Could your version of what art is be limiting your creativity? If you believe you need talent and skill to get started making art, think again. If you place “art” high up on an unreachable pedestal, it will be harder to fight the disappointment if your art falls short and that disappoint might eventually discourage you to try again. Let’s be honest, most artwork will fall short of a masterpiece atop an unreachable pedestal!
Danny Gregory in Art Before Breakfast explains the difference between capital “A” Art and small “a” art: “Art with a big “A” is for museums, galleries, critics and collectors. art with a small “a” is for the rest of us… Art takes Art School and Talent and years of Suffering and Sacrifice. art just takes desire and 15 minutes a day.”
If you have the desire and 15 minutes a day then you too have permission to make something. Get rid of your pedestals by embracing the small a of art.
Option A: set a goal to improve art-making skills. Focus only on the technical aspects and visual progress made. Consistently judge the art and push yourself to improve. If progress is deemed acceptable for the time spent, you’ll be encouraged to continue. If progress is not seen quick enough in polished ‘final pieces,’ question if time investment is worth it. Focus only on the external visual qualities of your art because the goal is improvement.
Option B: decide to make art because it seems like a fun thing to do. You want to feel more colourful, engaged or creative and making art can help you access those feelings. Let you curiosity and enthusiasm guide you and focus on the fun aspects of making something out of nothing. Get a mug of your favourite drink, find a quiet place to nestle into and make art just for the fun of it.
Option A is how we’ve been taught to think.
Option B is where the joy and real creativity lies.
While it feels great to gain competency though mastering a skill, the sensation of enthusiasm can feel even better. Instead of focusing on getting better, focus on how you feel when you’re really engaging with a project. When you loose track of time or eagerly anticipate the next opportunity to repeat the experience. Be consumed by your enthusiastic because the quality of what you make doesn’t matter. It’s about the joy you feel during the process.
The good thing about enthusiasm is it makes us want to make art more regularly, which leads to more practice, which ultimately creates improvement over time. Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project explains “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability… because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.”
Enthusiasm is something Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth discusses: “Sustained enthusiasm brings into existence a wave of creative energy, and all you have to do is ‘ride the wave.’ While riding the wave of enthusiasm feels good, Tolle warns that “enthusiasm cannot be in a continuous state.” It’s okay if you’re not feeling so inspired on certain days, it’s all part of cycle.
You can’t sustain a peak level of enthusiasm consistently for prolonged periods (our minds need to recharge in order to come back refreshed), but when you feel the wave approaching, get ready to ride it until it’s over.