What does it mean to be Authentic?

Ever since the conversation I had with Cornwall artist Ken Spooner (see Blog Sept 16)    I’ve been mulling over the need for an artist to be authentic. What does that even mean?

Here’s what good old Google has to say:

Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be.

So I guess in Art, authenticity is when we produce something that flows from within, rather than trying to please someone else? The trouble with working to commission is that the worry that the buyer may not like the finished piece inhibits creativity.

And does it mean that it’s unauthentic to create something because one thinks it will be commercial? True – it is so much more satisfying to create something just because you want to and you like it. If someone else likes it too, then that is a bonus.

What is authenticity in a person? (Google again:)

Authenticity is about presence, living in the moment with conviction and confidence and staying true to yourself. An authentic person puts the people around them at ease, like a comforting old friend who welcomes us in and makes us feel at home.

I really like that!

During Devon Open Studios (DOS), I saw some wonderful work by other artists which made me think “I wish I’d had that idea!” And it’s since DOS that I’ve been feeling unsettled about my own work and feeling that I need to move it on, to have some new ideas.

It has gradually dawned on me that I’m suffering from what I shall call Art Envy!

This came particularly after my visit to Mary Maguire’s studio in Buckfastleigh. Thirty years ago, Mary had studied textiles at Goldsmith’s College and some of her work from that time was on display. I absolutely loved a set of 4 painted boxes, each with two opening doors like religious icons. In each box was a famous portrait from Art History and a piece of jewellery which Mary had made for the sitter. For example, for Botticelli’s Venus she made a brooch in the shape of a uterus, filled with tiny pearls (eggs). For the wife in the Arnofili Wedding there was a gold cloak fastening in the shape of a placenta and embryo. Sooo clever! The boxes combined all my loves – Art history, religious icons, bling, brooches as Art. I wish I thought of it!

But maybe what I do is already my authentic self?? When I am working on a collage, I lose myself completely in the process.

While clearing my work room recently, I found a base and frame ready to make a new Sunflowers picture. I can’t waste it and have started work. Working on it is like being with my comforting old friend who welcomes me in and makes me feel at home. So, for now I am just going with the flow….

Has anyone reading this ever struggled with thoughts like these??


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2 Responses to What does it mean to be Authentic?

  1. US Jane says:

    I think you wrote this one for me, directly. I have SUCH trouble trying to do commission pieces because the stress it puts on me is terrible! And I also have “art-envy”. I am envious of YOU! You inspire me to do my best and your kind words have been so helpful. I have to save this post because you have written some wonderful thoughts here and I must keep them in mind.

    Thank you!

  2. janeperkins says:

    Thanks Jane – I so glad you understand me!!
    And thank you for your kind words x

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