The Secret Artist #4: Putting Your Self in the Picture.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

How much of you goes into what you do?

One of the biggest struggles I have faced during my life as an artist is that making art is unavoidably revelatory. My introvert self wants to hide but in the creative process we see ourselves. We see ourselves as we are, not as we want to be. We are in the picture whether we like it or not.


It can be scary to create because it can be scary to see yourself. The work is your mirror. When we share the work this mirror then becomes a window for our viewer. We open ourselves to be seen. However the process does not end there. For the window then becomes (we hope) a mirror once more, but this time for the audience as they locate themselves within the work.

“Painting is a physical thinking process to continue an inner dialogue”. – Amy Sillman

Perhaps part of the reason much of my painting is in the language of abstract expressionism is an attempt to hide and protect myself in someway from the judgment of my audience. But now, I have come to accept that painting is a revelatory process. How can it not be? Hours and hours of intimate memory and perception tangled together. On canvas I share my unconscious thoughts, wrapped around fragments of story, a moving sketchbook of my private emotion and imagination. No amount of coding and symbolism can change this.

I have found surrender through the realisation that Life itself is also inescapably revealing. Our every thought and action communicates information about ourselves. Including what we don’t say, this can unveil just as much about us than what we do say.

It’s not surprising we feel resistance to showing our true self. When we show our true self or give ourselves fully to any aspect of our lives: our working life, our creative life, our personal life, we in turn risk failure, judgment and rejection.

Often we don’t respond to the call to express our creativity because we know that when we do we will expose ourselves in some way. The creative process is a summons to our self. Often we fill our lives with other work and maybe find ourselves helping others as a way of avoiding facing our self and our creative desire. For 10 years I was an art teacher supporting young people to explore and develop their creativity and art skills before I found the braveness to bring myself to the table and put myself into the picture.


“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse

Matisse was right; it takes courage because there is risk involved. To truly embark on the creative process is to exit our comfort zone. Outside of the comfort zone is a sense of danger and (self) exposure.

Writing The Secret Artist blog has brought a lot of my internal junk to the surface. I have felt exposed and vulnerable. No matter how much I have enjoyed writing each and every chapter, after pressing the send button I am more often than not consumed with a desperate urge to claw back my words. My worst-case scenario kicks into overdrive, delivering to my frightened brain scene after scene of imagined ridicule and humiliation. These fears reduce me to an emotional wreck; rational thought is nowhere to be found. But then, the first email will arrive thanking me for my recent blog entry, or complimenting me on the content. Slowly my head fog of worry clears, the clamp releases my chest, and I see it for what it is: the persuasive fabrication of my fear based mind.

This is why I committed to writing The Secret Artist. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. To get to grips with ‘actually saying something.’ I did it to share my self. I am putting my self out there.

I am terrified every week and every week I am growing.

I want to share with you one of the comments emailed to me this week:

“In short I am loving the fact we as the reader are getting know you, the artist, without you having to tell us you like long walks on the beach. It’s an unguarded view of you. Letting that mask drop and being (not literally obviously) warts and all on a creative tip.”

I was very happy to receive this feedback confirming I was succeeding in my goal to be open and giving of myself in a way that I haven’t managed to do before.

Thank you to everyone who has written to me these last 4 weeks. Every comment, every story, every suggestion propels me forward. This process has made a huge difference to my confidence and I can feel a sense of expansion as I take small steps to go beyond my self imposed limitations.


Eva, 2014

We all have masks and we all play roles but the creative place is a space to play and explore. The canvas is a great space to work things out. As a secret artist I waited a long time before I took the step. Give yourself to your work; write without censor, draw without expectations, sing without criticism, dance without shame, and allow your self expression. With each small risk we take, we make incremental steps towards the goal of experiencing our true creative potential. What a different world we would live in if we could all find the courage to allow our true self a chance to speak!

Thank you for helping me.

G.Kauffman Evadreams, 2014 50cmx30cm 2933x3678 Acrylic, Chalk and Ink on canavs

Eva Dreams, 2014

See you next week

Love and best wishes,


Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

One comment

  1. toby chown · October 16, 2015

    hello Gemma

    thanks for your blog, it has an honesty that i can relate to. My band is playing next week and I have noticed myself not really telling people about it. I relate to that feeling of inner abundance combined with confusion about how or whether to share it. I found some insiration in an article about Lewis Hyde’s book the Gift. I adopted his argument that a work of art is not finished until it is shared. Like actually not complete. It needs the gaze of another to finish it. he frames art as a gift to the artist that it is her responsibility to share. I remind myself of this frequently because somehow when travelling out from me to others it is really easy for this to get distorted and to feel like I am showing off or that it is not good enough. And anyway I reckon that art doesn’t only come from the self but acts to create the self, and also to connect the self beyond itself out towards other people, even towards animals, objects and ecosystems. But knowing is not enough, it keep sharing needs support, community and constant vigilence and re-reminding. I do think that we live in an oddly anti-creative culture, one obsessed by images but reluctant to really accept art as part of the self. so thanks for putting out this little antidote x


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