A Word on Discouragement in Painting

As a young artist, I had a love/hate relationship with watercolour magazines. I loved exploring the pages, drinking in the ads for art supplies almost as much as the articles and beautiful images. So inspiring to see watercolour used in new and innovative ways, and to dream about watercolour workshops in exotic locations!
But I hated the way I often felt when I'd close the magazine. So much talent! So many artists who exhibited skill that I just knew I'd never reach. It was enough to make me want to give up; if I couldn't attain to that standard of excellence, who was I to even try?
Today, we don't have to look very far to see exceptional art by amazing artists. We have Facebook groups, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Images to remind us that no matter how good we'd like to be, there is someone out there who's better (and probably younger, too!).
This comparison game seems almost inevitable, but I believe it is often really damaging. When we compare, we judge, and the outcome is one winner and one loser. Comparing artists feel shame over their failings, or, equally negative, condescension toward the "lesser" artist.

Golden Roses watercolour by Angela Fehr"Golden Roses" detail, watercolour by Angela Fehr

The Alternative: 
Choose acceptance! Someone will always be better than you. Someone will always be worse. Art is so subjective that sometimes it will be impossible to tell which!
The only comparison you should really be making is with yourself, marking the steps of your growth as your skills increase through your artistic journey. This is the way to stay encouraged in your art, and to have peace with the process of learning and developing your artistic skills.
We are all in this together!
After twenty-plus years of painting, it is easy for me to feel pride in my watercolour skills. It is also still easy to be discouraged when I am tempted to compare my art to other, well-known artists. One way I keep my focus on my own work is through engaging with YOU, my students. Hearing your stories and encouraging you in your own painting process reminds me of why I started painting. It's not about being the "best" painter, selling a lot of art, or winning awards. It's not about getting my name out or building my "brand." (I hate that word!) I am learning that by coming alongside one another we grow, encourage and support, recognizing our commonalities rather than picking apart our differences.

Paint for joy.

20 Reasons to Paint Today:

  1. Paint to savour that urge to create, to pull away from the distractions and noise of life and look inward.
  2. Paint to speak in colour and line.
  3. Paint to play!
  4. Paint to tell a story, or crack a joke.
  5. Paint to say, "I saw something I want to remember."
  6. Paint to say, "I was here!
  7. Paint to remember a moment in time.
  8. Paint your moods.
  9. Paint to enjoy a solitary moment.
  10. Paint so you can say, "When I was in my studio last night..."
  11. Paint to recharge after a busy day.
  12. Paint to start your day with creativity!
  13. Paint because the paint feels so juicy flowing off the brush.
  14. Paint because paper's purpose is to be filled, not left blank.
  15. Paint to see what you would say if your heart was doing all the talking.
  16. Paint to keep from biting your nails or eating all the chocolate.
  17. Paint because housework can wait for another time.
  18. Paint your favourite song...and don't forget to dance!
  19. Paint to silence the critics who tell you you can't.
  20. Paint to see more deeply into the world.

This is a reprint of an email sent to my watercolour students. After the flood of emails that followed, I had to share it here on my web site as well. I'm so glad it resonated with my readers; it's good to know we're not alone in this struggle! Subscribe to my mailing list here.