An artist is a person who feels deeply. Each piece that they produce is a part of themselves, an expression of discovery. We cannot separate our art from ourselves as the artist because it is in a sense an extension of ourselves. And yet we can separate our identity from the opinions thrown upon our art.
Competition in the artistic world has made it so that the artist often feels personally attacked when his or her art does not measure up to someone’s standards, or compare to the greatness of another artist’s work. This culture of competition in creativity has served to kill the heart of many an artist.
And yet we are meant to be those who are fully alive, those who have the unique ability to unveil beauty in incomparable ways. We are those who possess the capacity to make personal connections with people we’ve never even met—because when we put a part of ourselves out there to be seen and known, we find that so many of us share similar paths in this human experience. Artists are the brave ones who take the risk to expose the lie that we are alone in the journey.
Competition says that this one is better than that one. And then we rate our worth as human beings based on reviews and opinions directed at our creations. And it crushes and limits us. When we are told our art is not up to par compared with someone else’s, we often accept that as an evaluation of our personal “good enough” scale.
If I don’t sell as many books as you, I’m not good enough.
If I can’t get into the biggest venues, I’m not good enough.
If I don’t make the cut after auditioning, I’m not good enough.
If I don’t get picked, I’m not good enough.
What a load of crap.
Now, I’m not saying that all art is perfect. All of us artists have plenty to learn and improve upon. But what I am saying is that as human beings created in our Father’s image, we are perfect. We are beautiful and we are glorious.
When we put our creations out there in the big wide, critical world, we are giving people a glimpse of our innate beauty. Often beauty can be found in imperfection, and not everyone will have the eyes to see it for what it is. But I believe that even the process of discovery that an artist expresses through his or her work is a beautiful thing, regardless of whether he or she seems like an amateur.
Because we are all endowed with infinite worth, we all have something to offer. And even if not fully developed, that never means we are not good enough. Imagine telling a child who has given you a drawing of a lopsided guy that his work doesn’t fit the bill. That he won’t ever really be a successful artist, that his creation is just not good enough. Or imagine holding it up to the Mona Lisa and pointing out all the ways it does not meet the standard of that famous painting.
We don’t do that to kids who give us art. We congratulate them on their heartfelt expression and we put the picture on the fridge.
I am not trying to say that we should never give our opinions of art, merely that we should separate the art from the artist in our evaluations. We should not attack the person because their art does not fit into our tastes or compare with the “greats.”
Artists are made to thrive, grow, and learn in a positive and encouraging environment. Comparison kills the artist’s heart. And we need the artists to speak. Artists see with different eyes and help us look at life from new angles.
I want to cultivate an environment and a creative culture that does not attack the artist or the art, but that encourages and uplifts and says, “don’t give up!” Because artists, you matter. And what you put out there has value.
Let us no longer base our worth on how we compare to other artists. Let us be courageously unafraid to be who we are.