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What’s stopping you from becoming a better artist?

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I am writing this from my own experience. I have been there and some parts of me are still there. But now, with better awareness, I feel I am ready to tackle my inhibitions and move forward.

I’ve always wondered what is it that’s stopping me, what are the reasons why I don’t feel like an artist yet, why am I not able to expand my horizons? Why do I have an imposter syndrome? Are you also struggling with the same thoughts? Here are some of the things that were stopping me:

Always waiting for the right time to come: There would always be distractions, weekends, housework, relatives visiting, events at office, or kids at home. Just like some of us will always find reasons not to exercise, we may always find reasons for procrastinating the process of creating art. There would be days when you are “not in the right mood”, or “there is a lot going on in your mind”, or “you’re waiting to start once something gets over,” or “you don’t feel like taking out your art supplies,” or “you just don’t know what to make,” or “you don’t have time, but you spent an hour on social media.” These are all the things we tell ourselves and they stop our creative juices from flowing. The only solution is to keep it easy to make art. Having a small spot always set-up where you can just sit down and create. You don’t even have to make anything big. Making small pieces in a journal is also a good way to go.

Always looking for “inspiration” in someone else’s work: Copying as a way of learning has been ingrained in many of us. It’s not our mistake, but that’s how the schooling system was. We were always asked to copy something in the art class (although things are changing now), but that’s how I grew up. And success was measured based on how well you copied. It’s difficult to get out of this mindset. It took me a lot of time as well and there was a point in my life where I thought, that I am incapable of generating my own ideas.

What do we do when we feel like creating something? For instance, we decide we want to paint a poppy flower, we either visit Google images, Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram, find something we like and start copying. And this is how creativity gets killed. By doing this you are doing more harm to yourself than you know. The brain gets wired to always search for ideas, but never think on its own. So, what can you do? Look for inspiration in your own life, events, travels. Click pictures of stuff that you like in your life to get color/composition/content ideas. Instead of searching “watercolor poppy painting ideas”, search for “poppy flowers” – this will give you real pictures of flowers which you are free to recreate in any way you like. What should you do when you see an artwork that you really admire and want to recreate? Resist the temptation to copy blatantly. Always think of ways of how you can make something similar in your own way. If you want to practice the technique, you might copy, but keep it in your mind that it’s just for practicing, not for making art. I am ashamed to show some of the initial paintings that I had made, even though they were decent copies, because I know in my heart that they are not my own compositions and anyone at any time can point that out to me. They also bring my confidence level down. I get the best appreciation and credit for the work that is entirely my own. Do you think people will appreciate your work if they knew it was copied? Do you think you would appreciate your own work? Even if you “tag” the artist you got “inspired” from – it’s not enough. This is not called “inspiration”, it’s called “copying” plain and simple. And I have seen copying of not only art, but web content, blog posts, captions, even songs used for videos, and so on.

You might always feel that others are doing much better than you and you can simply use what they are doing, but believe me, when you stop yourself from copying, you are rewiring your brain to think of ideas and pretty soon, they would start flowing. But that day will come only when you let it happen.

Not practicing enough: Nothing good can happen overnight. I think we all know this, but many of us are not willing to devote enough time to our art. I have been painting every now and then my whole life, but never with focus and dedication. But since I started painting almost daily, I can see tremendous improvement in my work. Each day I discover something new, each day I am willing to push myself out of my comfort zone, each day I see that I am getting better control over my art. I think you all can see the difference when you notice the initial paintings and the ones that I post now. And I know there’s a lot more to do, but I also know that it will take time. Are you willing to do that? In each workshop, there are always participants who are not able to create some effect and feel disheartened. Please know that any good thing will take time. And you have to be willing to devote it because believe it or not, all those artists who “inspire” you are devoting each moment of their life to perfect their art. So, get inspired.

