Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forced to look at myself

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 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.


Jane said...

Awesome! Really beautiful!

maventheavenger aka jamie said...

I feel your pain. I have struggled with spending money, wasting food, driving a car, basically anything to do with not living totally off the grid because it felt selfish. But then I realized unless somehow I can manage to do it (it wouldn't ever be enough), then i just have to make some choices to allow myself to live like a normal person. Spend the damn money, dye my hair whatever color i want. sell the scooter; get a car again. It's okay to be happy. i promise.

Elisha Dasenbrock said...

Beautiful portrait, but why not let yourself be spoiled, especially if it makes you so happy?

Sharon Tomlinson said...

I simply have no words for your self portrait. I studied it mesmerized and it has your soul captured.

Now, about the silver platter of guilt that you carry around....I so know all about that. Little by little I have triumphed over lots of it. But one day, I took the silver platter outside and just dumped it. Yes, I did that. I physically walked outside and with my (pretend) silver platter in my hands, I tossed the guilt with a few words which I don't remember. I just threw it to the wind.
So, today, I recommend that you do that. And then come back in a change all your pricing. Even if some things are only changed by the smallest amount, you can do that without any guilt because, you have tossed it.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes my silver platter gets a little refill. When it is more than I can tote around, I go outside and......yep I do.

Anonymous said...

I understand how you feel. I'm lucky in that (though it took a crisis of my own making) I've recently run the gauntlet of that lack of self-worth, had it tear away some of my misapprehensions and come out the other side stronger, and without some of the negative perceptions I projected onto those around me. I can't offer much in the way of wise words, but I find your work incredibly beautiful and inspiring, your writing sensitive and direct. Good luck in making that internal "I /am/ worth it" stronger than the negative from outside.

Jenny, Mid-Western Fashionista said...

Wow, I hope you get through this time and come to a better understanding of your self worth. I understand the dilemma. I make jewelry, and my mom always questions my pricing, tries to give her friends "discounts", etc. She doesn't realize that she's really saying that she doesn't value my work! Anyway, you're not alone in this. I have two of your prints up in my house and love them - worth a lot to me!!

Anonymous said...

Spoiled is bad? I will wait to suffer later and be spoiled now. What if later doesn't happen? Who makes these rules; must not have too much or what?

Spoiled is the new black, btw.


From an only child...thank God. ;)

ps next time you see your sibling, tell them you are buying a new Chanel bag and shoes. Oh how that makes me laugh!

Krystyna81 said...

I questioned myself 1000 times before I hit the "publish" button on this post - I did not want to sound ungrateful for what I have.

I know now why I had to write this and post it - because I needed to hear from all of you wonderful women. I needed your support, wisdom, love and guidance, and for all of that - I am truly grateful - and feel a little spoiled - in the best way.

Thank you so much...

Anonymous said...

You are so talented! Do not let the haters bring you down.

You are deserving because you ARE. That's it, you are a human being and you don't need to justify your spending or prove your self-worth to anyone.

When people criticize you, there is often a grain of truth in what they are saying.....ABOUT THEM.

It's great that you have your own space and it's great you decided to keep it for another 6 months.

I also agree with others here, spoil yourself! And release the guilt. No good can come of that emotion. None.

I'm sorry you have people in your life trying to bring you down. Keep your head high and keep doing what you do. :-)

Unknown said...

This is a beautiful work!

Nika said...

Your self portrait is BEAUTIFUL!! It's interesting how different it is from portraits you do of others. Your portraits of other people seem much looser than this. This reflects the self criticism you speak of and we all have. They do say we are always harder on ourselves. As much as your prices may seem low, you are making yourself available to the everyday average Joe who otherwise would go to a chain store and buy a $20 framed picture. Instead they can have something priceless and unique. Keep going and keep being your inspirational self. We are all human, we all doubt, fear and those who don't are in denial. I live in CT and when I visit family in Cumming this December, plan on driving to your studio and seeing it for myself. I can't wait to see the space where magic happens. As someone who knows first hand everything you described, remember that those who may not work as hard to earn things refer to those who do as spoiled. Happy painting!

Krystyna81 said...

Meni...I would love that! Please let me know when you are in the area.

And thank you for the kind words and encouragement.

Unknown said...

This post has me near tears. I can relate in so many ways but when I look at YOU all I can think is "but YOU are so amazing! So talented! So obviously gifted and worthy!" And then I remember that it doesn't matter what anyone says, any kind compliments, sincere appreciation, or anything else - it is all internal. All so based on our own personal lives and experiences - people telling you that it is selfish or "spoiled" as you say. This makes me so sad. You won't ever take the words of a stranger at any value even close to those that are close to you in your life - I know this all too well. It isn't intentional or that you don't care what pretty much strangers (albeit HUGE fans) have to say, it's just the nature of life. We put SO MUCH VALUE on the words and opinions of those closest to us, but so often those are the very same people to hurt us and bring us down the most. Maybe I am overly relating to your story here, but I know for myself, it's always the people that helped shape who I am from a very young age that matter the most. I can get great feedback from artists and friends, but one slight word from someone that HITS THAT BUTTON and I'm finished. Enough about my relating to your post - here's what I really have to say about it...

You are one of the most incredibly talented artists I have come across - PERIOD.

Your work is not only technically brilliant, visually stunning, but it also strikes a chord within your viewers - amazing.

You have a GIFT that others are so lucky to benefit from. Your lessons, your gift back to the community, is obvious evidence that you are absolutely not spoiled - you are thoughtful and giving and that means a whole lot.

I hope that you can exorcise these demeaning terms about yourself that DO NOT APPLY and find joy in a new sense of FREEDOM! Freedom to buy yourself that random ___ that will make you happy. I'm not talking a new Benz or condo in Barbados, I'm talking the simplest of things - a scented candle for example (full price - gasp!), or (probably most importantly) your studio space. YOU ARE DESERVING OF THIS. OF ALL OF THIS!!

And lastly, there is a reason why you are doing what you are doing. That is because you are VERY GOOD AT IT and not everyone is. There is a reason and a purpose that you are an artist and it is so much bigger than you can ever know. That ANYONE can ever know.

It is so hard to shut off those voices but it is essential. You have to keep doing what you are doing - and it has absolutely nothing to do with being spoiled. That is basically a cruel term used by those that are jealous or just don't understand. Please know that the "rest of us" don't ever think of you that way. You are an inspiration. You are a true artist. You are an incredible gift to this world and I, for one, am thankful for you and your work to inspire me and challenge me to be a better artist.

This is just one woman's plea to know your value is waaaayyyy *up here* (aka very high) in my book. Anyone's perceptions that hold you back or hold you down? Forget them!

Krystyna81 said...

Jessica my dear sweet fellow fabulous painter....thank you so much for that beautiful and meaningful post. You really nailed wrong word from the right person and all other positivity crumbles by the wayside.

As artists we are in a precarious position - we must share our work, and with that part of ourselves, not only for the accolades and praise but for the criticism that comes along with it. Hopefully, if we are strong enough and want it badly enough, we can process both the positive AND the negative and become better Artists.

I adore you and your work and your words have been the best Birthday gift I could ask for :)thank you!

Cherie said...

Perhaps like with other professionals, you need an "agent" or at least a trusted third party to assist you with pricing. Take that part out of your hands. You are a very caring and loving individual who enjoys giving... but this is your profession and while there is much more passion in your profession than mine... it is still business. You are THE most amazing artist I know... but you are also tops in my book of all the artists I have seen. Keep it up lady! You are going places!