Never compare yourself as an artist to anyone else.
Have you heard that advice before? Sure, you have, and sure enough, you’ve probably gone right ahead and drawn comparisons between your art and someone else’s. I don’t know why it is, but comparing ourselves to others seems to be a natural tendency in anything we do.
During those bleak times when we’re hit by the art funk monster, it’s especially easy to start looking at what other artists are doing, measuring our own work by someone else’s standards, and feeling that we’re never going to be good enough.
Of course, it’s all relative, and what’s good enough for me would likely be far below your standards. Even so, that doesn’t mean there isn’t merit in my art. I’m learning. I’m growing as an artist. I’m getting better day by day, even if, on some days, it doesn’t feel that way.
As I’m emerging now from the most recent rendition of the “I’m-such-an-awful-artist” blues, I’m gaining a greater understanding of who I am. I’m definitely not a great artist, but one thing is certain: I’m a much better artist today than I was in the past.
I was puttering around in the studio this morning, doing a little prep work for future paintings, and I glanced over and saw this landscape:
No masterpiece, but it’s not awful. That’s my standard of measurement these days, you know. As long as my paintings qualify as “not awful” I feel I’m making progress.
Why? Because in the past, most of my paintings were awful, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
Now, for comparison, let’s look back at an old landscape I painted. This one, titled “Evening at the River” was completed three years ago.
I don’t know about you, but I can sure see improvement from then to now! At the time I painted this river scene — one of the first “nocturne” paintings I’d attempted — this was really the best I could do. Some things were good in this painting. Look at the sky. It’s nice. At least, I think it’s nice.
This nocturne looks a bit sad compared to the paintings I’m making now. But, look! Comparitively speaking, my river painting was leaps and bounds ahead of my earliest oil painting attempts. Here is “Winter Scene”, my very first landscape oil. Oh, I was so proud of this, and so pleased with myself!
I still have this painting, by the way. No matter how many “old canvases” I toss out or re-use, I’m always saving this one. This was where I began as a landscape oil painter.
And this leads us to the point of this post.
The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.
Although comparing ourselves to others is tempting and disheartening as often as not, comparing ourselves to ourselves can be reassuring. Looking back at where we’ve been truly helps us see how far we’ve come.
I have a long way to go before I’ll become the real artist I hope to be someday. But I am definitely on my way, definitely making progress, and definitely headed in the right direction.