I am never satisfied with my art

I am never satisfied with my art

Dear Mookychick,

I’m an artsy type of person, or at least I try to be. But over the last few weeks I’ve realized something. I actually hate everything I do. No matter how many people say they like it I still end up hating it. It almost makes me want to quit. I can never match up to the works I see on art websites or magazines, or even my friends.

The worst thing is that this has happened to me with almost any hobby I’ve ever had. I used to be a guitar player, cellist, bassist, singer, horseback rider, I used to write. But it seems like I could never match up to the level I felt I should have been at. So what do I do? I quit. But when I do it just makes me feel worse, knowing that I didn’t persevere. But what am I supposed to do?

I’m good at nothing it seems, my grades in school even seem to be dropping. Could it be that I’m just one of those people who lack talent?

I’ve tried to fake it ’till I make it, but pretending gets old after a while. So I guess what I’m asking is… how can I just feel good about myself? I’m tired of feeling like everything I do is inadequate.

Love, Anonymous Me xxx

The Mookychick answer to your problem

Debs says…

To be honest, I’ve hated every single previous attempt I’ve made to start this answer. Each of them was perfectly ok, but didn’t say exactly what I wanted them to say. Does this make me a bad writer? No, it just means I didn’t get it right first time, so I tried again.

Ok, I hate just about everything I draw. Or write. Or paint. (I don’t do music.) But other people seem to like them, like them enough, on the odd occasion, to give me money for them. Now, why would they do that, if I’m as bad as I think I am? It’s simple. I’m not as bad as I think I am. All I do, when I look at something I’ve done, is pick out the faults. So whilst people I’ve shown it too are loading my work platitudes it ill deserves, I’m looking at the line of someone’s arm that I drew too long, or too short, or a bit of colour that isn’t right, or just that I’ve used too many parenthesis in that second paragraph.

The reason being, for a long time, I only saw the mistakes I ma,de the bad stuff in my work. Other people didn’t see that, other people saw the, frankly, excellent stuff I’d done and ignored the one or two minor glitches I’d made. And, more importantly, knew not to make the next time. Artists have to be critical of their work, they have to deconstruct the bad stuff, because otherwise they will never improve, never even strive to improve, and that way lays mediocrity, along the lines of Dan Brown or Jack Vettriano. Clinical adequate work, but with no passion. You don’t need to worry about what you’re doing right, what people like abot your artwork, because you’ve proved you can do that. You need to work on what you are doing wrong and correct it.

And so what if you think your friends can do better? Are you working in the same style? Or are you just doing what people do when they look at your art work, and ignoring the glitches. In fact, you could possibly be deliberately focussing on their good points, because it highlights your work’s downfall. Now, yes, you could quit, but where’s that going to get you? Or you could stick it out and work on those details you missed on that last picture.

Or you could start looking at other paintings with the same critical eye you use on your own, you’d be amazed at how many times other artists get it wrong. I was in a coffee shop the other day, mentally tearing apart Klimt’s painting, The Kiss. (For the record, I consider the woman’s calf and shin to be too short and her right hand has been dislocated). Start looking elsewhere for your inspirations, look at the work of the Expressionists, Dadaists, Surrealists, Futurists, Cubists. If you must, look at Abstract Expressionism. They can show you ways of deconstructing art that you had probably never even thought of, they could show you that you’re actually doing something right.

Set your goals realistically. Personally, there’s artists out there I adore and I couldn’t possibly list them here. But I know, for example, that I will never paint as well as Rembrandt. Simply because he was a genius and he trained all his life to master that one school, and worked on his mistakes. And I know I will never come close to his level, but that’s cool, because I don’t want to paint as well as Rembrandt, I want to paint as well as I can.

And it does improve, you do get over this. You do start seeing the good stuff in your work, and it’s even better when the good stuff turns out to be something you couldn’t quite nail in the past.

Ashley says…

Over the last few weeks? Sounds like you need to grab a notebook and start writing a sentence or two tracking how you feel about your work. If you had years and years of daily entries talking about how hard you worked on X or how glad you felt to be inspired to create Y, then a few weeks of dark moods about Z would seem like what it is – a drop in the tempra paint. Never too late to start one of those now – you’re very probably overestimating how poorly you regard your art.

A second suggestion? Snag a copy of “No Plot? No Problem!” (Only $4, used, in America – prices may vary across the pond). Read it thoroughly. Wait until November. Join National Novel Writing Month. Dive into writing a novel. And click through what everyone else is writing. Many people put up links to their stuff. You might like a few of the efforts, but more than likely, you’ll be aghast at how terrible some of the bodice-ripping anime fanfic can be. But this isn’t to put your own artistic endeavors high above this stuff (well, it is, a little). It’s more so you see that these people… a lot of them think their work is hot sh*t. A lot of them will have great stuff and be banging their heads against their desks thinking it’s crap when it’s clearly not. Like the first exercise, this will give you perspective – not of your own stuff this time, but of the world in which it exists.