Artist Therapy 2: I totally suck at art.

Artist Therapy is a series of posts exploring problems we artists have making, getting ready to make, and sharing our art. It is inspired by Havi Brooks’s Blogging Therapy articles.

Previously on Artist Therapy:
Introductory Ideas

Today’s Artist Therapy:
Lots of people think their art sucks, whether they’ve been making art for two days or two decades.

I will share two secrets with you.

One, being an artist isn’t inborn. Sure, there are children who show talent for it early, but with opportunity, encouragement, and training, I believe every person in the world could be an artist. Sometimes artists like to cultivate a sense of mystery about our craft, which unfortunately leads to the perception that, unless you’re painting the Mona Lisa by age 6, you’ll never be an artist. That is simply not true!

Two, “art” is a really big category. It includes a lot of media that you may not have considered. You can’t draw a stick figure but you make amazing crazy quilts? Guess what – you are good at art.

Similarly, what you might think of as bad art may be considered good art in other circles. There are plenty of artists that I don’t personally think are good, like Picasso. I’m just not a fan. But obviously many others consider Picasso a good artist. They see something in the art that I don’t see.

So, if you’ve got a pile of art you think sucks, there may be a number of people who think it’s awesome. It could even be a totally new style that catches on like wildfire and becomes an established thing. Such is the nature of art.

Speaking of “masters”: comparing yourself to the masters, especially if you’re starting out, isn’t a great idea. There’s a reason they’re called masters – they have/had been doing art for a long time! Maybe even longer than you’ve been alive. You can learn from them without trying to be them.

There’s no need to be perfect, especially when you’re just exploring and planning. If you’re going to look at stuff by the masters, look at their sketchbooks and preliminary paintings. You can see what problems they encountered and how they experimented with solutions. They weren’t perfect, either, just more experienced than you.

They started somewhere, with varying levels of exposure to and experience with making art – just like you.

And if you hated art class in high school, don’t worry. I did too. I swear they make creative classes suck in school to suppress the creative instinct.

If you have some artworks that you are proud of, which you probably do, look at them often to remind yourself what you’re capable of.

But hey, let’s pretend that your art really does suck (even though it probably doesn’t). Why keep on doing it? Well…

  • Making art is good for your brain.
  • Making art is therapeutic and helps you deal with problems and emotions.
  • Making art is a creative act that makes you feel good. You made something! You are in control! Muah ha haaaaaaaaaaaa


    Although the end product is probably important to you, you might try transferring some of that importance to the process: the process of connecting to your creative side, the physical act of drawing, sculpting, knitting, etc., the fun of exploring and making.

    Lastly, ultimately – who cares? You don’t have to show your art with anyone. If it’s just you and your art, the pressure to be good might subside a little, and you can have fun.

    Havi says,

    You are the one who gets to decide whether something has value or not.


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