If you’re an artist of any kind, questioning yourself is a part of the daily grind. Does that look like a blog? Is that sentence convoluted? Will others understand it? Is that word… a word? Will I ever be as good?
Of course, any kind of evaluation of your work will be a good thing, but never-ending self-doubt will drive you crazy, will discourage you from walking out of your comfort zone and often lead you to underestimate your abilities.
So if you’re anything like me, longing to appease all kinds of crowds with your work, let me recommend a man who will change your life: Antonio Gaudí.
Who’s Gaudí and why should you care?
Last month, after finding laughably underpriced tickets to Barcelona, I took a trip to the Catalonian paradise, spending every last second before the flight convincing my mom (she’s Greek – if that tells you anything) traveling alone was a good idea.
And here’s why I was right: travelling by myself gave me a LOT of me-time to think about what aspects of my work I wanted to improve on. I always vouch for taking a step back–whether that’s a weekend, a month or a year – and evaluating where you’re going and whether you’re following your passion(s). And, a senior in college, drowning with pressure to succeed in one of the most competitive fields in the industry, I reached the point where a break sounded dreamy and entirely essential.
So I met new people, indulged in the circles past my comfort zones, and took tours! Lots and lots of tours. And it was on those tours that I met the man who changed my life, Gaudí.
Antoni Gaudí was a Spanish architect who lived during the mid 1850s to early 1920s. Barcelona moves in the rhythms that Gaudí created long ago. Most of the houses he built have now become jewels of the city, reminiscent of the patterns and colors of nature. La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell, and the city’s most famous landmark, La Sagrada Familia are all the creations of the man that some used to call – and often still do – absolutely crazy.
Gaudí is undoubtedly a genius. He used simple natural elements to create architectural works of art and continues to bring in crowds of thousands to stare at and appreciate his work…but not quite understand it.
My tour guide at the time said it like it was. Gaudí never won any awards during his time. He was often ridiculed in newspapers and buildings he designed rarely found residents eager to rent an apartment. Why? Because no one understood his work.
Gaudí was simply too progressive for his time. Each stroke, each color, each window pane he instilled in his pieces had a purpose and a story behind it. Today, though Barcelonian residents (much less passing tourists) are only starting to decipher his work, and the stories he was telling. And even with half the understanding, the name advertised on every street is his. They knew they bore witness to works of a genius, and centuries later, the city has become a home to progressive artists of all sorts. Because much like Gaudí, they understand that their work isn’t important only if it’s understood.
Perhaps good work is supposed to challenge society’s given beliefs and expectations.
It’s no wonder Pablo Picasso’s museum finds refuge in the same city. The great artist is almost always misunderstood (and don’t believe the great art lovers that say they understand his style – they most likely don’t).
But why do many find him so great, especially after he hit his most stylized period, painting scenes and creatures that make no sense to our minds?
He was, as art gallery owner and author Michelle Gaugy puts it in her blog post, “unafraid.” His work was original and powerful and contained elements of his passions. It seems like whether viewers understood those elements was never one of Picasso’s concerns.
So why should it be ours? How great it sounds to be unafraid; to do what you do in the way you find most expressive of your own thoughts and emotions, and not worry about an audience reaction at all…. I know, sounds idealistic – and unrealistic.
But there’s a healthy lesson to be taken from Gaudí’s and Picasso’s work. Others’ opinions shouldn’t dictate your voice and shouldn’t guide your self-confidence. Surround yourself with mentors, with friends and professionals eager to offer a word of advice, but don’t let your surrounding audience shut down how you think your work should look or sound like. If they don’t understand your painting, your design, your poem, your article, that’s not entirely a problem. Trust your ideas, and trust that your perception may offer a new set of goggles to look at life with… even if those take centuries for the first person to pick up.
It’s okay to be misunderstood – even a little crazy – it makes you a great artist… and most importantly, it makes you human!Sharing is caring!