Art, like anything else, has its highs and lows and learning to manage them is essential to developing as an artist. Otherwise the creative process suffers.
The other day I received a distressed phone call from a woman who had become utterly discouraged with her oil painting. An accomplished artist in other media, she began oil painting a year ago with great enthusiasm and joy.
For several months she continued working with that great joy as she learned to handle some of the difficulties of oils. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her progress from afar as she did so.
I was surprised when I began to hear that she had become discouraged and was rarely painting anymore. The natural question on the phone with her was to ask what had happened to change her feelings about painting with oils.
She started talking about how she could see her work did not measure up to what others were doing. She went on to say that it did not measure up to her own standards either. She concluded by saying she felt it would never do so.
That is certainly enough to make anyone quit painting, egads!
She had fallen prey to a common artist malady, that of paying too much attention to what others are doing. We have many opportunities to encounter art created by so many other artists that it can be quite confusing and even depressing to a developing artist.
Work of high quality in many different styles can seem daunting and unreachable. The feeling all too easily grows that nothing is left to create that would attain those levels of skill and power.
I pointed out that when she was painting enthusiastically she was paying attention to her own work. Once she shifted her attention to what everyone else is doing, the process quit working for her. Her attention simply was in the wrong place.
She got it instantaneously. At the end of the phone call she said she was going to go paint. A couple of hours later, she called to say that she had been working on her new oil and it was going well.
I love it when people catch that inner realization and break through their blockage. She did it so quickly, it was breathtaking.
The moral of this little story is not to completely ignore other art work, but to view it and pay attention to it in a balanced way that furthers creative energy. If it dampens that creative energy, something is wrong.
As artists we have to learn to nurture and protect our creative power so we can use it effectively whenever we need to do so. We each have to learn to hold our own balance within ourselves and eliminate that which disrupts it. When we create from our inner core, we have found our passion, our joy, and our greatest path leading to excellence in our work.