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The People Pleasing Artist

Jen Scully

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of rejection as an artist and how uncomfortable, but important it actually is.  I’ve been listening to Devon Walz’s podcast, ART + magic, and a recent episode with artist, Taylor Lee (check it out!), really spoke to me and got me thinking about what kind of a role rejection has played in my life, and as a result, my art career.

I am a people pleaser.  I’ve never been a take it or leave it, love me or hate me kind of person.  I’m a PLEASE LOVE ME... what else can I do to get you to love me person.  Somehow, I’ve never actively connected the dots to see where this comes from.  Perhaps it’s because the answer is so obvious, there’s really not much to figure out.  I’m adopted (rejected at birth), my sister died when I was 21 (another rejection), my parents divorced when I was in my twenties (yep, rejection).  Of course, none of these were deliberate rejections, and I grew up feeling extremely loved and supported. But subconsciously, rejection stands firmly in my identity and I’ve yearned for acceptance my whole life.  Never mind the fact that I am a left handed red-head that never quite felt a sense of belonging. 

When it comes to art, it occured to me after listening to Devon’s podcast that I’ve been operating as a people pleasing artist.  You see, when I put a painting out there, I want EVERYONE to love it. And that desire is clear and center as I’m actually painting. What’s wrong with this?  Well, it hinders the creative journey, and rather than painting what comes from within and is completely authentic, the work can be watered down because of a pining to appease all audiences.  

In order to be truly authentic, I have to expect rejection.  My art should be polarizing - some people should love it and others should hate it.  And if I succeed in true authenticity, the love that comes should far outweigh the results of the watered down people pleasing approach. 

So, this week when I make the first marks of my new collection, I will only look within for direction, and I will practice acceptance of rejection.  Because the fact is, there are some of you out there who will hate this body of work.  You won't understand it, it might even make you feel uncomfortable.  But, there are also some of you who will LOVE it more than anything you've ever seen from me.  You'll feel something on a cellular level when you see it, and you'll just plain get it. 

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