To be an artist is a strange thing. We see the world in a very different light than the rest of humanity. Artists feel deeply, and use those feelings to create their work. Now, add into that equation running a business, which is based on this artwork. All of a sudden, pieces they created are quantified and sold. Their abilities must be priced and paid for. Not only that, but there are a ton of other artists out there doing the same thing, vying for the same clients. Mix all of these circumstances together and you get a killer of creativity...comparison.
I suppose comparison is inevitable in the world of artists. While we all strive to be original, to become more skilled at our craft, we often look to other professionals we admire. Slowly, and sometimes unbeknownst to us, our heros techniques and aesthetics can start to slip into our own. If we aren't careful, we can lose ourselves. Comparison robs us of the ability to enjoy our lives and our work!
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
- Theodore Roosevelt
There is a huge difference between inspiration and comparison. Inspiration is defined as “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” This is a positive action. To be inspired is to appreciate the work of others, and use that to fuel your own creativity. Comparison is “to examine (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences.” When we compare, we are not stimulating ourselves mentally and spiritually, we are noting how our work differs from others.
So how can we fight against comparing ourselves to other artists. First, we need to check our motives. Are we looking for inspiration? Are we feeling good about ourselves and our work, and are we looking to grow? Or are we feeling less than? Maybe we are feeling like we are not good enough? I believe if our motives are positive, we can look at the images/art produced by others with awe and wonder, which can push us to do better. If our motives are steeped in self-pity or worry, comparison will only lead us down a darker path.
Second, let’s look for tangible assets of other artists and examine how we can bring those out in our own work. What do your favorite artists have in common? Do they have similar styles? How does their work make you feel? What emotions are you noticing as you peruse their work? Maybe their artwork is colorful and fun, or muted and emotional...how do they achieve that product? How could you do the same?
Finally, remember that every artist has felt this same way, at some point.
We all fall to comparison now and then, it’s human nature. Instead of beating ourselves up, let’s remember this journey is about consistent progress, not perfection. When we’re feeling ourselves comparing to others, remember there is one asset that no other artist has...and that’s you! Your unique perspective is one of a kind, so celebrate it! And remember, when there is joy in your work, you will always be successful.