Being an artist is hard. We spend hours working on an original drawing. We pour our hearts out using every trick and technique we know in an attempt to make the best work we’ve ever made and then if we’re brave enough, we put it out on our social media sites for complete strangers to like or ignore, or worse yet, to give negative feedback under the thinly veiled guise of critique. Don’t they know that we are already painfully aware of where we missed the mark? We know better than anyone else that the color is not quite right, or that we need to work on our anatomy. We spent hours working on it, we know where we failed, and more likely than not we will beat ourselves up for it, telling ourselves we are not good enough to show our work and that we’d probably make a better sandwich artist than a real artist.
We are taught that we are supposed to feel this way. If we didn’t see the flaws in our work, how would we ever get better? If we only talked about where we did hit the mark, the areas of our drawing that actually look good, we’d be self important arrogant jerks, wouldn’t we? The thing is, there’s a difference between affirmation and arrogance. Everybody needs lots of one and a little of the other.
All You Need Is Love
As human beings, we all need affirmation. We need to be told that our work is good, or at least has lots of good qualities. We need to hear when our line work or color are well executed. We need to know that we did a good job. It’s important. Critically important, but… we don’t need to hear it from strangers. We need to get it from ourselves.
When we get positive feedback from others, it most often does not reflect our own critical thinking. Remember, we know where we screwed up. It’s way too easy for us to dismiss positive comments from others. We’ve been taught to do it our whole lives. When someone else says something good about something we’ve done, we’re supposed to say, “thank you, but… it was a team effort” or “I couldn’t have done it without the help of so and so”. We call this modesty, and successful people have no room for it, at least not the way we have been taught.
In Western cultures, the definition of modesty is: the quality of being modest, freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
But the original meaning of the word was very different. The word modesty originates from the Latin word modestia, which means: moderation, sense of honor, correctness of conduct.
Let me use those words in a sentence for you.
“As artists, we should create works of art from a sense of honor that we are bringing beauty to the world, and should with all correctness of conduct apply our skills to the task at hand, and with moderation, apply both praise and criticism in our assessment of our work.”
It’s a long sentence, I’ll grant you, but true none the less.
So do yourself a favor. Go out there and art your ass off. Do it without fear, and without modesty. Make the work you love for the love of the work you make. Learn to see the good as well as the bad. And strive to always improve, but be proud of the work you do. There is always room for improvement, but your work is better than you give yourself credit for.
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