A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 116: the Power of Crap


“Camoufleurs”, 2017, Watercolor

When your favorite thing about a new artwork is the title you came up with, it may be a sign that you’ve created crap.

“Camoufleurs” is just that for me. But in point of fact, putting a picture of it here on my blog is the dangerous part of my Creating Dangerously theme for 2017. It’s a risky biz.

Artists are the same as everyone else: We like to put our best stuff out there, the things we think are well-done, maybe even impressive. We all like to look our best to other people, right? Social media has made that de rigeuer. Facebook and other formats have given us all a chance to present our best and sometimes even manufacture a life that looks far more awesome than the one we’re truly living. We talk about the right way to take selfies, how to get more Likes and Followers, how to gain more attention. Certainly, this doesn’t come by putting our less-than-stellar selves out there for all to see.

But painting “Camoufleurs” made me wonder about the power of Crap, the power of the stuff we tend to hide away. I wondered, do we need to be more up front about our failures so that we build more bridges with each other? Many studies have shown that too much social media can lead people to anxiety and depression, because they look at those carefully manufactured lives of their friends and feel like, by comparison, their life is crap. Maybe if we were more willing to be real, to embrace the struggles and disappointments, to share some of them, we would all begin to feel like we were all in this together, that no one has the perfect Facebook life, and that we’re all simply mistake-prone people collectively trying to do better.

Maybe that is all just way too philosophical. Maybe it is worse: Quasi-philosophical, or Pseudo-philosophical. I was aiming for a beautiful watercolor painting of flowers. What I got was a messy, camouflaged assault on aesthetics. It looks like Rambo was trying to explore his sensitive side. Maybe I should have followed my first instinct to dispose of this failed attempt. But then what would I have to be pseudo-philosophical about?

I’m not advocating that all our failures and short-comings be plastered all over the place. That might be far too pathetic. I’m advocating authenticity for the sake of community. I’m advocating the occasional warts-and-all share in order to create an atmosphere where it is okay to not be beautiful and impressive all the damn time.

Frankly, you’re not helping anybody if you’re putting your fake life on display. It is all as “magical” as that not-so wonderful Wizard in Oz. We all need more real, don’t you think? I know I do. And I know I appreciate the people willing to be vulnerable enough to live life in its truly haphazard state, be it online or right in front of me. When I find out how someone else is fighting the same battles as me, feeling as beat down by things, living day-to-day because Big Picture is just too tough, I feel a connection. That is encouraging. That helps us feel we are really and truly in this together.

Don’t be afraid of your Crap. It may just be what someone needs to help them feel less crappy about their own life. And it may be just the way you learn, together, how to wade through the ugly in order to find what is truly beautiful about life.

By the way, I’m selling “Camoufleurs” if you want it. Just $400 unframed (not including postage).

I know – I’m full of crap.