Life of an artist
I don’t purport to be a true artist. There are many more talented people out there who deserve that title. But I use the term “art” to mean anything which is made by a creatively inclined individual. So whether you are a knitter, as sewist, a cartoonist, a painter or a cardmaker, you are an artist for the purposes of this post.
And as an artist, let’s see if you recognise this scenario: You have an idea for a piece of art. You plan the piece of art. You make the piece of art. You hate the piece of art. Sound familiar? You are not alone. I truly believe that this is something we all do at some point. In fact you may find yourself at a point where this happens again and again. You start to doubt your work, doubt yourself. You feel like you aren’t good enough. You wonder whether it’s time to throw in the towel (the knitting needles, the paintbrush….)
Your own worst critic
Artists are their own worst critics. I have a friend who is a cake maker. Her cakes are stunning (and they taste amazing – a winning yet not always achievable combination). A couple of months ago I asked her to make a cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday so she asked my daughter what type of cake she wanted. My daughter requested a pink cake in the shape of a 5. The day before her birthday my friend turned up at my house and practically threw the cake at me, wailing “Take the bloody thing, I never want to see it again, you’re lucky I didn’t throw it against the wall!!”
After the outburst I looked at the cake (as a non cake maker) and asked what was wrong with it. Because I thought, as usual, that it was stunning. She went on to explain that the icing wouldn’t roll properly, the ribbon wasn’t long enough, she couldn’t get the gems she wanted, and about half a dozen more things that made it, and I quote, “the worst cake” she’s ever made. While I tried to make light of it and reassure her that it looked incredible and that my daughter would love it (it did, and she did) part of me, as a fellow artist, completely understood where she was coming from.
You are good enough
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the details, in the perfection of our craft, that we fail to stand back and take a look at the bigger picture, which is, quite simply; we are good enough. Our art is good enough. I can tell you right now; that piece you made but tossed aside and refused to put in your online shop because of that thing that went wrong? It’s good enough. And that other piece that you made, and then hated because it didn’t turn out quite right? It’s good enough. You are good enough.
One man’s seconds is another man’s masterpiece
How do I know this without seeing your work? Because art is about the labour of love. It is as much about the concept, the creative process, the passion of the artist, as it is about the finished piece. I personally love to see a wonky stitch, a smudged pencil line, a piece of ribbon that is a fraction too short, because it reminds me that is has been handmade, that it was a labour of love, that the artist has given me a piece of themselves. It reminds me that it was made by a human being, not mass-produced in some factory, and that we are all vulnerable and fallible.
And that, fellow artists, is a beautiful thing.
See it through their eyes
And so, the next time you feel disgusted, frustrated, distraught because of a piece of your own art, don’t discard it yet! First, do what I am *trying* to do myself: Look at it through someone else’s eyes. If you have someone whose opinion your trust (which I know as an artist is difficult), then ask them what they think. Stand back yourself and look at it as if you were not a knitter/illustrator/cardmaker. Ask yourself, would a layperson notice that stitch? That smudge? That wonky ribbon? Would they care even if they did? Is that flaw the only reason you are not happy with your work? How about the 99 other stitches that are perfect? Can it be fixed? Altered?
Does it even need to be?
If at the end of all of that you still don’t even want to look at it, then fair enough. But instead of throwing it away, can it be used for a giveaway? Sold for seconds? Give as a present? Used for scraps??? Even if the only thing you can take away from that particular piece is a lesson learned, then it still has great worth.
And, hey, if you do still decide to chuck it, I’ll happily take it off your hands! 😉
Here are some of the pieces I have made and then hated… Feel free to share links to some of yours in the comments.