Compare Despair

Art is a very subjective form of expression. What one person finds beautiful the next may not. Although that dichotomy exists, it’s still possible to look at 2 pieces of art in the same medium or subject matter and draw conclusions as to which is better than the other. You can make judgments based on technical merit or just over all beauty but to some degree, it all comes down to someone’s opinion.  At times, it seems ingrained in our DNA to compare ourselves to others. Comparison in the form of imitation is how we learn to do basic things and know we’re doing them correctly. Eventually, however, comparing yourself to others can have a negative impact. 
What starts as a tool for inspiration, learning and improvement can turn into a source of insecurity.

SIDE NOTE: I covered this topic in my blog last year, but it’s an issue that seems to continually come up for artists. Sometimes it’s just good to have a friendly reminder/refresher. You’re welcome. 😉

Social media platforms like Instagram have given us the ability to share our artwork with millions of people around the world. In turn, we also have access to millions of other artists. It can be inspiring and invigorating to see so many different styles, interpretations, and sheer talent, but also disparaging if you feel you are in any way lacking in your current ability. I often see in artist Facebook groups, participants lamenting their lack of ability or talent. They often feel they aren’t improving despite putting in a significant amount of effort and even after watching many tutorials. They have a standard in their head they want to reach, which is sometimes associated with a favourite artist they admire, or simply where they feel they should be by now.

The truth is, even the artists they admire probably have moments where they question whether their art is good enough. They too have those they admire and are striving to be like. It also didn’t happen over night for them, so you shouldn’t expect that for yourself either.

 Within this complex yet fragile state of admiration and self-loathing, you need to just embrace the journey you are on and accept where you are within it. The rest will come in time.
I often recommend that people take a break from social media for this reason. Your endless feed of inspiration can quickly turn to over saturation. Sometimes it’s good to step away from everything and focus on yourself instead of what others are doing. What you’re doing right now IS good enough and where you will be 6 months from now, no matter how incrementally small will be better. The key is consistency and not giving up. Another solution is to switch gears and try a new medium or switch back to the one you are already comfortable with. Spend time in an art journal just exploring and trying new things. You don’t even have to post it on social media. Remember, there’s no rule saying you have to post anything at all, to begin with. Be a rebel. Go offline. Make art just for your eyes and no one else. Get back in touch with why you love creating art, to begin with. It can be easy to forget that when you’re busy looking at what everyone else is doing.

If social media disappeared tomorrow, how would find inspiration? What keeps you motivated to keep pushing forward?

Share with me in the comments below!

For more thoughts on this topic see my previous blog post: There’s Always Someone Better Than You

Barb Sotiropoulos

Barb Sotiropoulos

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

2 Responses

  1. I have to agree that a new medium can stir up the creative juices, although sometimes it makes it hard to get back to your old medium! Since I find most social media makes me feel less, not more inspired, if it disappeared tomorrow I’d like to think it wouldn’t change anything in my creative endeavors.

    1. I know what you mean! I go through phases where I go back to painting and I’m like” why don’t I paint more!” haha. I think the biggest struggle I have with social media is feeling like I’m not doing enough, creating enough art etc. There are only so many hours in a day and unfortunately, this isn’t my full-time job so I have to put that in perspective when I feel like I’m comparing myself too much to other artists and what they are accomplishing. It’s a tough balancing act I think. We could all do well from a bit of break from it from time to time.

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Hey, I'm Barb!

I’m a Canadian artist and designer specializing in coloured pencil and mixed media. When I’m not creating art, I love helping other artists by sharing tips and tricks that have helped me. You can find me on all of my social channels @barbsotiart or check out my past Q&A articles for COLORED PENCIL Magazine or my co-hosting appearances on the Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast.

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