I love Lisbeth Zwerger’s work, actually it is more like an infatuation. Her illustrations draw me to the page eagerly, greedily, until my nose is literally in the book. I drool over her use of negative space, her flawless technique, the way the pictures draw you in with their simplicity, every line and shape just where they ought to be! After scrutinizing each image in our well stocked bookshelf, I sigh, feel uplifted but also feel cast down. It is impossible to gratify the yearning ambition the study of her art stirs up in me. I will never be as good as Lisbeth Zwerger.
I read an article by Anne Almasy on a site called PetaPixel, titled, “I Hate Wedding Photography”. Ms. Almasy is a wedding photographer and explained very eloquently how spending a great deal of time looking at the work of other wedding photographers decreased the quality of her experience when working and gave her panic attacks when she wasn’t. She decided to stop studying the work of other photographers and instead decided to experience life. My favorite part of the article was when she said this: “Has my work gotten better? Well, better than what? Better than it was before? You bet. Because my competition was never “them”. My competition was, and has always been, me.”
This statement brought to mind Tasha Tudor. What a woman. She decided to live like someone from 1830 even though she was born into the best of Boston society in 1914. She felt comfortable in her 1830s garb and ran her farm using methods from the same period. It all seems highly eccentric, but her defiance of convention and society was incredible. She refused to bend to the opinions of others and this can be seen in her art. She is no Lisbeth Zwerger, but she is very strongly Tasha Tudor. Her illustrations all reflect her desires for a simpler life unburdened by modern complexities and her belief in living a life guided by the rhythm of the seasons. Clearly she never entered the race with “them” but instead just worked hard at being the best Tasha Tudor she could be and with that became an icon in her own right.
There is something very attractive about the idea that you can be confident enough in your work that the opinion of others do not matter, that you don’t feel discouraged by the brilliance of someone else’s work. That your work will speak so beautifully that you don’t need to. But I am beginning to wonder if it is confidence in your work, or simply finding joy in what you are doing combined with a certain neglect in keeping up with what is out there. Perhaps ignorance can bring a measure of bliss in this case.