If I was a Better Artist…

Posted by on Jun 25, 2019 in Journal | No Comments

Lately, I’ve had this narrative running through my head that goes something like, “If I was a better artist, I would…” Like: If I was a better artist, I’d do an illustration about watching Woodcocks displaying at sunset on the shores of Lake Erie, which we did a couple of weeks ago. Or, if I was a better artist, I’d do a little graphic novel style page to tell the story of how I rescued a Barn Swallow that was trapped inside of a home improvement store. I was out walking a few days ago, and I thought that “If I was a better artist…” and then I stopped and said out loud: I am sick of saying that.

When I tell myself that I’m not a good enough artist, it almost feels like being illiterate and having an intense desire to write. That’s how the yearning feels to me: I feel helpless, like I don’t have hands or something. When I think about doing the kind of illustration work I describe above, I imagine: that would be incredible. Not that it would make me happy or rich or famous but that I would at least be able to express something that is so deep inside me that I don’t really even have words for it.

My big insight is that I realized it’s the thought that I’m not a good enough artist not the lack of skills that’s holding me back. So I’m trying to get rid of that thought and focus on doing the illustrations anyway. Doing what I think I can’t do until I actually can, if that makes any sense.

I decided to start by illustrating an incident that happened on our recent trip to Ohio for the Biggest Week in American Birding. We watched a mink catching fish. She was so ferocious and efficient and adorable. So my sketchbook became filled with minks and Canada Geese and other assorted critters (including Douglas and me) as I worked out the final illustration.

As I’ve been working on these sketches, I’ve realized that while I may not be a great artist, I’m necessarily not terrible, either. My drawing skills have improved and my studies of perspective are really paying off. Also, I’m feeling more joyful in making art again which my thoughts of “if I were a better artist” were robbing me of. Not that I shouldn’t be aiming to get better (I am!) but that letting negative thoughts hold me back was not helping me improve.

Have you ever experience something like this, where your thoughts about your abilities were a bigger problem than your abilities themselves? I’d love to hear from you!

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