What Do I Do When It All Goes Wrong?

There will be days, hours, months and sometimes years when you are feeling very frustrated with creating art.  This is an element of the beginning start of learning to draw and paint for most people, but it might surprise you to realise that it doesn’t stop.  Many professional artists feel this way regularly and it seems to be part of the process of creating.  What can we do when it all gets too much?

What Not to Do 

Firstly it might help to explain what I think you shouldn’t do, even though you might feel like it.  Do not destroy your work, it might feel like momentary relief because you are so frustrated with that piece of work but you are sure to regret it.

Don't give up when your art doesn't turn out as well as you wanted.
Don’t destroy your work

Don’t get angry, this might sound a bit extreme but I have seen adult learners who resemble five year old children when they couldn’t do something.  To use the word ‘tantrum’ wouldn’t be too far from the truth.  This is the frustration and the not wanting the results you had hoped for.  When we unpick this extreme reaction it is almost always with learners who lack confidence in their abilities or/and are extreme perfectionists.  See my post Why Perfectionism Could be Stopping You in Art.

Although anger is a bit extreme I think most of us have felt it at some point in the journey of learning to draw.  What is more dangerous though is when the anger leads to a type of learnt helplessness.  When the artwork doesn’t turn out as they want (usually due to setting unrealistic expectations on themselves) some learners develop a negative mindset that they can’t do anything and it is all too difficult.

I have seen this with a few learners who started well but when the ‘going got tough’ with perspective or colour mixing became bitter and disillusioned eventually dropping out of the course.  I think it is very sad that some of us feel we have to be good at everything and when we are not we feel we can’t participate.  Everyone has a unique style in art that they can express it is isn’t a subject where we should compare our work with others.

Don’t Blame the Tutor

When we find something difficult there has been a tendency with a handful of learners (fortunately) to blame someone or something else.  I have seen this in a few cases, hearing  ‘I didn’t get taught properly’ or ‘You rushed through that’.  Now I am not saying that tutors don’t need to receive feedback, or that you shouldn’t ask for more support.  It is those learners who find it hard, don’t ask for help and them blame the tutor, school and any number of other reasons.  A tutor can do much to pitch the learning at the right level, clearly explain concepts, provide clear and suitable resources but with all that said and done you are still responsible for your own learning.

What you Can Do

On the positive side there is much you can do to help yourself when you feel like giving up. Once learners do these things difficulties, challenges and obstacles do not phase them.

Accept That It’s A Long Haul

Anyone who has studied art should have realised that there is much involved to learning to draw and paint.  There isn’t a quick fix solution to suddenly getting good at drawing and painting you have to practice.

Draw everyday to see improvements.
Draw everyday to see improvements.

Choose Your Moments

Have you ever found yourself completely in the flow with creating artwork and things go well you create work effortlessly?  Then on other occasions, usually when you have set aside time to get creative you can’t seem to get anything done, the process doesn’t flow and everything seems difficult?  Our best work is usually done when we are in a mindset where we want to create.  When you feel inspired it is best to get to work as soon as you can, this is the best time to create.

Take a Step Back

Sometimes we can get too close to our work, physically taking a step back can help. However I really mean taking a break, do something else.  When things aren’t flowing it is best to stop, working when you are frustrated can lead to making mistakes.  Take a break and come back to a piece or leave it a while, do something else and then start something new.  No one said you had to finish one thing before you moved onto the next one, most artists have several projects on the go at once.

Learning to paint
Take a break and step back from your work

Get Inspired

Going to see some other artists work can help inspire you and bring you back to the reasons you decided to take up art in the first place.  If you find yourself getting stressed by creating art ask yourself why this might be?  Usually it is because we are setting unrealistic demands on ourself, or we are comparing our work with others who we think are better. Learn to enjoy the process rather than judging yourself on finished ‘masterpieces’.

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