Liking What We Draw

It’s all right to like what we draw.

This has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn since I started drawing last summer. Being a beginner, I’m always apologetic about my art, especially when I look around the web and see so many talented artists displaying their sketches and paintings.

RULE NUMBER 1: Never compare yourself with other artists.

I’m always hesitant to call something I’ve drawn “good”. Each time I do, I can hear “real artists” snickering behind my back. “She thinks that’s good?”

It’s only in my imagination, of course, but sometimes those voices get awfully loud. They laugh at me, they jeer at me, they tell me I’ve got no right to think of myself an artist.

RULE NUMBER 2: Don’t listen to the voices in your head.

Confidence is important in everything we do. It gives us a “can-do” attitude, or, at least a “willing to try” attitude. It’s especially important in art because the creative process comes from within ourselves. If we don’t believe in what we’re doing, we’ll give up easily if something goes wrong. We’ll make excuses. We’ll go around apologizing for what we’ve done.

RULE NUMBER 3: You don’t need to apologize.

What I’m learning is that creating a piece of art is never about perfection. It’s not about doing things exactly right. There are no standards by which all art is judged. All that truly matters in art is whether or not we like it. It’s as simple as that.

I’m not talking about our own art. I’m talking about all the art we see around us. There are works by great masters that I don’t like. But that doesn’t detract from the artist’s talent. There’s no need for the artist to apologize to me.

When I sit down to draw or paint, whatever I do has meaning — for me. I’m pursuing my study of art because I love it. Art is yet another form of self-expression for me, and whether I’m proficient in it or not doesn’t change what I’m trying to say.

I've always liked my mountain scene. It says "I'm learning, and I'm willing to try new things."
I’ve always liked my mountain scene. It says “I’m learning, and I’m willing to try new things.”

Sometimes the meaning behind my art is simply a desire to learn more about a particular medium or technique. The story behind this pastel piece is one of being an eager student. I’d seen a pastel demonstration in one of my art magazines and tried following along. When I was finished, I liked what I saw on my drawing board.

When I showed it to my husband, he nodded in approval, but I could tell it wasn’t one of his favorites. I was disappointed. I liked it, so I thought he should like it, too.

I was actually a little embarrassed, to tell the truth. I shouldn’t like it, I decided. It was obviously awful, so why was I so impressed by it?

“Well, it turned out better than I’d expected,” I mumbled, still hoping for a little reassurance. All I got was another nod. For whatever reason, my husband just didn’t care for the picture. I put it aside with a sigh.

From time to time, I’d catch a glimpse of the picture. Each time, I’d give it a curious look and wonder again “What’s wrong with it?” Sure, it has its faults, but painting a perfect picture with pastels had never been my intention, and here am I apologizing again.

The truth — plain and simple — is that despite any flaws it may have, I like this mountain scene. I like the colors mingling together in the foreground. I like the suggestion of light and shadow on the mountain. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of it — my husband included — I like it.

RULE NUMBER 4: It’s all right to like a drawing or painting you’ve made.

What I’ve learned is that developing artistic confidence comes not only from seeing improvements in our work, but also from liking what we do. Many of us were raised in a very “modest” culture, however, one that teaches us it’s somehow wrong to pat ourselves on the back. To do so is seen as bragging or boasting, making ourselves out to be better than others.

Nonsense! What about those old-fashioned values of craftsmanship and taking pride in one’s work? It’s not boastful. It’s not trying to put ourselves above others. It’s recognizing the time and effort that has gone into a piece we’ve made, it’s acknowledging that we’ve done our best, and it’s showing that what we’ve created has come from somewhere inside of us that we’re willing to share with others.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the last ten months is that not everyone will like the art I make. That’s fine. But if I don’t like it, why should I expect anyone else to?






  1. OH no….ive broken all those rules over and over and over. I was looking at some pictures yesterday of some paintings I had thrown away and thought, my gosh Dawn, why did you do that? I didn’t like them at the time. Not good enough. Yet, when I saw them yesterday, months later, I was sorry I had. What was I thinking….well, I was thinking…not good enough, not perfect enough, why do I even try, go back and count pills and stare at labs all day for a living, who do you think you are, don’t ever let anyone see this…in fact, delete that blog of yours cuz it is just an embarrassment. How vain. I’m working on that. I think painting is actually helping but it is a slow process to change my thinking and my habits.

    I made the decision yesterday…because of my sister actually, not to throw anything away without consulting her or my husband. They both think I’m too hard on myself, which yes, it is probably true, but I can’t see that yet. I have these perfectionist tendencies that I have had as long as I can remember. Those tendencies make art very difficult for me. My husband pretty much always likes what I paint and I accuse him of being biased and blinded by love. He swares it is not true so maybe I should believe him.

