Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.—Brené Brown
This summer is presenting me with a unique opportunity: A dear friend has invited me to use her large studio while she is out of town for the summer. I plan to work in her studio one day a week as a kind of artist residency, with the goal of using her big space to do something I’m not easily able to do in my home studio: work BIG.
Any time an artist attempts something outside their comfort zone, insecurity causes our thoughts to focus on what the world expects and wants rather than pure self-expression. This will happen whether you are new to art or an experienced pro. So how can we fight this and authentically express ourselves in our art?
I love how Brené Brown refers to authenticity in the quote above as a “daily practice of letting go.” I invite you to reflect upon how we put on different versions of ourselves to satisfy and appease those around us. This is not a bad thing necessarily; it’s something that we all do in our daily lives to fit in and gain acceptance.
Whether it’s putting on an extra large smile and a jolly disposition when at a social function or wearing a brave face when feeling upset, we’re all guilty of instances of inauthenticity. Often these actions come naturally without much active thought.
That is why the practice of mindfully “letting go” of the version of yourself that you believe others are looking for is important. In embracing authenticity, you’re invited to strip away the layers you’ve placed upon yourself! Like all things that are worth doing, it takes daily work, but it pays off—particularly in art.
Picture Picasso sitting down at a blank canvas, thinking “Right now, I’m going to paint what the world wants me to.” Do you believe any masterpieces would result from this scenario? Of course not! I believe that you must truly create art out of what YOU see, feel, love, and experience. Doing this is a practice in authenticity; it is casting aside the preconceived notions of what you think others want to see, and embracing your heart and truth.
Paint in a way that brings you joy and that reflects your unique perspective! The words “unique,” “creative,” “special,” and “authentic” go hand in hand. Art that is created inauthentically—whether out of a desire to please others, as a copy of another’s work, or without a true desire to create—inevitably feels stiff and uninspired. If you’re true to yourself, your feelings, and your heart—regardless of your experience level—you will have accomplished something incredible.
I’ll be reminding myself of this as I work on large paintings this summer. I’m trying to think of these large canvases as “my voice, but amplified louder.” I’ll be sweeping aside my preconceived notions about large artwork and how it should look. I’ll quiet the voices in my head that are wondering what kinds of exciting opportunities this new work may create for me. I’ll tune into the core of my being and create large paintings that I love.
I believe painting is one of the most pure and authentic forms of communication. Many people express themselves more clearly through brush, canvas, and color than they do with words. When you strip away the concerns of what you “should” create or what others “want” from your work and embrace your own creativity, inspiration, and process, your work will be a truthful expression of yourself. This form of authentic expression is incredibly joyful and freeing—and far more fun than painting with nagging concerns and preconceived notions!
Create freely, joyfully, and authentically, and I promise you will not regret it! I’ll be sure to share with you my progress with my larger works in my “summer studio residency.” But I’d love to hear from you: What beliefs or concerns do YOU need to push aside in order to create your authentic art? Please let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on!