Monday, November 25, 2013

Be Happy With Your Work

Here's something that's been bugging me for a while.

Common advice given to aspiring artists is to always be improving. Always strive for more, push yourself outside your comfort zone, study the masters, don't become stagnant. All well and good. However, sometimes this advice gets slightly twisted to become "never be satisfied with your work."

If you like your work, that means you're not pushing yourself. If you look at it and think "I did a great job" you're just fooling yourself; you can always do better. Look at Da Vinci, look at Sargent, are you that good? No? Then stop patting yourself on the back! Always be hard on yourself, always beat yourself up; this is the mark of a true artist.

Sometimes they'll say it directly, sometimes they'll subtly imply it. Keep an ear out for it and you'll eventually hear this warped message from a professional or professor. In fact, recently on Twitter I saw someone just come out and say,

"There is no amount of self-loathing that can't help an artist's work."

Okay, brace yourselves, artists, I'm going to say something CRAZY:

I like my artwork!

I'm not saying that it's perfect, or that I don't need to improve, I'm just saying that I like it and I enjoy making it. BAM. Mic drop!

Really, what's the point of being an artist if you're not going to allow yourself to enjoy it? There are a lot of professions that are easier and higher-paying where you can make yourself miserable. Try taking a risk: be happy with your work without worrying that this will stifle improvement.

Enjoy what you do.

"(Humans are) a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present." - Screwtape, letter 15


  1. Oh my gosh. THIS. I always try to do my absolute best work and every time when we were in class we were supposed to say what we would've done better or done differently with our work or what was "wrong with" it. And I was always like, "I wouldn't have turned this in if I thought it was bad or unfinished or not good enough. I did the best I could and I thought it was good and if I thought I could do better I would have done so before I bothered to turn it in and put it on the wall, WOULDN'T I HAVE?" GEEZ! Ok I'm done :)

    1. Katie - YES, totally! If I thought there was something "wrong with it" then I would have fixed it! haha!

  2. Thank you thank you, THANK YOU, Kelley. I'm so glad that someone else feels this way! I always want to keep improving of course, but I'm proud of the work that I create. I like it! However, I always keep my feelings to myself for fear of getting struck down with "Well then you'll stagnate and you fail as an artist. You aren't ALLOWED to like your own work." It's been something weighing on my mind for awhile now-- I've been feeling guilty that I have some pride in what I do. You don't even understand how glad I am that you shared this. Thank you!!!

  3. You are very right! I always try to be happy with what I can do if I know that I've done the best I can do *right now* – so later on I get better at fabric folds, or whatever, and then some future piece shall be even better, but there's no point beating myself up *now* for a lack of future skill, if I do that I won't get anywhere. I think if you spend the whole time worrying about a perceived lack of skill while doing a piece of artwork, the piece itself will suffer and it will be a chore instead of something fun (and probably take twice as long and feel even longer than that). I always enjoy those moments where certain things I've been struggling with just click, not because I worked really hard to conquer them, but because I just kept creating until I learnt without meaning to.

    I do find, however, that if I say there is something I don't like a piece, everyone who sees it says 'No! It's *perfect!*' but if I say 'I'm really happy with how this turned out!' every man and his dog will try and pick a hole in it. =P

  4. The truth will set you free. Thanks Kelley - this made my morning. Miss seeing you around and having you in class (Advanced Perspective). Funny enough, I still like this one bit of advice an instructor gave me a while back. I think he meant it as a joke, but there is some truth in it.

    "You'll know when a piece is done when you start it absolutely loving the idea, then work it through until it's just a 'you can tolerate it' kind of love, and it kicks back up to 'I love this'. When it even remotely starts to go 'I hate this', take a break, come back to it, and if it's still 'I hate this', it's done. Don't stop at 'I love it' because chances are you could love it even more than you hoped; and don't try to work on an 'I hate it' because you could potentially destroy it. But in complete honesty, this is if you don't know where to stop and need guidance. The best part of artwork really is the process; not the finish."


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