On making more (“bad”) art

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with art.

I adore the sight of it. Whether rough and unfinished or a beautiful completed piece, art of any kind is gorgeous to me. I admire those able to make it, admire the amount of effort and dedication that has gone into their years of practice and their hours invested into a single artwork. Those who can create visually have felt, to me, like a different species all on their own. The Cool Kids at the table.

And that’s where the “hate” factors in, because growing up, the inferiority that brought is honestly ridiculous. I so desperately wanted to be good at art. But because I was raised not to pursue anything I wasn’t immediately good at, and because I was always comparing myself to my peers who likely had more practice in addition to natural talent under their belts, and because that made me feel so, so insecure, I tried to dismiss art entirely.

That’s not for me. I’m the writer. All I can do is words, and shabbily at that. But art? Pfft. I suck.

I even claimed that I hated making it, because for a long time, I did. Making art was stressful because I wanted to be “good,” but could obviously see I was “bad.” I’d feel frustrated when lines wouldn’t go the way I wanted them to, when clay wouldn’t mold itself the way I needed it to, when I couldn’t understand the concept of shading or how to get my pencil to press just right. Especially because it seemed like I was the only one struggling— my friends and classmates seemed to have a natural affinity that I just didn’t have.

So to protect my fragile little ego, I pretended that I sucked by choice. I pretended I just wasn’t interested, so I wasn’t trying as hard as I could. And then I stopped trying as hard as I could, because I didn’t want anyone to see how much it mattered. If I didn’t try as hard, then I could claim that my art was bad because I didn’t put in the effort to make it good, when really, I was just afraid of trying my best and it still turning out like crap. And if I did try my best, I would continually put the art down myself. “Yes, I know it sucks. I’ve actually embraced the fact that I will always suck at art. You don’t have to say it because I’m saying it first!”

The mental gymnastics makes me laugh. I still fall prey to it, especially when it involves doing things in front of people. But it also makes me sad, because it means I’ve closed off an outlet to myself for years because of being scared.

It’s not just visual art. I could claim the same for singing, for dancing, for music, for sports, for anything artistic or competitive that meant having to expose myself to failure or being bad in some way. When your whole life you’re taught that if you’re not good at something, there’s no point pursuing it, you start to shape the things you love to do around only the things you’re immediately “good at,” and really, how many such things are out there?

Everyone starts off being bad at something they’re trying for the first time. Logically, I know this. I just haven’t felt safe enough to be bad at anything in a long time.

I’m trying to change that, now. Starting small. Starting with art. Random doodles, little bits of digital art or maybe even actual drawings and paintings, who knows?

It’s been an interesting process. Trying to turn off the judgmental voice in my head. Trying to just embrace the feeling of making something, even if – perhaps especially if – that something isn’t anywhere near “good.”

This is my first big step towards vulnerability: sharing the art I make publicly and admitting that I’ve actually worked quite hard on all of them. Maybe not as hard as I could have – there’s still a lot I’m learning and I also just enjoy being “fast and loose” with some pieces – but hard enough to say yeah, it matters to me.

Here’s one from a couple of days ago:

This one was roughly following a YouTube tutorial by Calvin at DrifterStudio. The difference is stark, because I’m using a completely different app – the free version, at that – with different brushes, and because I was just trying it out. I had planned to then do another version where I put a lot more effort in, but ended up liking the rough, childish look to this. Go figure.

I’ve also now created a gallery page – appropriately named Any/Every Doodle – with some more little bits, and will add to it over time.

I still suck, but I’m okay with it. I’ll get better. Art and I are testing things out, taking things slow. So check out the silliness, but do be kind.

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