Perfectionism In Artists, the feeling why an art is never good enough

Of all the 8.7 million different species that walk this modern Earth, human beings (Homo sapiens) are the only known creatures that aspire the will to create. We want to stand out apart from all the other lifeforms that co-exist with us. Heck, we even want to stand apart from each other. We all want something that we can call “our own.”

If you are an artist, you could probably relate to this question, “Something went wrong, but what exactly?” This is true for most artists. Some of us shrug it off easier than others; some of us find it a hair-pulling situation to be in. The bottom line is: nobody likes the feeling.

This brings me to my next question, where does that thought really stem from?

I am a psychology undergraduate student, and I am a writer. What most of you don’t probably know about me is that I am also an amateur sketch artist. It’s all in the thrill of expressing oneself.

Upon completing my first piece, it was a joy like any other when you’ve done something successfully the first time. It went on that way for the first few times, too. Sure, there were a few struggles faced along the way. Like how sketching two sides of a model to make things symmetrical was purely done out of beginner’s luck. It’s all part of the learning process.

In my experience as both, a blog writer as well as a sketch artist, there are many core principles that align. All in all, it’s all really about expressing yourself. Just as how a writer incorporates their emotions into their words, the sort of thoughts that flow through an artist’s mind indicates the nature of the strokes they put onto the paper. It teaches a very important lesson about focus: all that exists in that moment is you, what’s going on in your head, and what’s ahead of you. All you are left to do is channel it. The outcome is determinant by how well you express yourself, and by extension the way you grasp for control.

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself, too. Your overconfidence can get the better of you. Where there is confidence, expectations are bound to follow suit. Taking my experience as a writer into account, there was never really a specific bar or measurement scale that determines my own level of writing. I firmly believe that every writer speaks in their own voice. No two styles of writing are ever the same. I suppose having a way with words is different; you write things out word-for-word what ever is on your train of thought.

Traditional art is not that direct, however. People will say that my sketches are nice. It’s not white lies, at least not always. Their compliments are genuine. Eyes don’t lie. I just have a hard time believing them because I lacked that same faith in my own capabilities. There was always that thought that things could be made better albeit with no clear understanding of how or what.

People can’t see the reference image that exists inside an artist’s mind. Therefore, they have nothing to compare the artwork with. They just take things at face value; appreciate it for what it is.

My problem was the factor I previously brought up: expectations. I was reckless to hold onto an expectation that would take professional sketch artists decades of their career to make into a hobby I recently started less than a month ago. Expectations kill happiness.

Writing defers from drawing in the sense that the former could always be corrected and erased no matter how far you get into the writing process. Once you’re using the inking pen to make the outlines and shading on your art piece, it becomes a very tedious process. Regardless, both scenarios can be overwhelming. It’s just that the extent of being able to make mistakes and corrections is less forgiving in artistry.

Another thing I noticed is that an artist’s state of mind is everything. You can’t draw cute little white rabbits if all that’s on your mind is a seething ball of destructive energy. People aren’t perfect so neither are all the things we create. The nature of sketches is such that it’s not intended to be a “complete” work of art. So, how could an artist ever expect to achieve perfection?

Sometimes, the real reason I see some art as less pleasant than the others I’ve made is not the fault of the drawing itself, but rather just me being unfamiliar with what I’ve produced. It’s a process. I’d probably just need a longer stare at it. I think this experience is akin to that of digesting (unresolved) emotions. When I think about it, it is quite literally so. The underlying thoughts are the same: “I’m unfamiliar with how I feel about this, so I need to reflect on this longer and properly before I could move on.”

Art is all about acceptance. As much as you take in others’ criticism, you also have to come to terms with your own. You are your own best/worst critic. While your state of mind may vary with each individual artwork you make, it’s all about what you make of the finishing product. Does it please you? What does it mean to you? Are you satisfied?

Art captures your creativity. I implore that you accept whatever you make in all its wonder, and most importantly hold on to them, even the ugly ones. You’ll be ever glad that you did once you could compare how far you’ve come in developing your talents and techniques; by comparing your earlier works with your latest.

Just like that, you’ll move on and let the next page be your mental reset button. Each canvas is its own story. You just need to fill it in; it’s something for you to tell (or in this case, show). That is the blessing and bane of every artist.

That is exactly why artists have a more focused, well-adjusted view of how they choose to live their daily lives. It’s that idea that as there is something spectacular about the things that last forever, there is also beauty in having a shelf life. My experience as an artist helped me better understand in knowing what, when, and how to better let go of, and what to never give up on, among other things.


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3 thoughts on “Perfectionism In Artists, the feeling why an art is never good enough

  1. chris ludke February 18, 2021 / 11:35 pm

    The idea of perfectionism is interesting to me too. I always like to hear other’s thoughts on the subject. I consider myself somewhat of a perfectionist when I try to do a finished painting but other times I like to play around with a project and don’t care about the results. I think you are right about expectations. If you lower your expectations you are more likely to see your painting as perfect even though perfection is impossible. If failure is expected then every win is all the more sweet. That might be the reason why so many kids enjoy art projects but as they get older they lose interest in doing art. They fall victim to the high expectations of their parents and teachers, where mine thought I was a bad kid and was probably expected to end up in jail. hahaha. So I won by just not getting busted! I don’t feel pressure to be a huge success. Same thing goes with art.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emir Zarof February 19, 2021 / 8:02 pm

      I made that same mistake. More times than I’d like to admit, too. It didn’t take me long to figure out the problem, and that was my over the top expectations. It did, unfortunately, take me a much longer time to figure out how I could dispel that. Now I just take my ventures in sketching, and by extension art with curiosity of my own skills rather than a test of skill. Before my pencil is to touch the paper, the intention must be there: it’s not for me; it is for my curiosity. And overtime, seeing fewer mistakes being made, I see that the more mistakes I make now, the less likely I am to repeat them for my later works. We can only get better from here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • chris ludke February 19, 2021 / 8:17 pm

        That’s a good way to look at it.

        Like

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