Art Your Ass Off

artist-affirmationBeing 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.

Here’s why.

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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  1. Well said! This is something that all social media artists should read, we’re too focused on follower counts and likes nowadays…

  2. Christopher, what a lovely and well-written reminder. I’m going to now “art my ass off”! Thank you for this article! Hope it’s okay for me to share this in the Facebook group Coloring Book Author Support! ?

  3. Wonderfully written and great advice for all.

  4. I have fought this my whole life. My parents tried to teach me humility, but I think what I really heard was humiliation. I was blessed with two areas, singing and painting. I wanted to explode with my singing and art, but was always corrected to hold back, or I would be “showing off”. I never fully marketed myself, for fear of appearing as a braggart. So here I am, hiding in my cave, waiting to be released.

    • Nancy, kick the damn walls down and get out there. A cave is no place for an artist! It’s not bragging or showing off to be good at something and to put your work out there for others to see.

      • Ok. I’ll try. Here’s my website, if you want to peek, or is that ok?

      • Hi Nancy, thank you for sharing your website with me! I was super impressed! You got quite the diversified skill set. I loved being able to look from the naturalistic portraiture to the more abstract Hebrew words. I particularly liked the shoes 🙂 You should be proud of the work that you’ve done to acquire the skill that you have. Personally, I’m not a religious man, but in this case, I would remind you of the parable of the talents. Let’s not forget what happens to the servant who hides their talents and returns to the master only what was given to them in the beginning. 🙂

  5. Perfectly said. As deeply hard to practice. I will try your advise.
    Thank you,

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