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.
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?