IAEAS means standing up tall for yourself. “Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” (Helen Keller)
PS: “Walk to your easel casually, but with a dollop of arrogance.” (Harley Brown)
Esoterica: If this subject interests you please note that on a previous occasion I wrote a letter called “Confidence.” It touches on the dual nature of the creative mind. “I seem to be two people. One who does not paint and one who does. The one who does not paint assumes that the one who does can paint anything. The one who is the painter sometimes finds it difficult to live up to that faith.” (Mary Pratt)
This letter was originally published as “Extraordinary artist” on March 26, 2004.
“My only strength is finding something where most people would find nothing.” (Mary Pratt)
Christine Hanlon, whose work has been compared to that of Edward Hopper, creates ‘urban landscapes which quietly exude atmosphere.’