“I’m giving up painting. I’m useless at it. I can’t paint like Lesley or Dave or Picasso. Stupid painting. I never liked painting much anyway. I quit!”
Believe me, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard that from painters who chuck down their brushes in frustration or annoyance because they’re dissatisfied with what they have produced, believing they have no real talent or skill.
I know how they feel and can readily empathize with their emotions for the simple reason I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Many a time, even now after painting for 16+ years, I’ve ripped up my efforts and walked away, in the hope I can find a more fulfilling hobby, something I’m better at, like stamp collecting or flower arranging. Thankfully, each time I’ve picked up my brush one more time, determined to give it another go. And am glad I did.
Frustration in learning something new is a real and a normal stage of progression we all go through, be it learning to drive a car, play the piano, plastering a wall, and it’s no different with painting. It’s a natural part of the learning process, a hurdle to be overcome. It’s during these moments of low self-esteem it becomes all too easy to give up, to assume you have no natural talent and rapidly reach the conclusion being an artist is not meant for you. You look at other more accomplished artists and assume they are lucky to be born with the talent, and you weren’t, sending you further into a spiral of negativity and self-doubt.
As I’ve said, I’ve been there. I’ve had those feelings. I have many paintings I’m not satisfied with and binned a fair few more. So, how do you get over it, because I don’t believe painting is a natural talent. It is a skill that has to be learned by a) studying other artists and their work, and included in this is watching demonstrations and painting programmes. And b) by practising. Practise, Practise. Practise.
But let’s go a little deeper than that. Ask yourself why you want to paint in the first place.
Accept that not every painting you do is going to be a masterpiece to you, so avoid judging the final result of each effort. Art is subjective and in the eye of the beholder. You might believe something you have done is rubbish; another person might love it. As I found out over the summer when I was asked to paint a large picture in a style I had not attempted before. I hated it. My client loved it.
Art is about pushing yourself, challenging yourself. With each painting you will learn something, even if it’s not to attempt that style again. You don’t know until you try.
Look for something in your painting you feel worked well and learn from it. Take notes if necessary of the materials and colours you used to help in this process.
Do not spend a lot of time trying to save paintings that are not working. Understand what wasn’t working well for you in that painting. Ask yourself why and how you can approach it better next time.
Be patient with yourself. Learn to enjoy the process, relax as you are creating and never be a slave to whatever it is you may be attempting to do. If working from a photograph or image, don’t be a slave to it. Miss out what you don’t like in it or feel you can’t do yet. Don’t angst and think you’ve done it wrong if you cannot get exactly the same colour as in a photo or identical to the original you are trying to emulate. Instead, use the photo or image as a reference only, a guide. Make the painting your own.
There is nothing wrong in copying another painting, it’s how all the painters and masters of old learned, by copying. You learned to write by copying letters and words. From babyhood and throughout life, we learn by copying. And learn when we haven’t got it right we try again. We practise until we can do it. It is no different with painting.
Most important of all: DON’T GIVE UP. Tell yourself you can do it, because if I can do it, so can you.