    I am learning to just keep my mouth shut and if someone says they like my art, I just say thank you…rather than really?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Why is it we always find it so hard to believe someone likes what we do? Whenever my husband compliments me on a drawing or painting, I say, “Well, it’s not very good, but I’m learning.” I’m realizing the first step is in admitting that WE like something we’ve done, and even that’s a hard step sometimes. This voice inside my head keeps saying I’m not good enough to share my drawings or paintings, and so I shouldn’t “like” them. But we “like” things for so many different reasons. I like paintings I’ve done because they bring back memories, or maybe because of something I learned from doing it. I’m learning to like even some really awful drawings because they now show me how much progress I’ve made. We do have to like what we do — maybe not all of it LOL, but when we finish a piece that we really like, we need to be proud of it. Right?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I loved your thoughts Dawn….I can relate to every bit of it because I am so hard on myself. I am just starting to understand that that “hardness” can be used to propel myself to become better but at the same time not to push myself down into further depression. I think that part of my being hard on myself is something all entirely apart from art. I think art is an expression of ourselves because it is an extension of ourselves. I discovered that in a way I was rejecting myself! Once I figured out that, I understood the whole mind boggling habit of mine to castigate myself over my art, I am finally loosening up. I love how your sister has ordered you not to throw anything away without first consulting her or her husband, now that is love! 🙂 I feel that your husband might be biased but he loves your art, because he loves you! See what I am getting at? Your art is you! sure we all can get better but it still represents who we are, even it is a rough gem. Just my thoughts on that subject. lol

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  2. I love this post! very thought provoking, truthful and vulnerable. I love your rules and how you often break them, I break them all the time, over and over! What matters is that you like your art. You wrote that your husband was “eh” about your mountain painting. Well, he wasn’t in your head, your heart and he didn’t understand the process that you used to get to that painting. Know what I mean? What if you were expressing something that is deep within you that he is not privy to? Just because he doesn’t get it doesn’t mean that you should join his viewpoint! ha! it took me years to figure this out! I say LOVE YOUR PAINTING! oops, didn’t mean to shout. 🙂 Not everybody is going to like a painting that we paint but ultimately why are we doing art? To impress others? I struggle big time with this one! I want to be accepted and admired and sometimes I bring my painting or my art into it to fulfill that need. Poor painting! Anyway, I couldn’t help but jump on this post, it is so timely because I am challenging myself to take on watercolor for the entire month of May to really learn it. I am shaking in my shoes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m learning that different people respond to different things. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. I know when I view art magazines, I “connect” with some paintings, and others leave me going “eh”, but of course, they’re all great works by very talented artists. For whatever reason, though, I’m just not in the “right place” to appreciate certain paintings. Later, my mood might change, my circumstances might be different, and I could see — and experience — a painting in a very different way. I think that’s part of what makes art such a fascinating world to explore and to be a part of. I’m getting ready to do my first “scratchboard” project later this week. That’s going to be interesting. Like you, I’m a little nervous about taking on something new, so maybe we just need to think of how exciting it is to be doing something so interesting and not worry at all about the results.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. exactly! the process and not the results is what it should be about. I agree that some paintings even by the best artists out there might move one person and not another. I think it goes to connection, like you mentioned. So good to have that in mind when we get an “eh” from people. It is often daunting to stay true to ourselves and our art when we are so aware of how our paintings are being received (or not!).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. On the other hand, there are drawings or paintings I’ve done that aren’t my favorites, but other people love them. They obviously connect with something that goes beyond my personal thoughts and feelings. A perfect example is the pen and ink drawing I did of my husband’s van. When we went to a recent family get-together, I had a lot of people come up to me to comment on that painting. I’d shared it on Facebook, so most of the family had seen the picture. It’s still sitting out in the living room, and everyone who comes over comments about how much they love that painting. Maybe somehow the love I put into it as a surprise for my husband comes through to the viewer. I don’t know how else to explain it.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I cannot agree more with your rules. In Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” there is a part, right in the first letter, where he says to the young poet something that mirrors your Rule 1 and 3.

    He says: “You ask whether your poems are good. You send them to publishers; you compare them with other poems; you are disturbed when certain publishers reject your attempts. Well now, since you have given me permission to advise you, I suggest that you give all that up. You are looking outward and, above all else, that you must not do now. No one can advise and help you, no one.

    There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write?”

    I am also a beginner. I think your mountain drawing is strong and distinct. Let’s keep on learning and pushing our boundaries day by day?

    Liked by 1 person

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