Angus Artist Talk Coast Landscapes Plein Air

The Key to Growing as an Artist

Are you stuck with your art? I get stuck when I learn new things or try to improve my skills too. I’d like to share what I’ve learned is key to growing as an artist.

I am a recovering perfectionist. I get discouraged and frustrated by my mistakes when I learn a new skill. It feels like I’m never going to get better. That I’ll never be good enough.

How I got stuck

Last spring I got a bit of momentum with my Youtube channel, posting regularly. But then I had a few trips in a row where I made mistakes filming and didn’t get the footage I wanted. I didn’t choose to give up, but each time I worked on editing the footage I got overwhelmed.

Last year, I learned to drive. I was not a natural. Co-ordinating my hands and feet and prioritising what to pay attention to was a struggle. I was frustrated with the learning process – it felt like I would never improve. Maybe there was something wrong with me that I’d never be able to figure it out. I’d focus so much on avoiding one mistake that I’d hesitate and make others.

How I got through it

With driving, my very patient instructor helped me to lighten up. I had to accept that mistakes are necessary – even a positive one as it showed us what I needed to practice.

I got it out of my head that my driving had to be perfect – even experienced drivers make mistakes. The point is to fix them calmly.

Regular lessons gave me more experience I needed to bring my driving up to test standard.

I passed!

So how do I apply what I’ve learned to my filming and to my art?

  • Mistakes are the process
    Make them. Spot them. Fix them. Practice. If I’m not making mistakes, I’m not challenging myself enough.
  • Lighten up
    Have a sense of humour when I mess it up. If it is fun then I’m more likely to keep trying.
  • Trust
    Trust that more experience is going to build up my skill over time. Even when progress is slow or in reverse, eventually mindful practice will lead to improvement.
  • Courage and Consistency
    Show up and do the work. Especially when it is hard. It is all experience.
  • Perspective
    Failure isn’t a permanent state, it isn’t worth all that fear. If I’d failed my driving test, nothing bad would have happened. I could just keep taking lessons to improve until I passed. Drawing is even easier. It is just paper – if a drawing/painting “fails” – it isn’t finished yet. Even if you can’t fix it, you can start over.

The Key to Growing as an Artist

“Shaft of Sunlight in the Woods” a Plein Air Study 6″x4″ Soft Pastels

Accept that becoming better at a skill can only happen by having the courage to make mistakes. Pay attention to them and figure out how to fix them.

So what am I going to do about it?

Now I’m working on those abandoned videos that I didn’t finish editing. I’m going to learn all I can about fixing my mistakes in the edit. As well as learning what I need to be more careful of during filming.

Then this year I’m going to create more artwork and more videos and tell my perfectionism to take a hike. Because I need space to learn. No matter how rough these first attempts are, I trust that I will improve.

How will you befriend your mistakes so you can grow?

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