PINS & MAGNETS
What does being "Bad at Art" even mean?
June 25, 2020
Were you ever told that you were bad at art? Or maybe nobody said that to you, but you just feel really clumsy any time you’ve tried it?
Have you ever had an idea and then when you tried to draw or paint it, it looked
like you imagined?
For many years, I told myself I wasn’t an artist. I didn’t go to art school. I wasn’t taking any art classes. I didn’t have “natural talent.”
I became frustrated whenever I would take a pen to paper, because I could never make what I saw in my head a reality. I decided I was "bad at art.”
My father discouraged me from pursuing art, saying it was fine for a hobby, but could never be a career, so I should focus on something more concrete, like computers or science. He told me there was no point in being a starving artist. I didn’t realize at the time, but I internalized this message, and added it as one of the many stories my inner critic would tell me. As I got older, I added more messages, like 'You're too old to learn how to make art," and "It's too late."
Some people would tell me that I was an artist because of all of the other things I made. But I refused to call myself that. It wasn’t until well into my forties, that I allowed myself to really start playing around with art again. I started with black pens and colored pencils. And as I started doodling, I relaxed a little.
You don’t have to aspire to create a masterpiece (whatever that means to you), to enjoy art. Making art can be a joyful experience, like dancing, cooking and eating a delicious meal, laughing with your friends, or running on the beach and digging your feet into the sand. All of these experiences are just that, experiences. You may snap a photo of them, but that’s just the cherry on top, as the main ingredient is how you feel while you’re in the moment. That’s how art should feel. You’re having fun, without focusing on the outcome.
In December 2016, I decided to take on the challenge of making art every single day and post on Instagram for one year, starting in January 2017. My motivation wasn’t entirely about the art. I had just gotten out of a relationship and was heart broken. I felt lost and adrift, and needed something structured that I could focus on. It was one of the hardest and also most wonderful things I have ever done.
I am a perfectionist, and could always find reasons for why something wasn’t good enough. Sometimes I had to post things that were unfinished or felt to me like they were too ugly to share. I
was forced to let go of expectations and put my ego aside. I only had a certain amount of time to work on it each day, and sometimes I posted at 11:59 pm, but I did it! All 365 days!
I pushed myself to try all kinds of styles and techniques, something I would never have done on my own without this external container. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that the best way to learn how to make art, is to make it. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can be an artist. If you have a yearning to create art, you have an artist inside of you. If you didn’t, making art wouldn’t matter to you. It wouldn’t be something you think about.
Making art is like drinking water. It's something that you can learn how to do, and it can make you feel wonderful. For me, making art has felt like it saved my life. It has calmed me in moments of great anxiety, and it has made me feel more joyful and connected to myself.
The desire to create art doesn’t have to mean that you want to make a career out of it, and it doesn’t have to. You don’t need to figure out where this desire is going to lead you. We don’t know what it will look like yet, and that’s perfect.
If you'd like some support around bringing out your inner artist,
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Tanya Madoff is an artist, a maker and a coach. She is currently offering a free copy of 8 TIPS TO FEEL MORE CALM CONNECTED & INSPIRED to anyone who signs up for her newsletter.
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