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Artist Dysmorphia

I’m going to just go out on a limb and admit it. I have artist dysmorphia. Yes, it’s a term I made up a few weeks ago being tongue in cheek with my wife about something that seems to be a real thing if I’m being honest.


My artist dysmorphia is about how I see my art. While i’m up close an in the zone, I’m usually in a pretty good head space with my art. My brush is flowing, or I’m using the palette knife to get the effect I want. I’ll spend hours, sometimes the entire day and then occasionally I go across the room and sit on my tiny couch in my studio to look at what I have.

Suddenly the satisfaction I was feeling dries up. At times I’m not even sure what I’ve painted, it looks distorted suddenly. The depth or texture I was going for seems to collide into an ungodly juxtaposition of noise and I can no longer see the image. I muscle through it after a my disappointment, and start mixing colors and then up close I start to slide back into the zone, lost in the painting.

Some days I can fend off this dysmorphia until the painting is actually done. Sometimes I’m in the middle of the painting and I can’t figure out if I’ve done anything good at all. I sit and wonder at times like this. Do other artists feel this way? Do famous actors watch themselves on screen and the dysmorphia kicks in where they can’t stand to see their own face? For a writer, maybe Neil Gaiman himself, they look at their work and wonder, “what the hell did I just put on paper?”

Maybe some of the dysmorphia is about getting into the zone, giving yourself to that flow of energy and opening yourself to the muse, that drives you to create. Many artists talk about that feeling that the work, the writing, or the performance or the art comes through them. Maybe this is part of the dysmorphia?

An alternative explanation is that perhaps the dysmorphia tends from that place of perfectionism, in which nothing is ever good enough. In that position it’s an unkind voice that is always criticizing the artist, writer, performer.

Still, I do what artists do, I keep going through the dysmorphia sometimes not sure what I’ve created at all, creating not because I consider what I do good or great, but creating because the spirit needs to create period.

Painting the Rockies

I’ve spent a lot more time up in the Rockies painting hoping to get into the Boulder Open Studio this year, trying to finish up a series. Some of these are large, the largest is six feet long, the smallest 3×2 feet.