On Kicking Artist Envy to the Curb

"Closed Doors Lead to Open Windows" by Mary Sukala

“Closed Doors. Open Windows.” – Artist Pen B on Canson Mixed Media Paper

We’ve all done it. Sneaking a scroll through Instagram during that point in your shift where you’ve already swept up the tumbleweeds and everyone pounces on each scarce customer who waltzes in and provides a momentary relief from the stifling boredom. The key to not getting caught, of course, is keeping your facial expression and body language as neutral as possible, which is normally not that difficult of a feat because you are just killing time, swiping through way too many selfies. But then you stumble upon this fan-flipping-tastic, Van Gogh-rivaling masterpiece and all that nonchalant chill goes out the window. At the precise moment when you are paralyzed in pure awe, your boss jolts you from your stupor as she barks “NO. CELLPHONES.”

As an artist, a solid 90% of our feed is probably other artists of various levels and styles. And typically we follow artists whose work is phenomenal, who we look up to, possibly adore, and possibly low-key social media stalk. While it is great to admire beautiful art and get inspired by other creative peeps, a lot of times, this feeling of admiration is clouded by an equal or greater feeling of inadequacy.

I know I am guilty of this. I’ll see something that is masterfully rendered and impeccably composed and so overall blindingly beautiful that I’m like “how could I ever reach that level of awesomeness? I’m at level negative gazillion.” I am sure that I am not alone in it. Artist envy is a very real thing, and it is one of the greatest stumbling blocks a creative can have.

We can’t control whether we feel that spark of jealousy, but I believe that we can learn to use it to our benefit. I think the thing about artist envy is, the more time we spend scrolling through our feeds feasting on the visual deliciousness that is our favorite Instagrammers, the less time we’ll have to head to our little corner of the house and cook up our own work. If you constantly eat super fancy food at restaurants, you not only won’t have the time to whip up your own gourmet meals, you won’t want to because matching up to their refined cuisine is, in your eyes, beyond your reach. Sometimes seeing gorgeous art makes you less compelled to actually make your own because you are certain that you won’t be that good, so you might as well give up. And as a result of this you’ll just stay at the same level.

These artists whom we put on a pedestal didn’t wake up one morning and decide to put a pencil on paper and put all the Greats to shame five minutes later with a masterwork. They draw every day; they study their craft in books and through videos; they bullet journal or go on nature walks or listen to Swedish Symphonic Metal before drawing or find whatever it is that gives them the mental fuel and inspiration they need to create these amazing pieces. Instead of wallowing and stealing green-eyed glances, use the fruits of their hard work to light a fire in you to work just as hard so that one day, someone might look at your piece, and maybe feel a tinge of artist envy, but far more importantly, they will hopefully be like “wow, that makes me want to be a better artist.”




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