Not letting yourself experiment due to fear of failure: I always get impressed when I see other artists just pouring their heart out into a painting, expressing freely, nothing to stop them. Even if you just splatter paint with that freedom, you will create a masterpiece. But to reach that stage, you will have to let yourself be free to experiment, pick colors based on your whims, use whatever tools that reach your hands, be unintentional, and just explore. There’s nothing right or wrong. There are no failures. They are all just stepping stones till you become freer in your mind. This is the step that I am struggling with currently, but I am practicing every day to let the art flow freely.

Thinking about monetization all the time: Don’t we all want to get paid for all the efforts we put into our art? But thinking about earning right after you attend your first class is way too early in my opinion. Take your time to get better and then think about monetization. Believe me, if you start before you are ready, people will not give you the respect you deserve. You might end-up falling flat for trying to achieve too much too fast. But, there’s no harm in planning. Make note of all that you would like to do and create a timeline to achieve those goals. Also, remember that it’s art. It’s supposed to give you the joy and pleasure of creation. You are creating for yourself and so don’t get disheartened when it fails to bring in the money you would like it to.

Not doing your own research: Social media has made it easy to connect and reach people anywhere in the world and sometimes it seems really easy to just send a question to some artist and expect them to reply. But most of the time the information is already there in the captions/descriptions/highlights/websites/blog posts/videos etc. Make a habit of doing your own research and looking for answers. You will just annoy those artists, who might become your friends, if you approach them in a different way. It’s not a joke how many times I’ve got the question about which dryer I use or how I seal my art. Only if all those people took out the time to study my page first. They would not only find which dryer I use, but much more useful information about this art. Habit of doing research and finding answers will help you not only in creating art, but also in marketing it, promoting it, and doing everything else in your life. If I could find out all this without asking anyone, then so can you. Few months ago, a person on Instagram asked me if they could find all the information about alcohol ink techniques on YouTube, and I said, of course you can, and I would be so happy if you do that research. Once, a person told me that I should have informed them about the harmful effects of alcohol fumes before she registered for the workshop. If they would’ve done their own research, they could’ve arrived at an answer that they agree with. Does it even matter whether I say it is safe or it is unsafe? Would it matter if I say that this particular dryer is the best? Because your case might be different and it might not be the best option for you. If I tell you that Paris is boring, will you not go there? Find it out yourself and do your own research.

Relying on others to do things for you: When we start painting, we think it’s only about the process of creating art, but then we soon realize, we must use marketing tactics, we must click pictures in a nice way, we must create useful videos, we must create a website, we must integrate payment gateways, we must use certain apps to do certain things, and the list goes on. Do not wait for your kids, your partner, your friends, or anyone else to do all these things for you. Because, then you’ll be left at their mercy. If they are willing to help, it’s good, but if not do your own research, Google everything, and try and do it yourself. Once you grow big enough and it’s too much to handle on your own, you can delegate parts of the process to someone. For technical aspects, find a person whom you can pay and get work done quickly.

Not being proactive about reaching out and showcasing your work: You have created a beautiful webpage or social media page and now you are wondering why nobody is showing any interest. I have been asked this question many times that how do I get a chance to collaborate with product companies, etc. They will not come to you; you have to go to them. Figure out what you can do for them, how can you help them grow and then go to them with your ideas. If they are willing to listen, they would definitely get back. Also, don’t expect anything in return. Be proactive and ask to be showcased by your selected channels, etc. Try to make genuine connections - help others first.

And the biggest sin: Comparing yourself to others: Social media has put tremendous pressure on creators. We are always focusing on numbers and connecting our worth with the number of likes or followers, etc. And, the worst is comparing your art to that of others and always striving to do what others are doing. All these activities just drain your brain and are creativity killers. All of us are traveling our own path. You are not better than anyone and you are not worse than anyone. Once you pull yourself away from all these feelings and just focus on self-improvement, you will notice a big difference in your creative output. Ultimately, that is what will make you a better artist, and nothing else will matter anymore.

I have written all of these based my own experiences and struggles, and how I find that growth is only possible when you free yourself and allow yourself to experiment. Whether you are pursuing art as a hobby or want to take it up professionally. You will have to overcome all of the above to become better at your game and make your self-growth inevitable. Good luck for your journey.

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