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Imposter Syndrome

When I first started painting on canvas I would find a reference photo, then grab my pencil *shudders in disgust - I can’t even tell you how much I hate the texture or sound of pencils…* and I would draw my image directly onto the board.

Took me FOREVER.

The worst part was finishing an entire drawing and then realizing that if I had moved it over just a half an inch, my composition would have been So. Much. Better.

That was literally my last straw. I had spent a good hour doing a drawing and realized I’d misplaced it just a half an inch.


I left the drawing as is and painted BUT I couldn’t get it out of my head that this could have been so much better of a piece if my placement had been on point.


From that point on I began drawing everything out onto tracing paper and then transferring the image to my panel…


Which slowly evolved into me saying, you know what would be even quicker?!


If I just traced the imagery right from the get go.


So I did.


I’d create my digital design. Once I had it exactly as I needed it, I’d blow it up to the correct scale on my ipad and then I’d just trace from my ipad. SO FAST. AND if I goofed, I wasn’t married to my quick trace in the way I had been to a couple hours of drawing (even if the design was flawed).


EXCEPT that I was freaked out about an entire squad of ART POLICE showing up at my door. They’d have all their cars sprawled out on my front lawn… the road in front of my home barricaded. There would be flashing lights and some guy on a bullhorn, as his coworkers waited for the signal with their battering ram ready at my front door: WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE, TRACER. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP. THE JIG IS UP. WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE: A GODDAMN TRACING FRAUD!!!


Now the art police have yet to show up… BUT man have I felt like the other shoe could drop at any second.


A friend and very skilled fellow artist was just sharing her similar story the other day. She creates all of her imagery like I do… photoshopping pieces together to create a reference image she’ll paint from and then tracing her imagery onto her panel. She shared that for a long time she felt like she was “cheating”.


So relatable.


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Yesterday we went to my niece’s birthday party at their pool. My kids can’t swim yet. They don’t get floats, I just tell them to stay where they can touch the bottom… no deep end. It’s fine.


The strangest thing though, wound up happening… my niece had brought her snorkel and mask to the pool and after my boys watched her use it, they asked to try. My youngest son was especially interested. His cousin showed him how to put the snorkel in his mouth, how to breathe and then how to put his face underwater.


Within no time not only did he figure out the snorkel, but this kid who can not swim… started swimming.


He swam perfectly underwater. His feet kicking, his arms pulling strong, his breath coming through the little snorkel… and then he’d stand up, pull the mask up and give us all a big thumb’s up with a huge grin.


Little dude can swim.


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We all use tools. For my son to swim, he uses a mask and snorkel. For me to create my art, I digitally build and trace reference images.


Imposter Syndrome can best be described as someone who feels they aren't as capable as others think and fears they'll be exposed as a fraud.


I’ve learned that sometimes when we’re close to getting what we want in life, that we can sabotage ourselves. For me that looks like showing up less frequently on social media, pulling back from shows, and even self isolating. No one can figure out I’m a fraud if I’m not out there waving my flag.…


I’m reminding myself today though that this is my brain’s way of keeping me safe from rejection, criticism, and scary new experiences. I’m also reminding myself that it is my brain’s job to keep me on the same old same old (because we know what to expect and there’s nothing scary there).


And then I’m going to remind myself that I’m a fucking awesome painter, just like my son is one hell of a little swimmer… snorkel and all.


Tools are tools. We all use tools to make our work quicker, easier, more efficient. Many of the great artists in history used tools to grid and trace their work (I have yet to hear anyone refer to them as frauds), some art historians even speculate that the complexity and realism of work exploded because of these tools.


So today I’m going to imagine what Leonardo da Vinci could have done with an iPad and then I’m going to get my ass back to work… because… I’m a skilled artist with a lot to offer.






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