Thursday, June 28, 2012

Customary Freakout

A few months ago I signed up for a "mixed media weekend technique intensive" at the Rhode Island School of Design (Continuing Education summer class).  I've been eagerly awaiting this fabulous weekend, and now that it's two days away I'm having fits of irrational anxiety.

Right on schedule.

The email from the instructor started the spiral:
 "bring your sketchbook with ideas and motifs. You will want to have sources for reference; a subject or abstract theme in mind."
 And just like that, all good ideas vanished from my head.


I need to come up with something fast and it better be good, because I'm going to RISD for heaven's sake. 

How about trees or leaves? 
I can't do that.  It's completely overdone and way too simple.  Same goes for circles and flowers and birds and hearts.
What on earth will I put in a sketchbook?
I don't even draw.

I am convinced I will embarrass myself in front of "serious artists."
 Naturally, when the crazies strike, they are not limited to a specific topic.  I am now completely over-thinking the two round robin journals that are sitting on my table.
No idea is good enough, and the longer I worry about it, the longer I hold up the groups, which then leads to a whole other kind of panic. Whatever I create will reveal the truth about me.

So just to be clear, I KNOW I'm being crazy.
I'm not being graded.
Nothing is at stake here.
The room will be filled with lovely human beings who will not notice or care about the contents of my non-existent sketchbook.
I will learn bucket loads whether I have a motif or not.
My round robin folks will not send back the book and demand better art. I just need to get this particular brand of craziness out of my system.

Here's the one thing that is not freaking me out, and is making me very excited. I will be meeting - in person for the very first time - the sewing/knitting/painting/stitching/salamander dreaming wonder, Amy.

Here's a postcard she sent me after she got back from Squam.
(She's giving away more from this series here.)

After several email discussions about the class supply list, we have  agreed we will be "those women with the wrong paper."
I solemnly swear I will try my best not to disrupt her learning experience with whispering and giggling.  (I'll save that for our dinner together.)

And if my anxiety doesn't abate by Saturday, I can always travel incognito.  Amy - if you have trouble recognizing me, I'll be the blurry one with the mustache. 



  1. Karen - I've never heard anyone express so perfectly exactly the way I feel about even the thought of going to an art workshop like that! Many years ago I signed up for a one-day "all-levels" watercolor class. Everybody else was so much more advanced than I was, and we were just supposed to start in on a painting, and I just froze! I left, and have been scarred about in-person classes ever since. I think it was brave of you to sign up for it - and as we both know you'll do fine and be so glad you did it - but I completely understand how you feel right now....

  2. Well then, we won't belong there together. My sketchbook is full of trees, and doodles, and very juvenile-looking stuff my daughter told me to draw (draw a cat in a tree, mama!) and those monsters I colored with my I'm terrible at keeping a sketchbook overall, so I have stuff everywhere, and I don't have any abstract ideas or motifs either, won't it grow from the photos we're supposed to bring? And also, you're very kind, especially as I was kind of thinking *I* was the fraud (definitely, in a mixed media class) and I would sort of let you be my cred. You know, I can't be a complete idiot, cuz I'm with Karen.

  3. I consider you to be one of the most creative people that I read. I have a fancy (bullshit) college art degree. It means nothing. Just collect up a few of the things you have done in the last year that you cherish the most and take them with you for inspiration. That is all a sketchbook is anyway. Prepare to be inspired and inspire as well. You will be great! There is a book called Art and Fear. I think you would enjoy reading it. Check it out.

  4. I would take a stack of your mail art with puns, heck with the sketchbook! be you and all will be well.

  5. wow I wish I had know about this! My son lives in Providence.

    Karen, I'm sure you'll have a blast - I'm envious you have a mustache

  6. Oh, boy, do I know what this is like! Especially if I go to the RISD! I mean, that's official!

    I have to say, I get panicky when I feel that AEAOM. (all eyes are on me) And I know I'm a big phony and it's evident to everyone around me.

    And all of these silly panic thoughts are as old as them thar hills. You know it, but it's so hard at the same time! It's easy for me to tell you, oh, don't worry!

    But I will say this: I'm a woman who's all about evidence. And I have evidence that these workshops/classes are never quite what we expect, and often when I imagine everyone around me is going to be smarter, more talented, or better looking, I find once I get there that they are regular people, some of whom are better at it than I am, and many of whom have styles that leave me agape in confusion or limp with indifference (to be blunt). The fact is, most of them think they have no talent and feel inadequate. It's the nature of the artist, the nature of the female, and the nature of the student to feel less-than or generally inadequate.

    But that's not what you are, and the EVIDENCE of your body of work is proof of that. Yes, you have a body of work! And it's lively and vibrant and fun and different and varied and ambitious. And not one bit of that matters, either, once you get in there and start doing stuff. Because that's when you'll inhale again and think, well, what's the big deal? This is fun!

    So I honestly don't know what most of us workshop-takers think we're missing in terms of worth. Because all that's really needed is hunger. Hungry to learn and commune? Then GO GET EM!

  7. So it is not just me that has those fears and thoughts then? I am envious of you going to the class and despite the rebellion of having the wrong paper I am sure you will love it. Been surrounded by arty people in real life...glorious!

    I am also insanely jealous of your moustache! :)

  8. You guys are going to have a blast! Enjoy!

  9. the very word "motif" makes my skin crawl.
    I like "personal symbol" myself because there really isn't anything I do that does not have a circle and/or a bird on it, my personal symbols.

    and you know this ... you're gonna have a blast. you have nothing to worry about. you'll laugh at this entry when you get home. xo

  10. You will be fabulous, you will get out of your head because once you get moving, it will all just flow, I know you girlie!!! Can't wait to see when you return!!!! Motif, schmotif, just do your thang!!! xox

  11. Oh, Karen, I'm so sorry for your anxieties, but I totally understand. Once you get there, you'll fit right in and soak up all those great new ideas, techniques, and heavens maybe even some new "motifs"! :-)

  12. What's the world coming to when the best cheerleader in blogland expresses her insecurities??? The woman who champions us all and reminds us "we're worthy". The woman who encourages, cajoles, and pokes at us to take chances and try new things because "you can do it".

    Okay, admitting a touch of anxiety shows you're human like the rest of us. I'm seriously considering taking a couple of Jane Davies' classes in Portland in the fall if I can just get over know, all the stuff you said up there. One day I'm sure I'm going to go and rock it. The next day I'm sure I'm not ready and really shouldn't spend the money. The next day I'm excited; the next day I'm uncertain. What I get from your honesty here is.....I'm not so unusual, we all face those mental demons in one form or another. whew!

    So go, have fun, create up a storm, then come back and tell us all about your wonderful time so I can go sign up for my first ever workshop...... :)

  13. I remember feeling like that in art school or was that yesterday? Dittos to all the comments above. I think we all feel that way in some situations but you have the guts to say so. You are great! Have a great time.

  14. I know how you feel...I do the same thing! I wish I'd known about the RISD class. I would've gone too. WE could have gone in in a pack! Have fun!

  15. You'll have a blast. I understand the anxiety though. I took a lot of art classes while in college and find myself doing this self critique ever since that my art isn't real serious art. Just enjoy yourself and charm everyone as I know you will.

  16. Yay! I am not alone! (I think I've said this many times before on your website..!) Damn F&*$^#g irrational Fear is what gets me often. I didn't hear about the crying, or am I the only lucky one that has that irrational spike in emotion too sometimes? Oy. Doesn't matter how many life things you can go through, that you know you'll get through absolutely fine, this still happens!
    Sounds like an awesome time - in the class, and with Amy -- Have Fun!!