When I want to watch the Norwegian Artist cringe, I hum the 1974 Morris Albert song, “Feelings,” which, if you haven’t heard it, goes something like this:
“Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings. Wo-wo-wo feeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings. Wo-wo-wo feeeeel you . . . again . . . in my arms.”
Believe me, once you’ve heard it, you never feel the same about feelings again.
Feelings are funny things, and if you are over the age of two, you’ve probably internalized the advice that you shouldn’t make decisions based upon them. While this is good advice, it doesn’t take into account that there are two wildly divergent meanings for feelings, and too often,we confuse the two:
Feelings, definition one: our emotions. Artists are familiar with this definition, not only because societal wisdom asserts that they are a tangled mass of uncontrolled emotional angst, but also because they do seek — through their skill, discipline, and thought, to imbue both raw and controlled emotion into their work.
Feelings, definition two: our visceral gut reaction — call it instinct — based upon the compendium of our background, experience, analytical ability, and intelligence.
Definition two, which is not what Morris was crooning about, is the one we want to pay more attention to, but frequently do not, because we confuse it with definition one.
Think of it, how many times have you found yourself in a situation and thought, “Something about this doesn’t feel right”?
And your next thought is probably, “But I shouldn’t make decisions based upon my emotions.”
Let’s add a third thought: You’re not making a decision based upon your emotions.
You’re making a decision upon that visceral internal voice — the one that subconsciously collects information from your past and your present and gives you distinctive, sometimes urgent, advice about what you’re planning to do with your future.
There is nothing wrong, and quite a bit right, about listening to this inner voice. It will guide you in everything from the next subject matter of your painting to whether or not you really want to sign that contract with the art museum, and one of the worst things that we can do is ignore it because we’re afraid that we are being led forward by our ever-changing emotions as opposed to the extreme inner sanctum of our intellectual voice.
We need both kinds of feelings, in our control, to move forward as artists and artist businesspeople.