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Confidence and Tides

The pesky portrait project appears to be over. I sent a photo of the nearly-finished piece to the client for approval, and received a “thumbs down” icon in response. Nothing more. No indication as to why the finished piece was unsatisfactory, no “thanks, but no thanks”. Just the icon .

"Donna", graphite on paper, 1997. (In Lending Collection of Dunlop Gallery, Regina, SK)

The response didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t particularly pleased with the result. I had poor photo reproductions to work from. The client wanted her far-away face from one image and his close-up face from another image. I struggled with skin tones because of poor colour reproduction, blah, blah, blah. I feel like I’m making excuses…

I don’t know about other artists, but I know in my case that there will always be crises of confidence. Negative or even lukewarm responses to my work will be inevitable. You can’t please everyone, and because artists put so much of themselves into the work, it sometimes feels personal. The best I can do is to learn from each experience, and try to improve. Although I have had some success with portraits, I know I have work to do in increasing my skill level, especially when oils is the medium. And that skill level will come. I have a number of portrait projects roughed in and lined up, so my days of portraiture are not over.

Confidence for me, and I suspect for many of us, is one of those ebb and flow things. Sometimes it’s at optimum level, and at other times it withdraws. For me, it’s a matter of remembering that although the tide always goes out, so does it always return. And when it returns it enriches the shore with its gifts, just as the return of my confidence enriches me with new ideas and inspirations.

So I will take the lessons I have learned from this latest challenge on to the next one. This is the beauty of the creative process, and of life itself.