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5 Reasons You're Not (Yet) a Good Artist

Sure signs that you're not as good an artist as you think you are (and will be).


Are you a good artist or a bad artist?
© Fiona Hawthorne / Getty Images

Your relatives think your art is great, your friends say they like it, even the dog seems to think it's good. But how can you know whether you're a good artist or not? Here are five signs that show you're not, yet.

1. It's Too Soon
Forget instant gratification, you're not going to become a great artist in a month. Nor a year. Nor even two years, probably. This is not to say everything you produce early on will be bad, you will produce some satisfying pieces. But early on you’re mostly cooking at the beans-on-toast level, not yet baking soufflés.

It takes time to learn the technical skills – how to handle paint, what you can do with it, how to create the illusions you visualize. It takes time to develop your artistic eye – how to see more critically, how to be selective in what you’re looking at, what to include and exclude from a painting, identify and use colors.

It's important to keep early paintings and drawings so you can look back and see where you’ve come from. (When you become a famous artist, an art curator will want these early works for a major retrospective!)

2. Giving Up Too Easily
If you’re disheartened easily and want to give up every other day because you hit a stumbling block or something hasn't turned out satisfactorily, you're not there yet. Reconcile yourself to the fact that how you visualize a painting will probably not be how it turns out. Many paintings are unlikely to be as good as you think they should be. You will produce paintings that are mediocre, and you will produce dire ones. That should motivate you, not dishearten you. Allow the painting to be as good as you can make it today, with where you are today, and strive for more tomorrow. Art is a long-distance endurance race, not a sprint.

3. Not Following Your Own Vision
Listen to everything you're told but don’t believe everything you’re told. Your opinion and artistic vision should count more than everyone else’s as inspiration and creativity are fueled from within. Don’t be conned into believing that artistic greatness is created by social acceptance, that’s popularity.

Sure, we want popularity too, for our paintings to sale. But in order for your paintings to stand out, you need to believe in them and create them from your soul, not merely churn out fodder to feed your bank account.

4. Trying Too Much for Too Long
There’s so much choice of subject and medium, all of which is appealing. You do want to explore them all and give them a try. But at some stage you need to be more selective, to choose a medium and subject to paint.

The aim is to create a body of work, a group of paintings that show you’re not a one-off wonder but can produce high-quality work repeatedly. Then you create another body of work, and another.

They may be related subject wise, they may not. You may change your style, but it’s risky to do rapidly (it all too easily looks like you’ve changed your mind and reject your earlier work!). It's better done gradually or through a few pieces that still sit comfortably with the others in that body of work.

It doesn’t mean you can’t ever use other mediums or paint other subjects, simply that there’s a definite focus to your work. The rest of what you do is for your own personal development and pleasure, not what you’re trying to sell.

5. Believing You’re Perfect
If you’re perfect now, what will you be painting next month, the identical stuff? Good artists know they don’t know everything, that there’s always more to learn and do, always strive for something more. Rather believe that your next painting will be your best, even better than the one you’ve just finished that you think is rather good.

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