For a lot of artists it’s a natural impulse to be inspired by other another artist’s work, as it helps to provide a guiding light in terms of figuring out what you are capable of creatively.
It’s a common yet natural human trait that we often need to compare with others as a tool for evaluating ourselves.
Drawing comparisons is not necessarily a bad thing, because it can help to raise our own self-awareness and confidence.
It can also be pretty motivating for a lot of us.
However, where it gets a bit nasty for your self-esteem is when you are comparing way too much.
It can lead to feeling envious, feeling intimidated and even amplify this sense of feeling incapable of producing something original and unique.
As a result, this can then lead to anxiety, overwhelm, procrastination and regret.
So there’s something important to note right from the get go…
There is a danger in comparing yourself with artists who may be 10 to 15 years ahead of you in terms of experience.
Also, there is a very good chance that the artists you are comparing yourself to are at this 8 or 9, even 10 hours a day, and perhaps have people assisting them.
If you are only just beginning to start your side hustle, it’s more than likely you are still establishing a consistent time schedule to work on your art.
You may have other obligations in your life such as family, taking kids to school, perhaps even working a 9 to 5 job which can also involve commuting to work
Perhaps it takes you an hour to get to work, and an hour to get home.
You may have to organize groceries, run errands, there’s cleaning, cooking and the list goes on.
So consider that the artists you may be comparing yourself to have sacrificed different things in their life than you have, and you have sacrificed a whole bunch yourself, which is potentially very different to another artist.
How To Feel More Evolved By Your Uniqueness
Is what you are comparing yourself with in line with your future plans of being an artist?
If I can offer something from my own experience, it’s that as you invest more and more into the development of your art, you begin to raise your own awareness of what is possible and what you can make possible.
So as a result you evolve as an artist and feel less threatened or at least less intimidated by what other artists are doing, because you’ve begun to develop your own independent voice in your work.
When you start to focus on your future plans as an artist, you begin to look at other artists work objectively and encouragingly with appreciation, rather than with negative comparisons or a feeling of scarcity that there isn’t enough to go around.
There actually is enough room for you stake your claim as an artist amongst the many great artists you are surrounded by.
Let’s take an example…
I have looked at other artwork, and even heard songs as another example, and thought to myself, “Well, this is what I would have done differently…
…or this is how I see it (if it was a painting for example) and this is where I would have gone with it”.
This is thinking objectively and encouragingly because you are opening your mind up to possibility instead of beating yourself down and feeling inferior.
You have to stop beating yourself up and realize that you have something quite unique to say.
If you can celebrate your uniqueness, you make it easier for yourself to celebrate other artists unique voice instead of belittling yourself with harsh comparisons.
At the end of the day it’s very difficult to find yourself in your work if you are stuck in imitating others.
Focusing Less On Success And Focus More On Expression
Success and expression are both important.
But if you are comparing yourself with other artists for the pure principal of achieving success without a clear objective, then you will most surely wear yourself pretty thin.
So put what you deem as being successful into perspective.
Define what it means to be successful and try to better understand what is motivating you to compare yourself with other artists.
If you want to get your work represented by a particular gallery, then run along side the artists who have achieved what you are aiming for, and who will inspire you to achieve the same kind of result.
If you are looking to focus on producing art that you can sell to interior designers for example, then your idea of success is going to be different.
If your aim is simply to acquire a particular technique or skill then your idea of what success is, will be different again.
If you are constantly comparing yourself with other artists negatively, then in essence you are competing, and this in turn exposes you to your own limitations.
Don’t get me wrong – having a competitive spirit is a great trait to have and can push you forward and help you improve.
However, if the competition is making you feel inferior, then you are off track.
It may seem a little ironic, but for some artists, comparing themselves too much is an unconscious way of avoiding having to take on the responsibility of being successful.
What I mean is – it can be a perfect antidote for self-sabotage.
Therefore less is required from you if there are no expectations or personal accountability.
So consider your mindset around that as well.
The Power Of Having A Mentor
The great thing about having a mentor is that he or she will encourage and support and help you to grow, show you how to operate more effectively and efficiently.
So in doing this they help to redirect your focus.
A mentor will keep you focused on your strengths, and ensure you are less distracted by your weaknesses – which can often lead to a desperate need to always be comparing yourself unnecessarily to other artists.
Another great thing about having a mentor is you can learn a lot from their mistakes.
Mentors can be great candidates in assisting you with problem solving and overcoming some major challenges you may be faced with along the way.
It goes without saying that a mentor can share a lot of their wisdom and teachings, but also provide you with more self-awareness.
They can see things in and about you that you sometimes cannot reach because you are not aware of them.
Additionally a mentor will challenge you and assist in bringing the leader out in you.
When you become a leader in your own right, you begin to identify with yourself a lot better.
This in turn requires less identification with other artists in order to validate yourself and your abilities.
Compare Yourself With Clarity
People often have very distorted comparisons.
This can also extend to the buyers of your artwork.
I have experienced somebody approach me at an exhibit and ask me why my work was slightly more expensive than another artist who was producing different work on a similar sized canvas.
My reply to them was, “thanks for your enquiry but you are not comparing apples with apples, you are simply comparing apples with underpants”.
My point was not to downplay the quality of the other artists work.
It was to make my exhibit visitor aware that they were drawing a very distorted comparison.
So this takes us back to a previous point I made in that some artists perhaps have 10 to 15 years more experience than you.
Some may even have assistants helping them out.
So be aware of you are comparing yourself to or being compared to.
Don’t Let Comparisons Ambush Your Creativity
There is always going to be something to learn.
There is always going to be people that may be able to do things better than you can.
But don’t let that develop into feelings that can ambush your creativity, because instead you should allow it to motivate, encourage and drive you to dig deeper into your own work.
One thing I always try to remember is that I’m not in the business of being an artist because I have an objective to outproduce, outperform and outprice anybody else.
I’m in the business of being an artist to create, honour my imagination and fill people’s walls with inspiration.
I encourage you to become happier with what you are currently learning as an artist and less distracted by what you are currently producing.
Till next time…
Artist/Coach/Reformed Professional Procrastinator