Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Does Your Work Measure Up?

It's the question that every creative needs to ask themselves at some point in their career - it's actually a question that you should be asking yourself constantly. Does your work measure up?

For most artists, especially those starting out, often times the answer that we often find is probably "No." For those of us that have gone to art school or had some sort of formal training, we're always studying other artists who have come before us, and are constantly compared to the best students that have preceded us. We've survived constant critiques which tend to focus on what we're doing wrong (after all, our teachers want us to fix our mistakes). If we haven't had formal training, and are self-taught, we've spent even more time studying and comparing ourselves to our role models and other artists whom we respect and learned our own skills from.
Growing up (at least as an artist) in this sort of critical environment can be beneficial, as we're constantly learning from our mistakes and developing our skills in order to create art. By getting feedback and taking a objective look at our own work, we're able to grow and thrive as an artist.
The big pitfall, however, is if you are measuring your work against the wrong metrics.

If you're just starting out on your art career, you have to be going after the right targets. Yes, it's great to shoot for the stars and go after famous artists and try and compete with household names, but at the end of the day, if you're at all discouraged because someone sells more than you, or maybe they got into a gallery that you wanted to get into, if you're comparing yourself to anyone but yourself, you're measuring yourself to the wrong person.

If you compare your own work to anyone else's, you're doing yourself a disservice. Even if you were classmates in school and took all the same classes, your lives are different. Because art is such a personal thing, it is highly affected by your life: your state of mind, your family situation, where you grew up, your income level, your friends, everything. In that way, just because you and Artist X took all the same classes and studied under the same people and both started painting at the same time, you'll never really know their whole story.

Often times we'll compare ourselves to other professional artists and it takes us a while to realize that we're focusing on the wrong person. It doesn't matter what other artists are doing, or how successful they are, or how long they've been painting. What really matters is how much time and effort did we oursleves put into the work. Did we do our very best? Could we have done better?

Art is subjective. If your work doesn't measure up to someone else, who cares? Sure, we want our art to be the best it can be and to succeed and thrive and find a huge audience to enjoy it. But really, none of that is really in our control. We can't force people to like our art. What we can do is make sure that WE love our own art, and that WE are doing the very best that we can be doing. After all, that's what really counts.


Anonymous said...

The comparison trap is often what stymies artists most. Since art is so subjective- it's important to know why you are doing what you're doing. Do you find joy in it? Is it something you have to express? I have been thinking recently about why I write and when I think about it I write because it gives me joy. An audience that appreciates it is bonus. Have you ever read the book "Art & Fear"? It's a good one.

Rick Kitagawa said...

Thanks for stopping by lavie - we totally agree. And we find that if you create for you because it makes you happy, the audience that appreciates it will come along (perhaps with a little bit of marketing).

We've read a bit of "Art & Fear," but will definitely pick it up again. Thanks!