Art improvement does not happen overnight.
We know this. I know this. You know this. That old man sitting at a nearby park probably doesn’t care about art improvement but, still, even he knows this.
It is the one of The Most Frustrating Thing Ever. Why couldn’t I just be good at the things I like to do in an instant? Like, why do learning curves even have to exist?? Why can’t I just become the next Einstein or the next Picasso or the next Marie Curie tomorrow???
You’re probably not as dramatically ambitious as yours truly, but I bet you’ve been frustrated and impatient before, right?
The Case of Improvement for Artists (hint: iz torture)
I love progress. And if you’re a self-improvement junkie like myself, obviously, one of your biggest goals in life is to consistently be a better version of yourself. But progress is slow and tedious and it kills me. (Well, not really literally. But you know what I mean.) Creative progress, especially, is a specific kind of torture for me.
See, I’ve always been an impatient person. But I’m more so an impatient creator. When it comes to my art and my writing, I want to hurry, hurry, hurry.
Hurry up and improve on your anatomy, Kate.
Hurry up and draw good noses, Kate.
Hurry up and write engaging stories, Kate.
Hurry up and create awesome content, Kate.
Hurry up, Kate.
I keep on pushing myself to hurry hurry hurry. That I need to keep moving forward. That I need to get better. And the thing is, in art, you don’t really see you’re improving. So I become even more greedy. I become more and more frustrated, and more and more impatient of myself.
Sometimes, to a point where I’m mentally scolding myself for not seemingly getting better.
We are our harshest critic already. But with myself and to myself, I am unforgiving. I never tolerated even an ounce of imperfection. It’s sad. Because we are also our most frequent company.
Can you imagine being in the company of someone so critical of you?
That drive for art improvement became toxic. I made it toxic, and it backfired. And so, in an attempt to gently remind myself that um Kate? You HAVE improved tho, I did the #DrawThisAgain art meme. It’s where you try to draw an old art and see the differences and changes.
I chose a really old work, one I did in 2016. Back when I still a complete watercolor noob and just starting out. I loved it — I still do. But recreating it with all the creative arsenal I picked up for three years, it was amazing.
And once I was done and took a step back, I thought to myself, “If 2016 watercolor noob Kate could only see me now…” I mean, I know she would never see the me now. That’s just how it is.
Who you are, right this second, will never get to see how much you’ll improve in the future.
But who you are, right this second, is also the only one who can look back to where you’ve come from and see how far you’ve come.
I now take comfort in having this truth. I’m probably going to tuck myself into it forever. Because, man, it’s far far better than the rusty old thoughts of “Not Being Enough.”
In business and management, looking at historical data is a sensible way of self-evaluation. But looking back is also a gift. A gentle reminder to your all-too-focused self, a small shift in perspective. That you are doing just fine.
So here I am, doing exactly that.
I first published this post on my Patreon page but I added a few words and wrote additional thoughts. You may see the original post, in its infancy, here.
Featured image by Yura Fresh via Unsplash