Does potential matter?


I recently joined a discussion art group where one of the artists asked us to evaluate her work as she wondered if her work had enough potential for her to continue to paint. This intrigued me as I sometimes go through this very question every couple of years, this year being one of them for me. Despite some successes it seems that I still question my artistic and public worth.

For me, there is an inner need to create. That is my bottom line. I do not have to this for a living but there is nothing else that fascinates, stimulates and activates my interest like painting. I enjoy wrestling with the “pig” that feeds my soul. There is nothing quite as elating as resolving a painting and being able to put down on paper your mind’s vision. Enjoy your personal “pig” and have a blast discovering whatever it brings you.

The problem with potential as I see it, is that unless you keep painting you will never know what your potential could have been.

I have potential, as everyone else does, but you cannot equate sales and other people’s opinions as accurate gauges for what your potential is. I constantly butt heads with my own feelings of unworthiness as society equates great art with financial success. Everything in our society pulls artists in that direction. This does us a great disservice.

The difficulty with viewing potential, success and money in one fell swoop is that it can it can be unfulfilling. An example of this is the run to find the “potential or perfect” social media for selling your works of art. There is an incredible “potential” for exposure. Yet I find social media incredibly difficult to navigate and learn. Part of me keeps at it because there is a potential for learning and connecting. Does it make me happy? No, but it is part of the job and it does allow exposure to an incredible populace. There is a potential for sales but that is not the same as painting. In painting, the more you paint the more you will answer and meet your “potential”. I believe in “Art for Art’s sake” and as long as your “potential” is not equated with financial success, I say, follow your inner voice and enjoy the process.

As artists we are meant to paint and express ourselves. Whether or not financial success derives from making art is secondary. When I feel blue, I go back to the reason why I became an artist. I became an artist because I had something to say and both the written and painterly way met those urges. Our ancestors drew on cave walls and rocks for various reasons, I’m certain one of them was for self-expression.

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