I Gave Up on Art

Never Good Enough:

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, probably around 13 or so, when I realized my art was never going to be as “good” as a photograph. I became disheartened with my work, thinking why bother toiling away for hours over a piece when a photo taken in an instant would always be more accurate. (Prior to this point, I was prolific in my creative endeavors, always drawing or making something, sewing, etc.) All of a sudden making art seemed so pointless. So I stopped drawing.

Now I think it is important to note that at this time in my life, I was looking at the world from a perspective where I thought "good art" meant photorealistic. It was because I believed this one idea to be true that I also thought my work was subpar. However, the more we expand our knowledge and understanding of what Art really is, it becomes obvious that "Art" is a massive grey area with lots of leeway in every direction. Most importantly, it does NOT have to be photorealistic in any way to be considered "good".

Back to my story. There were periods here and there where I would make art and then stop again. Sometimes I would make art as gifts for people. I took art classes sporadically but they didn't stick.  It wasn't until I decided to go back to college for the second time to pursue graphic design that art became a big part of my life again. By this point, I was 28. My appreciation for and perspective of art had changed dramatically. Attending class, I found myself surrounded by so many creative people taking their art in so many different directions. The spark of inspiration was relit and I discovered the joy and practice of making art again.

While I have not been creating art continuously since then, my most recent hiatus was not because I gave up, but simply because I did not have any creative energy left over from my design job to work on my own projects. I have learned many life lessons in those years when I wasn't creating as much, that my younger self simply didn't see. One of the most important lessons I have learned is about perfection.

Fear of Failure

I have seen perfection tear people apart inside because even one tiny misstep meant utter failure. Or perhaps they are emotionally shattered from having experienced the bitterness of failure already. Either way, these poor tortured souls are forced to walk a tightrope through life, constantly dreading the inevitable fall from grace. The resulting pressure from this perspective is immense and many are frozen by it, unable to try because their fear of failure is too great. They are trapped by their belief in perfection, just as I was trapped by my belief in photorealism. However, this can be overcome and people CAN change their perspective.

For starters, it is important to realize that perfection, like beauty and art and so many things, is subjective. Personally, I prefer to view perfection as a philosophical ideal rather than something we can actually manifest. When you really boil it down, perfection is an idea. An idea that humans created and it does not exist outside of our minds. I find that human beings, myself included, have a tendency to get caught up on ideas. We hold on to our idealistic perspectives for dear life, even when those perspectives are getting in the way of the very thing we want most.

There is far too much pressure tied to being or creating something perfect. As soon as you let go of perfection you will be free to create whatever your heart desires without restrictions or judgment. Making art will no longer be like walking a tightrope. Take it from me, being an artist (amateur or professional) can be quite challenging. Let me rephrase, being an artist is hard AF! I think we all go through that “perfection” phase as we grow and develop. But don't let your mind trick you out of doing something you love. Stay the course. Know that your hard work is worth it!

Secondly, I think there is a huge misconception surrounding art and artists. The idea that somehow a master artist can make every brushstroke with absolute perfection, and while this may be true for a very few remarkable individuals, I would say it is grossly incorrect for the vast majority of artists out there. Art (and life for that matter) is not about attaining perfection. It’s about enjoying the creative process and expressing yourself without words. It is about sharing something that has meaning to you with others.

Mistakes Are Necessary

Thirdly, know that every artist makes mistakes. I have NEVER, in my entire life, made a piece of art that had no mistakes. You may not notice them but I know they are there. Every artist makes bad art, it is just a necessary part of the creative process that shows us where we have room to grow. It’s not a negative thing. It is guiding you, telling you which part of your toolkit you need to develop next. Every piece of art you create is a reflection of where you are in your art journey. Embrace the now, whether it be the beginning or the middle, because there is no final destination. We are all somewhere along the way looking to take that next step. Lastly, recognize that what you or I can create with our hands is something no machine or camera can ever replicate. No, not even fancy programs like Photoshop! There are roughly 7 billion people on this planet and we all have something different to bring to the table. We are not machines, we are not cameras, so why do we compare ourselves to such things? Your art is like your fingerprint on the world. It is unique to you. No one else can make your art. So stop expecting perfection and follow that creative spark!

Don't Wait & Please Share!

If you found my words helpful or you know someone who would benefit from reading this, please share! It breaks my heart to think so many people walk away from art or other things that they love out of fear. Believe in yourself. Dig deep. Find the strength to persevere. Don't wait until tomorrow or next week. Do it now. Don't be the person who looks back 10 years from now, 30 years from now, and says, "I wish I had...."

Inspired by a conversation with Angela Baker Art who I connected with via Instagram. You can find her website HERE.
All of the artwork shown in this post dates back to my late teens and ranges from somewhere around the time I graduated high school to my first year in college (2001 to 2003).

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