Misconceptions: Art Comes Easy to Artists

One of the common misconceptions artists face is that whatever medium they create in must be something that comes easy to them and that’s why they are so good at it. For a percentage of the population of artists, this may be true in that they’ve chosen painting over say sculpting because they found they had a better grasp of handling that medium. What’s often being implied in these instances, however,  is that someone who is an artist somehow wakes up one day and is just magically awesome at what they do.

I would wager that there is an even smaller percentage of artists who this is actually true for if any at all. Not factoring the often harsh self-criticism that most artists go through on a daily basis, to imply that someone just has the ability to do something without actually having to try is a bit of a negligent assessment. There were likely years of hard work they have put in to get to where they are. I mean, who wouldn’t want to just wake up and be awesome at something without actually having to work at it?! I would have had WAY better grades in math class if that was actually a thing you could just do.

I often like to use an athlete analogy in this scenario when I encounter someone who usually rather innocently makes a comment like this. Take any famous athlete who is at the top of the game in their sport or heck, even just good at their sport and is playing on a professional level and ask them if it just came naturally to them. I’m not saying that genetics or some predisposition for good hand-eye coordination isn’t at play here, but they likely also put in countless hours of practice and training to get where they are today. This is the same for artists. Yes, some people will naturally pick up on certain things quicker than others or have what appears to be a more natural ability. With that said though, not every person who’s good at basketball just goes to the NBA.

In my own experience, art was something that I always enjoyed doing as a kid and continued to enjoy doing into my teenage and adult years. It was something I was better at than most of my peers as a kid but I also was putting in the time. Drawing after drawing and sketchbook after sketchbook. Some kids played soccer, I liked to draw. If it came easy to me in any way it was because it was something I already liked doing, so putting in the time and practice wasn’t really any kind of work for me. It was just something I was going to do anyway. I had zero awareness of actually being “good” at it or feeling like it came easy to me comparatively until someone else pointed it out in school.

I would suppose that what many people are actually trying to say when they make the comment that something comes easy to you, is that you’re so good at it that you make it look easy. Or that you seem to be executing it with ease. Unfortunately, their well-meaning can sometimes come out more with a hint of jealousy. What should be delivered with sincerity, instead becomes a bit of back-handed compliment. It almost makes you feel like you should be apologizing for being good at something. I once had someone say to me as a reaction to my artwork “Ugh, save some talent for the rest of us…” Ummm…ok?

To be perfectly frank, no one should ever apologize for the hours upon hours or money for post-secondary education that was put in up until this point to be where they are in their ability just to make someone else feel better about their perceived lacking.

So now, when someone says to me “Gee, that must come so easy to you.” I like to try and assume what they are actually trying to say to me is that I’m making it look easy when they know it isn’t. So I politely smile and say “Thank you, I’ve actually been working really hard over the years to make it seem that way,”  and then go back to the hours of practice I will continue to put in so that it all looks “easy.”

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.

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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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