For the longest time I didn't think I made "real art". Everyone else was making "real art" but my work just never seemed to be where I wanted it to be. It all seemed forced and derivative of somebody's else's work. It felt unoriginal. I hated most of what I created and the few times I created something I did like, I would find that a week later I started to hate it too. It just didn't look like "real art" to me. (Just so you know what kind of person I am, when I was a musician I went through the same thing. I never seemed to write "real songs". I am my own worst critic.) I didn't know what would make my art into "real art", I just knew that I wasn't there yet.
It took years of painting and forcing my way past this feeling before I started to like what I created. I'd like to say that I didn't give up, that I painted through this frustration, but that just isn't true. I stopped painting for about six years. During this time, I did make a few attempts at painting again, but I was so dissatisfied with what I was painting that I would quickly put my paint brush down and close the door to my studio, trying to ignore what was past those doors as I walked by it daily. There was no way I would have imagined myself a full-time painter back then. It was an awful feeling, feeling like a "poser", but I didn't know how to get past this feeling and close that "gap".
This Ira Glass quote really resonated with me and it reminded me of those days when I was so dissatisfied with my art but couldn't really articulate why. I wish someone back then could have told me that these feelings would pass with time and a lot of painting. I could have saved myself from going through six years without the thing that I was most passionate about.
There's no point in dwelling in the past and what could have been, though. I am finally at a place where I am painting original work, work that makes me happy, and I have been doing it since the beginning of 2009. It did take A LOT of painting and studio time to get myself here. It also took many days of my wanting to quit and just be a "normal", non-creative person, but I didn't give in to those feelings. I didn't give up. I just kept on painting.
I don't know what made me stronger and more able to get past those feelings, after-all, I gave in to them and stopped painting for six years. Perhaps it is emotional maturity. Perhaps I have become wiser in my old age. Whatever it was, I know that I am happier now than I have ever been with my work. I still paint pieces that I think aren't very good, but I no longer contemplate quitting being an artist or tell myself that it's not "real art". I feel like I am closer to closing the "gap", although I know that the gap will never be completely closed. Having some dissatisfaction in what we do helps us strive to do better, to explore in our work. I just know that there are less days of dissatisfaction and that makes me feel good.