Improvement & Impatience: 3 years, 2 art works, 1 Kate

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 heΒ knows this.

And yet.

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.

Two pictures of two girls both with short turquoise hair, the half up styled in  a mini bun. She is wearing a purple galaxy turtleneck. A white text above on a plum rectangle says, "2016 vs 2019." Image linked to related Instagram post.

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


Alex Raizman says:

I love your point about the value of looking back to see how much you’ve improved. I tend to try and avoid looking at old riding because the temptation is strong to go “oh god what the hell was wrong with me,” and it’s nice to be reminded that those just show that I’ve improved.

So good to have you back!

I totally get it tho! I have tons of old posts on here that I try to avoid rereading. But then I also think, “I already criticise my current work too harshly. Might as well give myself a boost by comparing past works to current ones” Thank you so much for always sharing your insights, Alex!

Alex Raizman says:

You’re welcome, and thank you for sharing the idea in the first place!

Lee Bowden says:

I really love this post, especially after reading the one before it. Like, YES! This is what I’m feeling really hard in my own life/blog too. So glad we’re clearing our head space and seeing the bright side of the shadow. LOVE!

Yes!! We’re gonna get through this, I know we will! Thanks Lee!

ignitedmoth says:

This is such a great post. Thank you for sharing your insight on this. <3 It's so true about us being our own worst critics but also our most frequent company. I'd never thought about how problematic that can be to one's self esteem. I love the idea of looking back at how far we've come, too. πŸ™‚ Makes me want to try doing one of those "draw it again" things as well. It's cool seeing the differences in the pieces you made. Looking forward to seeing more of your wonderful art! πŸ˜€

Ahh! Thank you so much πŸ™‚ And it’s so true isn’t it, like we are so harsh on ourselves and yet we are our own company for the rest of our lives. If you ever try those ‘draw it again” please let me know! I would love to see it πŸ™‚

Aww, this is such a lovely post, Kate! I am my harshest critic, and the chief reason I don’t dedicate myself to learning various artistic hobbies, is because I scold myself to the point of emotional pain. I’m not an awful artist, but I’m a perfectionist, and can never accept artwork that I don’t think is “good enough”. There’s a reason my sketchbook consists of less than 20 pages – I’ve thrown out the other 50! It really is comforting whenever I’m able to compare where I was with where I am now. I need to make sure to focus more on that in the future. Thanks for this inspiring post, sweets! <3

Ahh! I totally get the whole throwing out other pages in your sketchbook, though! I used to do this too because the thought of an “imperfect sketchbook” irked me. That phrase itself is ridiculous because sketchbooks are meant to be flawed and imperfect. Thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your insights!

Being aware of improvements and recognizing them as such is so important. Great Post!

Kate Ashley says:

Thank you so much Molly!

jade bevan says:

wow great post!! so helpfull


Kate Ashley says:

Thanks for dropping by! πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.