I know very well what it’s like to want to do art, but every time you sit down and do it, you’re feeling crappy about the result. It’s really inhibiting and it might even stop you from creating next time. I don’t want that for you (or for myself)! So here are some insights that might help you understand why this happens and what you can do to change it.
1. You need practice
There is no way around it: practice makes progress. There are no shortcuts and you have to put in the time. Imagine you’re going to learn a language, it will take some weeks to grasp the basics, quite a few more to be semi-proficient and several years to be fluent. The more you practice making art, the more fluent you become and the easier it will be for you to create things you like, simply because of your skill level.
I love this quote:
Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle
Another awesome resource is this video with words from Ira Glass. It’s called ‘The Gap’ and is about that ‘gap’ that exists between knowing what art you find beautiful and actually being able to achieve it yourself.
2. You are attached to the outcome
Leading on from the concept of ‘the gap’ explained above, it’s very frustrating if you have something specific in mind and aren’t quite able to execute it as nicely as you see it in your imagination. This partly comes back to practice, but another thing that you can try which to me absolutely transforms the process of art making is: to let go of the outcome.
Art is weird and wonderful, it’s a process, not just paint by numbers. Try and place yourself firmly in the current moment, rather than in the future where this finished (perfect) artwork exists. What can you do now that you enjoy, that is an expression of yourself? Let the art emerge from moment to moment, rather than working towards a fixed outcome.
An example of this might be that you are going to paint a portrait. But instead of trying to make it picture perfect or photo realistic, let it come alive through your personal filter of your mind, hands & body. This is actually where the most original art comes from in my opinion!
3. You need to add more detail
One of the things I notice a lot in the art of beginners is that it somehow looks unfinished or unrefined. It’s not necessarily a lack of technical skill (I think beginner’s art can have a great sense of freedom! As well as art made by kids) but a lack of going back in and making things look complete. It’s probably also to do with confidence. I see this in how people shade faces, they know where to put the shadows and the highlights but they’re not confident enough to make it BOLD. Make the darks really dark and let the highlights pop out!
You’ll be surprised at how a painting can transform by just paying a bit more attention to the details and finishing touches. Pay attention to shadows/highlights, use outlines and shading, create halos around people/objects, add little doodles or dots.
4. You’re working against your supplies
There are no rules about how you must use your art supplies (or which specific supplies to use), but there are definitely ways in which to use them effectively and ways in which to use them that make you want to scream and tear your hair out!
You’ll have to experiment yourself with specific things that feel frustrating that might be solved by a different technique (try Googling or a search on YouTube!), but here are some things that I’ve found frustrating and ideas on how to make them better.
Paper pilling (rubbing off / forming little balls):
-Use gesso first or a layer of acrylics. Make sure this layer is thoroughly dry before continuing
Paint not applying smoothly:
-Dilute slightly with water or matte medium/PVA glue
-Work BIGGER! Tiny fiddly work is especially hard when you’re a beginner. Scale up and then when you’ve gained experience, scale down again
-Use different or better quality brushes
Backgrounds look muddy or brown instead of vibrant (also especially applicable while Gelli printing):
-Try not to mix complementary colours (blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green)
-Only apply either cool colours (blues/greens/cool purple) or warm colours (red, yellow, orange) together.
-Dry thoroughly in between layers.
5. You’re doing the wrong thing
Why are you doing this? Whose art are you making? I often fall into the trap of seeing other people’s art and admiring it so much that I want to recreate it or I want my art to look like that. So off I go on a very results orientated journey, which I often find very frustrating and unfulfilling. So ask yourself what your goal is. How do you want to feel? What do you really want to make? How do you like using your supplies? Why do you want to create art in the first place?
There are no right answers to these questions, just your answers that will give you an insight into your personal whys and hows.
If you’ve got any tips to share, please post them below in the comments! Can’t wait to hear what your favourite methods are for enjoying making art.