My 36th birthday is approaching way too quickly. This year keeps pressing upon me like some terrible deadline. Even my clocks are against me - it seems like I'm always catching "11:21" on the clock, it's way of saying "You can't escape it!"
I'm totally steeped in self-evaluation lately. Partly because I have just finished this self-portrait in oil.
And partly because I am having to justify keeping my studio space. No one is asking me to give it up - DH is totally supportive, my studio partner and I are totally sympatico - but my sales on-line have slowed down and I am having a difficult time allowing myself to see myself as being worthy of this beautiful space.
I think part of the problem is that I have a difficult time accepting my self-worth, as an Artist and as a teacher. I have always had this problem. It mostly manifests itself in my pricing. I am constantly hearing from other artists "you are pricing your work too low! Do you know how much other artist's are charging for custom portrait work? For original paintings?!?"
And in some ways they are right. I found some of my portrait pricing lists from years ago - almost a decade - and I am not charging much more now than I did way back then. And I KNOW my work has improved. I KNOW that my work is worth more, because of the finished product and the years of study and practice that have gone into making a great portrait.
But here's where it gets tricky. Every time I feel like "I'm worth it", something else, or someone else, steps up to tell me otherwise. When I got a nice present from my mother as a child, which was rare because there were six of us, I would often be made fun of by my older sibling, especially in front of other people - "Oh my GAWD is she spoiled or WHAT?" And I would sit there and think to myself "I get straight A's, cook dinner and clean all the time, and I pay for all my own stuff all the time...mom buys me one present and I'm spoiled?"
I can't bring myself to buy a single article of clothing that isn't marked down 75% off...who am I to spend money like that on clothes? The guilt that I feel with spending money is almost as great as when I get paid for my work. Guilt. I feel badly taking money, I feel even worse spending money. I get physically sick when I go shopping. Even to the grocery store.
There are things that I am certain of. I am a much calmer, happier mom right now with my studio being out of the house. To be able to work on my art and not be thinking about the sink full of dishes or the dirty laundry has mentally put me in a better place.
I am a good teacher. I know what I'm doing. I know how to verbalize instructions and how to fix a painting or drawing. I love watching students accomplish new things - it brings me great joy.
I know I am a capable Artist. I know I can accomplish great things.
But this inner conflict has been plaguing me all year. One sibling called me spoiled again, in a very public way, and I can't get past it. I have gotten to the point where I barely even speak around my family, for fear that they will think I'm spoiled for talking about myself. I fear that every time I open my mouth it will only be to provide them with another opportunity to attack me.
So where do I go from here? I'm committing to another 6 months in my studio - that's already a certainty, I can pay that right now. But in order for me to stay in that space, I need to accept my own self-worth and evaluate everything - from the prices of my custom portraits to the cost of lessons. If I can't make the money on my own to keep the space, then I don't want to stay there...I don't want to be spoiled.
I had a visitor to my studio over the weekend, and when she walked up to my self portrait she said "You are very self aware". Let's hope that can translate into self-worth as well.