Dealing with Artist Jealousy

a watercolor painting of a tuxedo cat lounging in a cat bed, looking smug

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When Artists are Jealous

I overheard two artists making sharp, envy-driven comments about another artist’s beautiful work at an exhibit.

Jealousy is an ugly cloak. Comparisons with other artists should be a healthy exercise. Surveying other people’s art – either on social media, or at exhibits – helps us stay inspired to try harder, and keeps us keen on what’s happening in the art world.

Look Up from Below, and Smile

Admiring artists with more skill and/or success than we’ve fulfilled is an opportunity to galvanize our Where-I-Want-to-Be goals. But only if we frame it that way.  There’s nothing more affirming about this path we’ve chosen than standing in awe of another artist’s exquisitely realized work.

Beauty puts a foundation of conviction under our plans to sharpen skills with diligent practice.

As artist-peers, we understand each other’s languages, and we all wrestle with the same internal creative foes. We know what it’s like to make things.

Alone in the studio, pulling a monoprint on the press

The Hazards of Meanness

The flip side of being in awe is standing in judgement.

Looking with judgey-eyes at less skillful art than we’re capable of making can dull ambition. When you feel you can make better art than another, less experienced artist, you’re toying with the seduction of complacency and self-administered attaboys.

Criticisms over another artist’s novice or less proficient work – even in thought – dilutes our drive, and punctures our passion to improve.

Confidence shining on your own work with the light of another’s inexperience can pierce your ambitions with a nail of apathy.

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without
hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.

~George Sand


Peer to Peer Support

Art-making sprouts from the core of who we are. It’s born in the places where we dip down to describe what we feel, how we see, our history and wishes and aesthetics.

All of our art-making is forged by what we care about, and that personal well of creative expression makes us thin skinned to critiques about it.

Do you want to paint more often after a critique, or a compliment?

Some artists need both, but I think a policy of generosity within our Artists’ Tribe is a good standard to practice. Be generous (but real) with your encouragement and compliments.

Be a Joiner

It’s easy to justify a neutral existence in the online art world: with-holding likes, or avoiding sharing your own work on social media.

Lurking instead of engaging.  Rarely leaving compliments or inquiries. Artists are known for keeping things close to the vest, out of insecurity or shyness, or worry about being copied, judged or ignored.

Any one of those things could be the source of preferring the artist-hermit life, but really, the whole point of noticing and then rendering a thing – for most – is to show others what you saw – and share your art.

Try to stretch past your comfort zone a little, and sprinkle the art world with a crumb of social media artist-to-artist love.

watercolors and printmaking art displayed on panels at an art festival
Smaller scale watercolors and printmaking art displayed at an art festival. Overheard commentary from visitors can be compliments and insults in equal measure.

We’re Good at Self-Doubt

Everyone has the same struggles with bad-art days.  Most artists have experienced fear of the blank canvas, masterful procrastination, or creative block. There are entire books devoted to each one of those challenges.

Other artists power through and produce like crazy, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t beset by skulking wolves of self doubt, just like the rest of us.

Artists flourish with a little encouragement. We’re like gardens in need of sunshine.  We creative types do well with some sort of outside championing to balance the see-saw of internal mental wanderings while making stuff alone. A little nice goes a long way.

Good at This 7.5 x 10 Watercolor on paper (sold)

Dare to be Kind

So, as an artist, be generous, and leave compliments, share other artist’s work with your friends and followers, click hearts and Like buttons, and practice kindness. You’ll reap what you sow. ♥

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. You can subscribe to this blog (free) to get each post via email as soon as it’s published – click here.

Art Quote

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.

Isak Dinesen
Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

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40 thoughts on “Dealing with Artist Jealousy”

  1. How refreshing, inspiring and generous you are Belinda! Thank you for a great start to my day, and for your beautiful paintings and prints. 🙂 Leigh

  2. Tatiana DeFigueiredo Gebert

    Your work is just beautiful! I love the kitty at the top of this post. You get such rich and saturated colors. Amazing!

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Lance. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let’s just revel in the creative atmosphere spread around the globe through online encouragement. Peer to peer Go-Gettums! Snap something soon!

  3. Suzanne Moore

    Belinda, I’m grateful for your incredible generosity, sharing your wisdom and talent. The quote at the end of this post reminded me of the gratefulness I experienced while grieving. Through loss and sadness the beauty of life around me becomes evident. Someone said those who love much grieve much.. or something like that. Thank you for adding to the beauty in the world!

    1. Hello Suzanne, Thanks for stopping by and leaving some feedback. I appreciate knowing the post and the quote resonated with you. I hope time, art-making and good company help soften the sharp edges of your loss.

