Feel the Fear and Draw Anyway – We need to talk about Professional Jealousy.
If envy were a fever all the world would be ill. Danish proverb
A while ago I noticed a change in my drawings. The mark-making was becoming more noticeable, strident even, and I began to feel slightly out of control, so when I saw a day life class advertised, tutored by long-time friend, and artist, Roy Eastland, whose drawing I have always admired, I signed on. I Imagined I was going to gain technical prowess and help with tone etc.
Of course, now I can see I was kidding myself the truth is that although I have qualifications, teaching experience and a life time of drawing, and this is painful to admit, I have always been a bit jealous of Roy’s technical ability. Technical ability and its’ acquisition had always been my holy grail. An inner belief system riddled with old adages like, practice makes perfect, kept fuelling the idea that if I worked hard enough, I could be an artistic genius…if only it were that simple.
Jealousy is simply and clearly the fear that you do not have value. Jealousy scans for evidence to prove the point – that others will be preferred and rewarded more than you. There is only one alternative – self-value. Jennifer James
I have knocked myself out in the pursuit of excellence with only fleeting moments of acceptance and contentment, and yes in some small ways I have had “success”, but these small blips of happiness were never enough and only ever temporarily salved a hunger to be better. However, since writing has become my dominant medium, my drawing is less pressured and I have begun to enjoy it, hence the more relaxed mark-making.
To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is – dissatisfaction with self. Joan Didion
As I expected the life class was wonderful, I have not been near a life studio for a long time and have missed it, and the building is where I started life-drawing at seventeen, coming back again years later to teach, so it was especially poignant. By lunch time my stilted rustiness was easing up and I had started to enjoy the absolute peace that comes with a conducive learning environment and shared, focused intent. But the real thrill of the day was yet to come. Roy set up his easel to demonstrate. I have never witnessed anything quite like what followed.
He stood poised, alert, with one foot on the raised base of the easel, charcoal hand extended, that kept him back from the work. He began to make tentative, at first incoherent marks, strange masses and sharp dissecting lines and then later, flourishes, arcs, the sweep of an arm and matador-like gestures. It was bird-on-a-wire tense, a feeling that he was grappling with something bigger than himself. It is almost impossible to talk and draw at the same time, but Roy’s inner thoughts were leaking out in a constant accompanying refrain sometimes, urging himself on, sometimes half pre-empting failure. It was intense.
By now his whole body was involved and his left hand particularly, had taken on a life of its own weaving a pattern of almost musical expression and alternative language. Then an image sprang out of the chaos with shocking Gestalt effect.
It was like a performance except that Roy was not performing – he was being as close to his essential self as it is possible to get, and at the moment of peak Roy-ness the image pinged into life.
Comparison is a very foolish attitude because each person is unique and incomparable once this settles in you, jealousy disappears. Osho
And that’s the thing about jealousy/envy (I can never differentiate between the two) to exist it needs the fertile ground of self-doubt which causes us to look outwards, driven on by an idea of lack that can only be filled by grasping at something, when all we need to do is look inside and connect to our unique, essential natures. Roy’s amazing demonstration seemed to trigger an understanding of all this that will I think lead to a personal resolution. The really amazing thing I will take from the day is not a desire to copy Roy’s undoubted and formidable talent, but to emulate his self-mastery, that demands he fight to win the battle of self-doubt every time he picks up his charcoal.
Now instead of measuring myself against others I can accept the difference, not better or worse, just different, and as Roy says, “There is no wrong way.” I will concentrate on my me-ness instead of Ruth-lessly clutching at other people’s techniques. It’s such a relief I can’t tell you…
Thanks to Roy Eastland, artist and tutor.
See Roy’s demonstration drawing here https://www.instagram.com/p/BxVLqWTFhJo/