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Art and the Ego

Lyle Sopel -

Dear Collector Friend,

At a recent fine art exhibit, I had a welcome insight into the importance of vulnerability and humility in relation to the creative process. The insight came to me when I noticed one of the painters who was being represented at the show. He was hard not to notice, given the sense of bravado that he expressed.

Naturally intrigued, I studied his work closely in an attempt to understand the story behind this individual. While his work was eye-catching, I noticed that it lacked a certain quality of depth. As the night progressed, I realized that his work was missing the ingredient of humility; one that I find essential to all truly great artwork. In the end, this painter’s overt qualities of self-assurance led me to a valuable reflection. I was reminded of how important it is for artists to let down their guard in order to access the deepest potential of their work.

Artists step out into the world offering what is most dear to their hearts, bearing their souls to their audience. For those who are truly devoted to their practice, becoming comfortable with vulnerability can be a huge river to cross. Even contemplating the prospect can shake a creative person’s confidence to the core. 

Knowing that there is always a chance that they will not be understood, some artists exaggerate their confidence as a way of sheltering themselves. Mastering these primal emotions is a necessary part of the creative process, and is essential to becoming a more authentic and professional artist.

When I was a young artist I would often push against any hint of vulnerability, carving my stone subjects with a sense of great bravado myself. Yet, over the years, I have learned to tame my mind whenever rogue whispers of anxiety rise to the surface. Throughout this process I have learned that vulnerability is first cousins with humility. As I have moved more deeply into working with jade, the greater process of learning how to work this stone that is harder than steel has caused me to strike up great friendships with these two virtues.

Although my years of experience have led me to develop a very stable sense of inner confidence in what I do, I am consistently put to the test when I set out to work in my studio. As I get suited up (armoured to the hilt with waterproof clothing, heavy rubber boots and a protection mask across my face), I often think that simply the act of wearing all this gear would cause even the most confident politician in the world to have a little self-doubt. I have learned to develop a sense of surrender in relation to the unique qualities of my working attire. Stepping into my suit, I am moving into the mental space of sculpting.

When I take my carefully selected and perfect piece of jade or gemstone to the grinder, I am often met by a wave of confidence, coupled by a breeze of vulnerability. At home in the world of my studio, there are still no guarantees as to how my materials will behave. If a certain specimen responds flawlessly, I feel the Gods are on my side. If another responds with unexpected challenges, I feel grateful for the learning opportunity and for this medium that keeps me continually riveted to the creative process.

So, vulnerability, humility, and I know each other well. Though it can be very challenging to stay open to these elements, it is a practice that I believe all artists should befriend. Not only does it keep us steady in relation to our challenges, but also it keeps us supple in relation to our successes.


Art, Nature, and Beauty Always,


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