This morning I received an email from one of my beautiful Monthly Painting Class Students. She had seen an Artist whose work she loved, and wondered, 'Why do my Artworks never look like that?'
In a world saturated with images, Art Envy is something many of us feel in our creative lives. I have felt similarly over the years too and I have found ways for Art Envy to positively inform my practice.
There are so many reasons why our Art looks different to other people's. We all have uniquely different backgrounds, environments, skills, preferences, techniques, subject matter interests and feelings, and all of these infuse into our Art-making processes.
It KNOW it's really hard not to compare our Art to other people’s. There are definitely many times when I've felt inspired by other people’s work and I wish mine could shine like theirs!
But I believe being an Artist is about celebrating our own, unique expressions, so this is why my Art Envy is brief.
The truth is, I am different inside to every single person on this planet, so it's not possible for my Art to look like someone else's and still feel 'real' and 'honest' to me.
If I try to make my Art like others', I will always fall short.
The day I began to put my FULL, uncensored self into my Artworks, was the day my Art became real, mine, and truly beautiful.
I use my personal Art as an honest biography of who I am and who I want to become. So when I see someone else's Art and I think, 'Gee, I wish I could do that!', I STOP.
When I feel this way, I ask myself specifically:
What quality do I like about this Artist's work? Is it the freedom they use? The abstract nature of this work? Do I love their colour palette? How does this Artwork make me FEEL?
When I can understand what quality of the Artwork I envy, I can understand a bit more about how I want to be in the world.
I can take envy from being something I'm not (not good enough, not talented enough etc), to something I'd like to cultivate more in my life.
Envy is always about wanting what someone else has got. When we let go of needing our Art to LOOK a certain way, and step into how we want to FEEL inside as an Artist, this gives us a little bit of insight into who we want to become.
To go from Envy to Expression, I simply locate the QUALITY I want to experience and then FEEL it the next time I meet my canvas, to see what comes up for me. This way, I'm not copying, and I'm not falling short of trying to be like someone else - I'm making a quality mine, and using it to grow as a person.
This technique is a bit like trying on a new piece of clothing. Sometimes a garment will look great on the rack, but when I try it on, it feels and looks terrible. Other times, I feel amazing, like the garment was MADE JUST FOR ME.
It's the same with Art.
Sky Mountain above was honestly, one of the hardest darned Artworks I've ever created. I changed my mind a billion times over, trying to make it look a certain way to match another Artwork I had created, in order to create a pair.
Essentially, I was trying to copy myself and I couldn't even do it! Why? Because every time we put paint to the surface, we are doing it from a newer version of ourselves than before. The experiences I'd had between the two Artworks changed me, and I was being dishonest with myself by trying to be someone I no longer was.
Comparing our Artworks to others is the same - When we try to be someone else, we aren't being true to ourselves, and THIS is why it feels bad.
We're not feeling bad because we can't paint like Van Gogh, we're feeling bad because we've abandoned our authenticity.
Whether we're feeling shitty or wonderful, who we are is the PERFECT subject matter every time, and our Art will always be full of richness and integrity, because our Art gives us the opportunity to meet ourselves.
Art Envy can therefore be a wonderful tool we can use to build ourselves up, rather than beat ourselves down with. We can use it as a beacon, which leads us towards a new version of ourselves. We can create with new feelings from the inside out and find whether the grass truly is greener on the other side.
When we give ourselves permission to explore and expand in this way, we can try on new ways of being in the world and see how they 'fit' with us. If they fit well, we have expanded. If they are ill-fitting, we have expanded too, because it simply means, we are better off expressing ourselves in our own unique way, rather than someone else's way.
Your Art is always perfect. Hers is never better than yours, because only YOU can express who YOU are. You're the most qualified person on the planet to be you and express yourself creatively.
Your Art is never wrong.
Love Chrissy x