Give yourself permission to suck.
I can’t draw. If you’ve ever peeped my Insta, you know I tell no lies. But, I’ve developed a certain level of fearlessness about sharing my failures as I go because I learned that nothing bad happens when you share sucky art.
So this is the story of why I can’t draw.
More importantly, this is the story of why it doesn’t matter if your art sucks.
First: School squashes budding talent as early as possible
We all start out as artists, poets, dreamers, and otherwise brilliantly creative little creatures. Life eventually teaches us to not be those things.
By the time I hit second grade I’d changed schools three times. I was kind of a nerd so I finished my work quickly and doodled in the margins. I LOVED to draw – especially unicorns and Ed Emberley creatures.
A week into my new school my teacher scolded me in front of the class: “I don’t know how they did things where you came from but in this school drawing in the margins and on back of your schoolwork is unacceptable.”
I was a little bratty so I ignored her helpful suggestion and kept doodling away. “Eff you, lady,” I thought.
She eventually started taking points off for making a *mess* on my papers. THAT got my attention. I cared a lot about getting good grades and losing points wounded my little seven-year-old heart to the core.
Fast forward through many years of not drawing.
By the time I got to high school I was super invested in class rank. I stuffed my elective schedule with weighted classes (foreign languages and extra math, mostly) so I could get a few extra percentage points. Art was not a weighted class, so to me it had no value. (Whaaaaaaat? Who even was I back then?)
All of this to say, every time I sit down to draw I hear my second grade teacher’s voice embarrassing me in front of the class saying “that’s not how we do things here.” I pick up my pencil and freeze.
On top of that, I internalized “art has no value.” Even when I could unfreeze my hand and start drawing it seemed pretty pointless.
Second: Grownups are afraid to fail
As an adult I spent lot of time (24 years, basically) staring at my sketchbook and putting it away.
The few times I did manage to get past my internal artistic defenses (which by then were highly fortified with lots of adult-sized life smackdowns) it was a disaster. Wibbly wobbly lines, whacked out proportions, and when I added color it looked like the Fruit Stripe Gum zebra threw up on my paper.
The pain of seeing mistakes spread across the page was too much for me to bear, so I stuck with things I was good at like crocheting and writing. Those were safe.
This is why I suck at drawing: I never learned how to do it properly and avoided developing that skill.
Third: Here is why your art sucks
The “reasons” you think your art sucks may be different from mine, but whatever those reasons are probably makes it a challenge for you to sit down and try.
Not being able to draw/paint/crochet/whatever isn’t a personal defect. It’s just a knowledge/experience gap you need to fill.
Isn’t that so much better than saying you suck?
Your art is probably quite nice. Just maybe not technically perfect.
But if it does suck, all is not lost.
Go straight to It’s Nice That (an illustration website). Do not pass Go or collect $200. Look around there and behold the various illustration styles that people who don’t *get* art might call sucky art. All of those people get paid to make “sucky art.”
Does that make you feel better?
A couple of weeks ago an artist friend (a capital A Artist friend) invited me to Drink and Draw night. I grabbed my little sketchbook, some pencils, and my Micron pens and headed over there. When I walked into this gorgeous home, I was overwhelmed. It exuded *Artist Lives Here* and it was BEAUTIFUL.
Around the room still life arrangements were set up, and many Artists were clustered around them sketching with charcoal on giant art boards.
I sooooo didn’t feel like I fit in. Not even a tiny bit. But I stuck around because hey, this is how you learn, right?
Behold: the most sucky still life in the history of Drink and Draw ever.
See? It’s ok to suck.
I still had tons of fun chatting with (er, listening intently to) the Artists talk about shows they’d been to. At the end, one of the guys came over to me and said he saw what I was drawing and it was really good. It was different style and medium from what everyone else was using, but that was the only difference between what I was doing and what they were doing.
So your art probably doesn’t suck as much as you think it does.
Now, read on.
Fourth: Here is why it’s ok that your art sucks
It’s totally ok to suck at something. Like, who said you have to be perfect (or even good) at every single thing you do? Or anything you do, for that matter?
(Especially when you’re first learning.)
Who’s holding up that yardstick?
The perfection/competency yardstick isn’t real. It lives in your head and it’s called the comparison trap.
It’s really easy to fall into the comparison trap.
There will always be someone who makes better art than you. I mean, it’s not objectively better, it’s subjectively better. You’re the only one making comparisons. Everyone else is too busy criticizing their own work to pay any attention to yours. 😉
Your brain tells you lies to keep you from growing, so it says ugly things like “your art sucks” and “their art is better.”
Maybe your art does suck.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Keep making art and it will keep improving.
The only comparison traps you should ever fall into are the ones where you compare where you are today to where you were yesterday; where you are this month compared to where you were last month; and where you are this year to where you were last year.
I promise when you do that, you’ll see growth (as long as you keep making art!).
Has anyone told you you’re brilliant lately?
YOU ARE BRILLIANT.
Now go share this with someone who thinks their art sucks and tell them to keep going.
***I’m talking about all this because I’m a Creativity Cheerleader who wants to help you live your Big Dream. Join us in our Facebook group, where we discuss art, life, the universe and everything (and I tell you all the time how amazing you are – we all need someone to hold a mirror up for us every now and then!).***