• Cara Van Leuven

The Self: Deprecation vs. Promotion

Last week I received a call asking if I would like to be part of a collective holiday show at the Edwardsville Art Center. It was truly an honor and I was flattered; I agreed despite being as far from preparedness one could imagine. It was enough to make a Boy Scout roll over in his grave.

Black Friday evening I wore my breeches and a blazer, walked into the gallery and was stunned to see my paintings hanging - one front and center. This was my first time being displayed in a gallery and shared with so much talent. By evening's end, two of the four paintings sold while the remaining were being eye-balled.

There is a balance we all face -- that of the confident promoter vs. the self-deprecating artist everyone expects and the one you're most comfortable with. At the gallery it was hard to socialize, preferring an attempt to hide behind ceramic mugs and having an over-exuberant interest in floor patterns. And then there were the tears in the car on the way home feeling too appreciated and too special.

Days have passed and I've had time to reflect on my behavior and feelings. I am OK with being slightly socially awkward. It's part of who I am, but the important part is that I faced my fears and abandoned my comfort zone. I tried and conquered -- maybe not with Gene Kelly grace, more like with clown shoes, but I put myself out there, and I'm proud of that.

I've allowed myself to accept that people there are people who genuinely appreciate my art and maybe even me as a person. Instead of shrinking into self-doubt I've converted my insecurities into inspiration to paint more with courage to explore new designs and styles and colors.

Stepping outside the comfort zone is what leads to growth and bravery. Although neurosis and self-lingering doubt will inevitably remain a struggle, I will continue to move forward. Although self-deprecation is fun, like really fun, an overindulgence is no good. Just like all that pie we ate on Thursday. It was fun for the day, but come Monday when you put on your work pants with an unforgiving lack of elasticity it's not so cool. But man, it tasted good, didn't it?