I posted this quote on my Facebook page last week, but figured I would post it here as well - I think a lot of artists who have been at it a while can relate to this idea:
When I first started painting, I knew that I had a long way to go, but I didn't really think of painting in terms of difficulty. It was a hobby - it was fun! As a beginner, it's easy to be pleasantly surprised when anything turns out well, and I would be thrilled even if only a portion of my painting turned out the way I wanted it to.
"Painting is easy when you don’t know how,
but very difficult when you do”
- Edgar Degas
Now that I've been at it for a few years, I've lost a lot of that naivete. The more I learn about art, the more distance I see between my current abilities and where I'd like to be. And as time goes by, my standards for what goes out the door get higher and higher (the cringe factor, I guess).
I find myself painting slower. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could knock out an 18x24" in a day, or a small study on location in an hour. Now I'm more aware that it's the quality of what I paint that matters, not the quantity (especially in this type of economy!). I find myself spending a week on a 24x30" or 30x40" painting that might have taken me half the time a year before. I scrape things more - rather than being satisfied with "almost" I try my best to get things right.
Painting is still fun, but it has become more of a challenge, and as such has also become that much more rewarding. I just have to find balance between striving to improve, and getting down on myself for not being where I want to be. The former is constructive, while the latter can be frustrating and completely detract from my efforts when I let it affect my mood. It's a tough thing to balance, and sometimes I let the negativity win.
This was a tough week for me - I was tired and cranky and had to remind myself not to get down on myself too much. I had to remind myself that if I'm being critical of my own work, it's probably because I'm improving. I found a bit of comfort in this quote - knowing that I'm not the only artist in the world who struggles with these things made me feel better, get out of my head, and step back up to the easel.