  4. Love that, and completely agree. In the fall I taught some seminars on creativity, and one guest speaker, a successful writer talked about how people say that criticism helps, but all it did for him was hurt him, and undermine his confidence. In art, you are going in your own direction anyway. Even if someone criticizes you, you won’t necessarily change course, because that person can’t drive your little artistic car. You are in the driver’s seat. I have learned so much from kind, positive people. I hope I can give that back to other artists.

    Thank you for your beautiful paintings and for all you do.

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

    1. Hi Ayala – Site scraping is rampant and if the perpetrator is overseas, there’s not much the content creator can do. My best advise is to steer clear of any of my videos loaded outside the youtube space, as they are often lures to a scam, with altered links that warn you of viruses on your computer (scams to get access to your hard drive under the auspice of “fixing” something) and various forms of malware. If it looks suspicious, be suspicious and exit. 🙁

  5. Well said, Belinda!! Knowing that snarkiness is usually a cover for insecurity can help deflect its power to harm, but I am still left almost speechless when I witness this kind of behavior. And it’s destructive to both parties — it saps positive energy from the “giver” as well as from the recipient. Instead of building everyone up, it contributes to a downward spiral. Such a sad waste of everyone’s creative energy.

  6. Marilyn Thuss

    You really know how to paint a cat! I just love it! Your blog post is spot on, Belinda. Jealously is an ugly cloak that makes the wearer feel awful. I can’t imagine wanting to feel that bad within myself, but I think sometimes people get so used to it that they become numb to it’s destructive impact in their own lives.

    It feels so good to uplift others and we benefit from the effect, as well. I for one feel such appreciation and encouragement when someone compliments my work. I love specific comments, even those that come from a place of seeing a flaw in my approach, because it comes from a place of support and interest in me as an artist. It definitely makes me want to paint more, rather than less. However, you can always tell the spirit of the comment, since jealously is hard to hide!

    I am printing out and hanging up your neat little “Start where you are…..” saying. Thanks for your amazing work, your insightful blog posts, and your generous sharing of information with all of us. I want to be a part of your Artists’ Tribe.

    1. Thanks for the great comment, Marilyn. You’re right that jealousy is hard to hide, and people who leave it unchecked, and then speak from it probably forget that. I bet some folks would be horrified if you screened a video of things they’ve said about others.
      And you *are* part of the Artist’s Tribe! Especially the chapter committed to Kindness. 🙂

  7. Beautiful post spot on! “Good at this” is beautiful in capturing the cat’s magnificence.

    During those house hunting shows, I cringe when hunters ridicule the home owner’s decor as if old is ugly and needs to be thrown in a dumpster. In critiques, I’ve been taught to say positive remarks first, and never be unkind. I believe that’s the morale boosting way you may be talking about? For example in a critique one might think…Glad I didn’t have lunch before seeing that piece of crap! But say…The color and movement are intriguing, but I feel the need to see more about where you are going with the composition. Have you thought about changes in the balance of color?
    A constructive evaluation makes me feel stronger and more inspired about my artwork as opposed to crushed and sniveling with defeat. Critiques are an amazing and magical part of art when they are done with consideration and compassion.

    1. Thanks for the compliments, Maywyn. I agree that those off-handed remarks against another person’s taste are cringe-worthy. I think we’re wired to say those things unless we reign the Judgement in, and lock it in the cellar. Maybe we just don’t like “different than us”.

  8. Okay… first off – – – ZOWIE!! about the painting. I want to pet her!

    And secondly, sometimes you bowl me over and I have to respond – I still feel how you totally captured my heart with your painting of the old theatre in Hollywood. So: Thanks for all the times that you’ve moved me and I haven’t said so, mostly because I assumed (?!) that you needed time to paint more than listen to me say “wow!”

    And, one more thing: Doesn’t it feel good to love something, someone – even a small part of a being or a painting? It’s like a humming inside.

  9. Belinda I’ve been following your blog for a while and really enjoy it and enjoy seeing your beautiful art. I like this post. Totally agree with you.

  10. Another amazing work of art, Belinda! Your comments were right on. And yes, we all need encouragement, no matter our skill level. I’m fortunate to have two sources of major encouragement: one I call my muse – a former art teacher (now 96) who takes credit for pulling me out of my artistic shell about 30 years ago and is still there on my shoulder; the other is my best friend from high school who is a working artist (as opposed to me – a playing artist). We are always encouraging one another. I always enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks, Mickey! And good for you to have not one but TWO sources of GO-GETTUM! Bravo on your playing-artist status, and more power to you. Keep those art supplies moving.

  11. Love these sentiments – encouragement is such a gift. Here’s a compliment for you: your cat painting is absolutely,amazing – had to look closely to see that it wasn’t a (very charming) photo!

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