Art is the epitome of beauty. It comes in so many exquisitely unique forms. It creates beautiful feelings. Art can bring people together, express and induce emotion, be the voice of the voiceless and touch the hearts of many. It is powerful.
The existence of something so pure and beautiful is a true blessing and should not be overlooked or taken for granted. Viewing art can bring great peace and be a fantastic pastime. Creating art can be an amazing, healing and soul-touching process that nourishes our imagination. According to Verywell Mind, “the creation or appreciation of art is used to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stress, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills.”
The majority of us have tried creating at least one form of art or another in the past, whether it be drawing as a child, or pursuing some other art form later on. Yet so many people seem to shy away from the idea of creating art.
Why? You do not have to be a professional artist to create and enjoy art. Everyone is capable of it. So, where does this strange hesitance and intolerance come from? Well, it is a clear manifestation of some of the more undesirable attributes of the human species such as self-critique and fear of failure. According to the Los Angeles Times, “A recent survey by the social network Linkagoal found that fear of failure plagued 31% of 1,083 adult respondents — a larger percentage than those who feared spiders (30%), being home alone (9%) or even the paranormal (15%).”
It is second nature at this point because we have been indoctrinated into associating failure and imperfection with negative perception, judgment, and unpleasantness ever since we were children, as modeled by our parents and our school system, and more—but that is a conversation for another time.
When we go to make art, many of us spend the majority of our sacred creative time criticizing ourselves and our work rather than actually creating. We get caught up in small details and lost in our toxic mindsets trying to end up with what we believe to be “The Perfect Piece.” Striving for perfection, we forget to pay attention to emotion. Perfection is not what art is about…
Luckily, it only takes a few steps to re-evaluate our mindset and improve our outlook to be able to truly create and experience art.
The first idea to think about on the path to creating art in the right way is that there is no right or wrong path you could take when it comes to creating art! There are no set standards for art. No success criteria that will lead the way to achieving an A+. There is only you, your imagination and the form of art you have chosen to convey that imagination through. There is no use in spending hours picking your art piece apart to try and force it into a mold that you think is “ideal.” The beauty of art is found in its imperfection, rough edges, uniqueness and irregularities.
Next, focus on creating art for the sake of creating art. Create art for the purpose of expressing your feelings and seeing them come to life as opposed to aiming to please others and yourself with “flawless” work. Create art for the purpose of feeling your thoughts flowing from your overworked mind and filling the canvas, bringing you peace. Create art for the purpose of enjoying the process and feeling the pure emotion that comes with simply creating.
Furthermore, implement these concepts not only when you create art, but also when you view it. This way you can truly connect with the art and the artist behind it. Stop criticizing every little aspect and zoom out to soak in and absorb the full beauty of the art piece. This will help create an inclusive space in which anyone can express themselves and their art freely without uncertainty or fear.
Self-criticism, fear of failure, and perfectionism in terms of art hits close to home for too many people, including myself. I love art—I dance and write every chance I get, and I love to experiment with the other forms of art whenever the opportunity arises. However, from time to time, I find myself stuck in situations where I continue to criticize every single little thing about my work until the experience is no longer enjoyable.
I had to create a dance piece for my dance studio a couple of years ago. I was so focused on making sure that the piece was perfect. I spent hours tweaking the moves and the timing of the choreography and criticizing myself and the piece every step of the way. I started to dread going into practice because I would have to work on my seeming failure of a piece that I could not perfect no matter what I did. It was truly unfair that all these negative thoughts and self-criticism had transformed something that once brought me so much reassurance and peace into something that made me feel extremely anxious. After many stressful days and even more critique and “it has to be perfect!”s, I was finally finished.
When performance day rolled around, I walked onto the stage and for the first half of the performance, I executed every step perfectly according to my choreography, paying attention to hitting every beat and maintaining good form. But then, in the second half of the performance, I was met with an obstacle—I genuinely could not remember the rest of the dance, and my brain had completely blanked out! The only thought that occurred to me was to keep dancing, and so I did.
I continued dancing for the rest of the song, making the moves as I went, letting my emotions control my limbs, not thinking about how unprofessional I may seem, or what my teacher would say when I got off the stage, but rather how I felt in the moment, how freeing it felt to let go and truly dance. I felt so energized and happy when I got off the stage. I was not thinking about how “utterly ridiculous” of a dancer I am or how I put all that time and energy into practicing for nothing, but that I could not wait to get into the studio to do some real dancing. That day, I learned how amazing it is to truly and simply create art. And guess what? It turns out that I was able to wow the audience, impress my teacher, and inspire my peers with my spontaneous dance!
Now, when I find my inner self-critical voice getting a little too overbearing when I am making art, I take a deep breath and remind myself of the real purpose of art and of the tips mentioned above in this article. From there, I lose myself in my artwork, forgetting about my struggles and worries for a bit as I create.
Art is about expressing yourself, applying your creative skills and imagination, and translating that into powerful art pieces that are personal to you. Set aside the mentality of toxic criticism and perfectionism and start to appreciate and create art. Take your ideas, get into a mindset of imagination, let the creative juices flow—or overflow—take a deep breath, begin and do not look back! Navigate your art without any doubt or fear. Take off your self-critical tinted glasses and exist in the moment, alone with your art.
Why I wrote this piece:
When we make art, we spend the majority of the time criticizing ourselves and our work rather than creating. While (moderate) self-criticism is beneficial to creating effective art pieces, that is not what art is really about. I wrote this piece to capture the beautiful, pure feeling that comes with simply creating and to advise readers to set critiquing aside for a while for a chance to truly experience art.
I am guilty of over-criticizing my art as well, often when I am writing or choreographing dances. I am working on improving myself by following the steps outlined in this piece. However, rest assured that when writing this piece, I focused not on my writing’s imperfections but on the wonderful feeling of my thoughts being reflected in my powerfully written words!