Comparing Your Art Skills to Other Artists
A direct message on Instagram from another artist about being a beginner got me thinking. Just starting out in the art world today makes it easy to compare our creative efforts to alllllll the other artists on social media, right?
Do you feel overwhelmed scrolling through other artists’ work that’s so much farther ahead of your skills? Even if you’re only using Instagram, I bet you’ve seen mind-boggling watercolor painters.
Fawning at beautiful, realized work that has been honed by years of practice can be an inspiration, or a bummer. Especially if your observations are tinted by comparisons.
A beginner looking at a seasoned painter or printmaker only sees the “now” – the highlight reel of what an advanced artist has accomplished.
Beautiful paintings don’t always reveal the time machine of years invested. It’s easier to overlook that hint, and just wish to be that talented. Every brush stroke and design accomplishment has thousands of hours of practice under it. While gazing at gorgeous printmaking, or watercolor, don’t forget to consider the pounds in the recycling bin of crumpled and tossed art failures.
The Danger in Comparisons
If I start the day with email and posting imagery on social media, I get sucked into the vortex of looking at what other people are making.
Our monkey brains are wired to be curious about our brethren. I mutter to myself while scrolling through instagram that I’m filling the kettle with inspiration.
But really, I’m just burning through studio time by peering at other artist’s conviction to their creativity.
Seeking inspiration can turn into comparisons, and lead to the Perfectionist Trap. Watch the video below.
Be Deliberate in Your Pursuit of Fine Art – How You’ll Get There
If looking at amazing art makes you feel discouraged – like “How am I ever going to get there?” This is for you…
- You’re going to get there by looking at beautiful work by artists who are years ahead of you on their journey. Their vision and hard earned skills will provide the lighthouse you’ll navigate your art ship towards. Those amazing artists are your navigational beacons, not your competition.
- Seek out and become acquainted with artists who are more advanced than you, so you have a seasoned community to ask art related questions. These friendships will also provide you with real time verification that amazing artists are human, and have moments of insecurity and doubt, just like you.
- Make art friends who are at the same pre-entry level to the art world as you. Art peers. Exchange ideas, share artists who inspire you, discuss art supplies, exposure, pricing, Etsy Shops, etc. Gather once a month on zoom to discuss your goals. And make plans to attend art conferences, and artsy events together. Remind each other: Attitude is Free. Swap yours out frequently.
Beginner Mindset Tips, continued….
- Attend art openings and museum shows featuring creative work that moves you. Those exhibits will remind you that it’s worth taking the time to practice. Every time you see a painting or a print by an artist who’s history becomes known to you, it will confirm to your fledgling artist’s brain that they busted their butts to get good. And you’ll go home and decide to make art for 45 minutes, instead of emptying the dishwasher.
- Prioritize friendships with people who encourage your art, because they know how important it is to you. Let them know, gently but firmly, that encouragement is the nourishment you need, rather than expectation or pressure. Because you already excel at expectation and pressure. It’s the gentle stuff you need help with.
- When you see art that is so glorious in its execution that it makes you weep, choose to be grateful rather than sad to see it. Decide to let the beauty by someone else’s hands broadcast like an atomizer onto your dried creativity. Soak in all the hints, and tips, and brush strokes, and colors that artist left for you to absorb. Art is a gift of inspiration that perpetuates beauty to the beholder over and over again. Try hard not to use it as a battering club of comparison.
- Other artists’ amazing work will renew your conviction to simply try harder to improve from what you did last month, rather than aiming for and crumbling under your own pressure to make a masterpiece. Baby steps will get you there. But you gotta move your feet.
Beginner Artist Mindset Round Up
Kids are better beginners than adults, hands down. In this article from Might Could Studio, you can review a few tips and tricks about being an art beginner from the experts – kids!
Anya Kuvarzina is an illustrator who also teaches illustration. In this article, she encourages you to trick your mind into drawing better with a few simple parameters.
Over at Most Craft, Camille Severino has assembled a list of tips to help you improve your art with some daily prompts and an infographic. Check it out here.
Peruse this list of nine different creativity and art-making mindset books to help you up your game. Everyone should have a solid art library of reference books to lead you up and out of a slump, right?
Just because we’re still hunkering down, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your art out there, my friend. Here are five alternatives to getting your art exhibited – in front of people – during a pandemic.
Making Art Plans
As the seasons change, and the calendar fills with obligations, I’m blocking out time when I’m *not* available for anything other than art. I recently spent an entire day pulling a linocut edition, and it was glorious. I even forgot to eat! It was that fun. When is the last time you reserved an hour to draw or sketch or paint?
I hope you’ll consider being the good steward of your art-making time, and reserve a little space on the calendar for just that. Make art with a friend via Zoom if it helps you stay accountable to that hour. Even if all you do is watercolor swatches, to play with your pigments, it will have been time well spent.
Happy painting to you, and I’ll see you in the next post!
P.S. One more goodie: a video survey of the types and styles of watercolor paint brushes. Watch it here.
The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.Stephen McCranie