18 Feb

What Every Beginner Artist Should Know

What holds you back the most from fulfilling your creative dreams? Talent, circumstance, an accident of birth? No, it is your own good taste. This might sound counter-intuitive but remember those artistic things you always wanted to do:

Become a photographer – you can tell what makes a great photograph and you know your ISO’s, from your F stop, but somehow what you end up with doesn’t look that great.

Become a writer – You start writing consistently and you take notice when you read great work, but you have no luck trying to produce your own great work. In the beginning, it can be difficult just to start on the blank page. Even when you can write a few chapters, beginner writers quickly learn that they cannot immediately be a Hemingway, or Toni Morrison.

So what do you do, you put it down to lack of talent and you move on and get a day job.

The writer and radio presenter Ira Glass sums it up perfectly for me in this video on Vimeo:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.
But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.

We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.
It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

When I saw this a few months back it inspired me on to start creating again and even though my initial attempt fell well below my expectations, it taught me to stay strong and keep doing the work. Even when you know it’s not your true potential. There are some times, when a painting is not going right and you may need to abandon the work and start again, but the more you create the better you get.

So that is what is working for me now. I just turn up and do the work every day and some days I make work that lives up to my good taste. So to anybody reading this that has creative aspirations, don’t let your good taste stop you.

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