On another note, this has been on my mind (and in my draft box) for a few weeks. It’s about confidence. As an artist, it is important to have confidence in your work. If you express it, sometimes it can be misinterpreted, become irritating. It’s important, but when does it cross the line into arrogance, I wonder.
A few weeks ago, before my trip, I went to a dinner party, a birthday dinner for a friend turning fifty. The meal was perfect, the company lively. The cake was exquisite. It was a white chocolate mouse with raspberries in a pattern on top. So I started taking photos (with the hosts’ camera) of the cake: the cake from the top, the cake with a slice taken out, on a pile of plates, then on a single plate.
The photos were good, most of them. But when Tom, another guest, remarked how good they were, and I agreed in what I thought was innocent enthusiasm, he translated my own comments as arrogance. I emphatically told him that I had a right to enjoy my photographs.
Reflecting on Tom’s relationship with his own artwork, he seems to need to express dissatisfaction consistently. I don’t remember ever hearing him say a painting of his was good. It has always been negativity towards his work. Possibly denigrating it before someone else has a chance. Or maybe, I have wondered, this pattern is to solicit praise. Or then again, maybe it is an honest appraisal coming from his expectations rather than acceptance of what is happening even if it is less than desired. I don’t know his personal dynamics well enough but I do know it is irritating for someone not to accept praise graciously.
In these troubled times, when people ask me how I am doing (meaning sales), I often hesitate in answering. I wonder if it is better to say it is difficult and arouse sympathy (and maybe pity/sales) or to say things are good, have pride, and maybe that will encourage a bigger audience for the work. I’ve been opting for the latter as it makes me feel better, to feel I have respect for what I am doing.
Even when I was not happy with the paintings I produced (and that was often true in the early years), I’ve always felt that someday the persistence would be rewarded. The paintings would be successful. I would, someday, have control on my medium and express my personal vision. The confidence was/is in the need to make art.
A few weeks ago I read in the Globe and Mail about the success of a twenty-year old actor/filmmaker who won three major awards at the Cannes Film Festival. To quote the article:
Anne Dorval, a pillar of Quebec television and theatre, was dubbing a film into French when a teenager knocked on the studio door, a screenplay in his trembling hands.
Ms. Dorval took mercy on the nervous boy named Xavier Dolan, a 16-year-old former child actor from Montreal who spoke in a whisper.
“He was so scared, he was shaking, so I decided to give it a read,” Ms. Dorval recalled yesterday.
Impressed, she called the boy a few weeks later with suggestions. He told her to forget that screenplay. He already had a new idea for a film he had entitled Matricide about a love-hate relationship between a 16-year-old gay boy and his mother. Ms. Dorval would play the unfortunate title role and he would play the boy, he said.
Two years later, when the film officially named J’ai tué ma mère ( I Killed My Mother ) was about to be shot, Mr. Dolan told Ms. Dorval they would soon walk the red carpet in Cannes.
The bold prediction came true, and Friday the film won three prizes in the prominent Directors’ Fortnight side ceremony, including the Art Cinema Award and a writers’ prize for best French film.
. . .
Mr. Dolan’s blend of hubris and nerves have struck many in his short directing career. Before Cannes, he was probably most recognized in Quebec for playing a precocious six-year-old in a series of TV ads for Jean Coutu pharmacies.
“When he said we’d go to Cannes, I couldn’t be a killjoy and tell him he was dreaming in Technicolor, it was such a beautiful thing to have such dreams,” said Ms. Dorval.
“He’s got a special quality, not quite confidence, more like conviction that comes with hope. An innocence that eventually gets crushed in most people. Not him!”
Interesting, eh! He knew he had something to say and he persisted. For him, it worked.