Photography has taken a back seat this week and book making has taken over. I am six weeks into a Micropublishing class which has introduced me to my new love, book making. And like all things I truly love it has consumed me and frustrates me and challenges me to be a better me. The first two assignments were within my comfort zone, things needed to be controlled and orderly. Attention to detail was the key of making two books that flowed well and showcased the ability to make things sequential. The assignment that we are working on now, that is supposed to be a fun break from the strenuous assignments we have had and the big assignment coming up, is making me eat my words and start making changes.
In Jumping Off Cliffs, I talked about not being scared of failing. How I was going to let my hair down and take risks. I some how convinced myself that by saying I was going to do that, I actually was. Then I had to present what I had accomplished on the fun and easy project in class and was given a critique that snapped me back in to my safe non-risk taking reality, the book was boring. I was told that I was no longer allowed to be controlled and orderly like I was in the first two projects. I needed to fail.
I don’t like to fail. Especially not in school. I have and am currently sacrificing a lot to attend school. My husband is graciously sacrificing his wife for the week so I can go to an art school two and a half hours away from our home. To fail would make the sacrifices we are both making a waste of time. To not fail is to be successful, and I have defined successful as getting good grades. Every time I get a high mark on an assignment I get a sense of confirmation that I am in the right place, even if I know I didn’t challenge myself.
Now I have a teacher telling me that she sees through my charades and is holding me to a different standard. That changes everything. Now I am being forced to fail and I am having a hard time making myself do it. I am standing at the edge of the cliff knowing that in order to succeed I have to jump, but looking all the way down to where I could fall too, I can’t get my legs to move.
I spent all day wednesday staring at my book trying to figure out a way to lose control. Eventually I went to the art store and bought a $2 child watercolor set. I hate watercolor because I have such a hard time controlling it so it was perfect for my task. I sat down at my desk, put on some Bach, and watercolored all over my book. It was small, but I took the risk that it was going to look really stupid, and it turned out all right. It was the stepping stone I needed to make the book a personal reflection of my artistic ability. If I am honest with myself I have all of these ideas of what could be cool art projects but not always the confidence in my abilities to bring the ideas to life.
My definition of success is changing. Is art school really worth it if I am not going to push myself to be a better artist? Does anyone really care that I graduated with a 3.8 if my work is the same safe crap that I was pushing out my freshman year? Does anyone really care if I take a risk and fail?
This week also saw the death of Steve Jobs. It’s all anyone is talking about, and as I type this on my MacBook that is sitting next to my iPhone it would be hard to deny his influence on my life before this week. But this week I was shown the video of his commencement speech at Stanford College. Undoubtedly it was all good stuff but his ending line is what hit me. “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
And I definitely need to be more foolish.