Nowadays, we find ourselves bombarded by images, posts, stories and all kinds of visual stimuli. If you like making art, you’ll drown in inspiration, almost unbearably. There are so many amazing artists! It’s inevitable to compare yourself with those you admire the most. And sometimes it can be overwhelming.
However, you strive for improvement, always trying to get better at art-making, watching carefully your favorite artists in order to learn from them. But there’s a thin line between admiration and imitation, one that is not always easy to see from that close of a perspective. So ask yourself this: are you trying to be someone else?
There’s always going to be someone “better”, in one aspect or another. Even many at the top of the art world wish they could paint like X or draw like Z. The problem with this is the criteria by which we learn to value ourselves and others. The emphasis in dexterity instead of substance, in execution versus communication. Don’t get me wrong: skills are important. Without them, you might not be able to tell your story. But they should be a tool, not an end goal.
What makes you special is that there is no one else in the world with the exact combination of your experiences, perspective, emotions, thoughts and skills. You are unique, my friend. And you should embrace and celebrate that.
Ok, but how do I do that, exactly? You might ask. Well, I could go on and tell you to find your own unique way, right? But I don’t think that will help if you’re lost in other people’s art. So here are some tips that may help you get started. Hopefully, you’ll spread your wings and fly to your unique cosmic path.
Use yourself as a source of inspiration
Take a look at your past works. Take your time and find something you like in each one. If you have them in digital format, be it originally or in scans or photos, much better. Make a copy and mark what you like and make annotations if needed. Then make a folder and place it wherever you save your other inspiration files.
You can like a color combination, a particular shape, the way you rendered a shadow, a set of brushstrokes. You get the idea. Anything you find interesting. Even if there are some works you absolutely hate, make yourself find something in them that you like. It’s a great observation exercise.
Identify what makes you, you
When you finish the previous exercise, you’ll start to see some patterns in your art. You may lean towards certain color palettes, prefer curvy (or pointy) shapes, use a lot (or very little) color saturation, etc. Observe what kind of compositions you use the most. What kind of contrast. Whatever you find repeats amongst your artworks, write it down.
Now that you know what you like about your own art and what you tend to use, it’s time to combine the two. Make a series of artworks that involve some of the things you liked, rendering them in the way you found you use most often. This will, in turn, help you consolidate your style and make you feel more self-confident.
You’ve established some good grounds to walk on. It is time to go further. Take a look at the series of artworks you made and analyze them. Find areas that were problematic or didn’t turn out as you wished. Now make a series with those in mind, focusing on improving them. You can make sketches, studies and exercises beforehand, as this will help you try things and find new ways to render them.
You have now found and recognized your uniqueness. But it doesn’t have to end there. Exploring is important. With your new found confidence, you can allow yourself to explore freely, knowing that you don’t need to be someone else in order to matter. You and only you can use all the inspiration you find out there in your own way.
I hope you found some of this useful. Now go and embrace your uniqueness!
Barbara Din is a visual artist, graphic designer, painter, interior designer, crafter, musician and writer living in Argentina.