I’ve been thinking a lot about old art (paintings, sketches, etc. that I did in the past). A lot of what I’ve been dragging around with me over the years is from as far back as high school (over 20 years ago) and I think that they’re weighing me down, both physically and mentally.
From my mid-twenties to early thirties, I was predominantly focused on school, being poor, and my mother dying. During that time, I let art take a back seat. No, actually, it mostly ended up in the trunk. Yes, I did bits and pieces of art on occasion, but mostly I was too busy, too poor or too sad about letting my skills wane.
After graduating and starting my career, I thought that I would jump right back into being an artist. For a while, I sort of did – I used to make all kinds of crafty things and decorations for my cubicle. But, I really struggled with things like drawing and painting (two things I did a lot when I was in high school). Each time I tried to do anything serious, I just ended up frustrated and melancholy about how much skill I’d lost.
Instead of doing something reasonable about it (like practicing), I simply lingered between looking for the book, class, inspiration, or what-have-you that would suddenly propel me back into life as an artist, or, spending my time reminiscing and moping about how I used to be quite a good artist. Neither of those are particularly useful and neither of them allowed me to move forward.
The other day, I decided that it was time to get rid of an old high school painting. I was really proud of it when I completed it and loved it more than any other piece I’d ever done. For reasons I can’t remember, I put it away in my portfolio for a time (I think we had just moved) and mom sneaked it out to get it professionally framed. It was one of the loveliest gifts she’d ever given to me and I’ve always given it a prominent position on my walls. But, it’s old and the paint has faded considerably. Now it just feels like a dim memory and a reminder of one of my only life regrets: not allowing art to maintain a prominent part of my life.
In other words, seeing it no longer gives me joy. So, it’s got to go.
I also have some other old art: a few old sketch books (mostly from the last decade) and a scrapbook full of little mementos (doodles, small pieces of art, etc.). The sketchbooks aren’t anything special and I’ve never gone back to look at them. My high school sketch books had been impressive beasts that told an interesting story of my projects and progress, but I let them go ages ago. These sketchbooks are disjointed and inconsequential to me.
But, the scrapbook is a whole other kettle of fish. It feeds my moping. Instead of being inspiration for what I could be again, it’s become a reminder of regrets, what ifs, and moments when I felt painfully low about my “lack” of skill (read: need to practice).
It’s weird to think that I’ll be almost erasing my artistic past (I’ll keep my pictures of finished pieces), but I think the sketchbooks and scrapbook need to go – I think that I need to allow myself to be unburdened and see where it takes me. I don’t know if I’ll pick things up again or just allow myself to move on to other creative things, but I do know that I’m tired of carrying the weight of these regrets and I’m ready to start fresh.
But,thinking about this made me curious: do you keep your old art? Do you ever find that failed projects weigh you down? Do you think I’m completely nuts to have thrown away art?
Edit: I did get rid of everything and then promptly spent a couple of hours doodling and sketching over the weekend. So, I guess this is something I needed. I’m glad I had the courage to allow myself to start fresh.