Archive for April 28th, 2022

In Times of Doubt

GC Myers- Rest Stop sm

Rest Stop – At the West End Gallery

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Ah, it’s that time of my painting year, the time of doubt. It arrived yesterday afternoon.

I had finished a new painting and was pleased with the results.

Very pleased.

I was excited and eager to throw myself into the next piece immediately, armed with all that enthusiasm and energy that I had built up over the months. This self-propelling momentum is a driving force in prepping for my annual shows, something I seek throughout the year but seldom find.

But somewhere in between finishing the last stroke on that new painting and standing before the next blank surface placed on my easel, self-doubt smashed me over the head like an ugly giant with a fifty-pound sledgehammer.

I suddenly began to wonder if I was totally wrong about my judgement of my new work, that the excitement and confidence I was getting it from it was misguided. Was I somehow blinded to the glaring flaws that others might immediately see in the work? Was I the tone-deaf guy who sings loudly and confidently in public?

If you’ve read this blog for any time, you probably recognize this. It happens every year, especially at this time of the year in the weeks and months leading up to my shows when I doubt whether I my work is good enough or that I have done enough.

I know by now, after decades of going through this feeling, that all I can do is wait it out and to simply work through these periods of doubt.

It’s like dealing with a very specific and narrow band of depression.

It sometimes leaves as quickly as it comes and sometimes lingers a bit longer, always nagging and heckling me from the back of my mind.

And the more excited I am about the current work, the more intense the doubt. The fervor of this current makes me think I could be on the right track with my current work.

Either that or I am very wrong in my estimation of it and the giant of doubt was right all along.

At the moment, I want to believe in the work and not in the doubt. And that little bit of belief — and the immersion into the next painting– might be enough to get me through.

Always has in the past. No reason to believe it won’t this time as well. Makes me grateful for having gone through this before.

I wonder how many talented people have fallen before the sledgehammer of doubt and given up much too early on their own abilities?

I imagine it is a high number. Why wouldn’t it be? Why would anyone want to go through the churning stomachs, the headaches, the self-loathing and the many other nasty little tics that arise out of such doubt?

I don’t have a specific answer for this except that it is all I know and that the end result is worth the trauma that comes with such bouts of doubt. And like Rilke points out above, recognizing then overcoming doubt can become a valuable tool in judging and building one’s work and life.

As a result, I have come to see this doubt, as inconvenient and uncomfortable as it is, as a necessary and somewhat beneficial evil. Its current reappearance was expected and perhaps right on time.

Hoping it does what I need it to do. And hoping that those other folks who go through these times of doubt early on can see that this doubt can morph into some form beneficial self-criticism if they initially fight through it.

It’s worth the fight.

I didn’t want to show one of the new paintings for this post for fear that someone might think that particular piece somehow made my doubt arise. Instead, I am showing a piece from a few years back that remains a fave. Rest Stop has yet to find a home but that doesn’t not give me a bit of doubt about its appeal to me.

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