How to find your biggest fan.

My boy Jack came home from LA for a visit recently. It was the first time he’s been home in almost a year — I say ‘home’ but New York isn’t his home anymore. He’s an Angeleno now with a home and dog and a lovely girlfriend.

In between carousing with his former high school pals, he spent time going through all the stuff he’d left behind in his old room: paintings, books, clothes, a few battered toys. It was the final pieces of a collection curated over almost a quarter of a century, now getting its final edit. Much of it went in the trash and the remaining few boxes I’ll ship to him via UPS.

I watched him a little anxiously. When Patti was alive, we’d always been highly sentimental, holding onto everything Jack touched. We stored boxes full of stained onesies from Baby Gap, worn out sneakers, report cards, and four volumes of The Collected Art of Jack Tea Gregory full of every scribble he made.

Jack binned all the paintings he made at RISD that have been gathering mildew in our basement, most of the half filled sketchbooks, the rumpled story books. I was sad to see his old pal naked Tintin buried in the kitchen trash can. He was thoughtful and not too cavalier about the selection process but Jack made a lot of choices way too tough for me.

I have always been fetishistic about my own childhood relics. I have three dog-eared exercise books, a shoebox full of black and white photos, an old teddy, and not much more. We moved so much when I was little, went through so many divorces, that all I have left are those few scraps. But Jack has so much more of a sense of who he is and where he comes from so, despite not having his mom anymore, he doesn’t live with a huge sense of loss.

That’s a good thing.

I love my boy and am immensely proud of him. Every time he messages me snapshots of his latest drawing or painting, I download them immediately and addd them to my photo collection. I look back through them often, marveling at his creativity and his progress. I think it probably bugs him, having such a doting dad, but I don’t care.

But here’s the question this raises for me:

While I am willing to glorify Jack’s every accomplishment, to trumpet his progress, to forgive his carelessness, to gloss over his mistakes, to whip out my phone full of scans of his work, why am I so much less supportive of my own creativity? What if I could encourage myself more, cherish what I make, celebrate my accomplishments, instead of being cynical, off hand, dismissive of compliments, self-sabotaging, unforgiving of mistakes, dogged in my self-criticism, never really satisfied with what I make and do? What if I could love the artist I am — as much I love my boy?

What if I could be my own biggest fan?

11 thoughts on “How to find your biggest fan.”

  1. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were our own biggest fan rather than our own worst critic? Without getting too philosophical I think it’s the yin/yang of life. If we didn’t get down how would we get up? However a little balance would be nice. 😊

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  2. A lot of my own healing over the years has been aimed at nurturing my child artist. I did grow up with artists and seldom has art supplies or encouragement. The Artist’s Way and other similar programs take aim and doing just what you suggest. I ended up going back to school and becoming an artist and an art teacher. My students can not believe that I grow up with no art classes at school, no plain paper to draw on and very little encouragement. Nurture that child with in yourself, find what they love and give it to them regularly.

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  3. I think that nurturing our inner child (which is the same creature, oddly, as our monkey) is the primary task of the artist (human). And one of the best ways to do it is to recall how easy and natural it is to do for our young. We know that it doesn’t spoil them or turn them into narcissists, on the contrary, it helps them develop resilience. Supporting and encouraging is not the same as indulging. Indulging is usually what parents fall to when distracted or tired. We could be the same with ourselves – kind, loving, but also disciplined. You are such a good role model to your children – both biological and metaphorical. I love it when you go to your own less than perfect places and share them with us. Thank you.

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  4. What if? Would I be further along? Would this happen or that? What if? What if?

    Better for me to say, I am working on this, this caring for my own artistic journey, daily. Namaste

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  5. I’m thinking that, right beside that inner critical monkey, we all have an inner proud rooster, crowing (albeit secretly) . The rooster thinks we are very very talented and misunderstood by others. The task is to balance the monkey and the rooster. Yes?

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    1. Hmm – As I was born in a “year of the rooster,” I should reconsider my opinion of roosters! Well said!

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  6. Danny, I love that you saved everything. My first encounter with your work was “Everyday Matters”, and I am so fond of the drawings you made of Jack. My favorite image is the drawing you made around his hands. As always, thanks for sharing, and thank you for continually asking, “What if…”

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  7. I’m watching my daughter now in her first year of college, early in her art journey. Proud and a teensy bit jealous that she is jumping leaps and bounds in learning digital, as well as paper/mediums art, and well on her way to mastering figure drawing. Wow! I’m still plodding along currently trying to decide if I should continue to pursue illustration or go the one-of-a-kind-art-purse sewing route. Not sure if the purse thing is avoidance of the illustration thing at this time. Not really that in-depth with either one (though I’ve been drawing, painting and sewing all my life) and Just.Can’t.Decide. Or maybe the monkey is monkeying with my decision?

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  8. janmorrison says what I wanted to say! Danny, though I’ve never met you in person, I hold you in my heart. I’m so grateful for how you model being a decent human, and one willing to share in a natural and honest way. Thank you!

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  9. Well, yes and no, Danny. As a retired kindergarten teacher of over 30 years I knew children who loved themselves to death. They were capable, creative and self confident. (Well, most of them…a few not so much). It is lovely to see a 5 or 6 year old who is in love with themselves but I am not sure that it would be wonderful to know someone that was over 50 and their own best fan. Confident people, yes. Loveable, yes. Confident, yes. But being your own best fan could get really old for the rest of us. Ya’know? If you high five your own image in the bathroom mirror that is okay. But you don’t have to do it where others can see it. See what I mean?

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  10. Something I’ve learned in SBS is there are always going to be people creating art that I deem as way better than what I create. And that we are each on our own individual journey. So even though I think X is way better than me I can still appreciate my progress, however slow. I admit to loving a lot of what I do knowing full well that so and so’s is SO much better. Often I sigh or gasp at my favorite artist works, but it never stops me from posting mine. I stop short of saying mine are mediocre in comparison, they are good for where I’m at! If that’s being my own best fan, so be it! She said, high fiving herself.

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