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Clarisse Angkasa

I Don’t Want To Draw Anymore: Everyone Else is So Much Better

Clarisse Angkasa
2017 Summer Intern

As an art student, it’s become a habit of mine to look at other artists’ artworks. I look at master paintings to study color and composition; I exchange ideas and techniques with my peers. Being able to observe and learn from the creation of other artists helped me develop my skills in art. I find a lot of inspiration from other artists: master painters like Caravaggio and Rembrandt, illustrators I follow online like Chris Riddell and William Joyce, fellow art students, and so on.

However, I eventually crossed a line where I started getting discouraged, rather than inspired by look at other artists’ work. I started to compare my work with others’, which made me disheartened about my own work. I developed tunnel vision where I could only critique and rank my work based on other artists’ work, which, in my opinion, are always better than mine.

Whenever I compare myself to other artists, I always end up having a running commentary in my head.  

“I can never design characters with as much depth and detail as she does.”

“Why can’t I be as good at creating dynamic compositions as her?”

“His watercolors always have such vivid and beautiful colors compared to mine.”

Since my first day in preschool, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue art as a career. I drew in my free time, doodled on my textbooks, and sketched cartoons for my classmates. However, I wasn’t the only one.

There was a girl my age who also drew in her free time, doodled on her textbooks, and sketched cartoons for her classmates. We went to the same school for 13 years –  from preschool through high school. For 13 years, I compared my work to hers. Every art class, I would always think her drawings and paintings were better than mine. The girls she drew were prettier than mine. She would paint with colors much richer than my paintings. She came up with ideas that I wished I’d come up with first. People kept mistaking me for her, which didn’t help (even though, in my opinion, we looked nothing alike). Every time someone mistook me for her, it triggered the thought that she was a better version of me.

Then, we both got accepted to the same art school.

The initial joy I felt upon being accepted quickly transformed into dread. Basically, I was signing up for 4 more years of being with someone who, through no fault of her own, made me feel like my work wasn’t good enough.

My habit of comparing my work with others became so much worse once my semester started. I didn’t just compare my work with the girl from my high school. I started to constantly compare my work with every single student in every class. In high school there were only a few people who were good in art. At my art school, everyone is good in art (obviously, since they got accepted to the school in the first place). At best, I felt average because I could only see how much more talented everyone was compared to me.

Clarisse Angkasa, Sculpture Installation

I started over analyzing everything. I measured good critiques my classmates received against the bad ones I had. I kept track of how many more followers on Instagram my art school peers had than me. I memorized how many times each of my friends’s works got featured on Behance or a competition. My insecurities led to more compulsive comparing. This only increased my insecurities, which would then made me do it even more. I was stuck in a vicious cycle that I couldn’t break.

At one point, I stopped enjoying making art. Many assignments became a burden and I was never satisfied with the final results. Measuring my worst insecurities against others’ best features inevitably made me think that I wasn’t good enough to be an artist. I started thinking, what if art was the wrong field for me?

This didn’t stop until one day I was with a friend, critiquing my work by comparing it with my classmate’s. I pointed out to my friend all the “wrong” things I did that my classmate did well in. Then my friend asked, “Wait, whose work are we critiquing? Shouldn’t we just talk about your work without comparing it to someone else’s?”

Until that conversation I never realized how often I compared myself to others. I wasn’t aware of how all these comparisons and negative thinking would influence my work. I suddenly became aware of how I subconsciously always tried to search for ways to look down on my work when comparing myself to others. That was when I made a decision to stop, or at least stop discouraging myself whenever I did.

Eventually, I started enjoying making art again. I was able to look up famous artists like Chris Van Allsburg and Shaun Tan, and ask other students about their projects without putting myself down. Instead of being envious of the many ways in which their works are better than mine, I tried to use their work to motivate myself to be better. I still compare my work to others, there’s no stopping that. I still believe there are so many things I can improve upon.  Most importantly though, I now have more confidence in my own artworks.

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2 responses on "I Don’t Want To Draw Anymore"

  1. Clarisse, thank you so much for your honesty in this article. It is so relatable and I feel like almost all artists probably struggle with feeling that we aren’t good enough or that we aren’t nearly as skilled as the next person. I’ve felt the same way many times and by the time I was a sophomore/junior in art school I felt that I had lost a lot of motivation, even though art had always been a childhood dream of mine.

    One thing I will say is that these feelings of artist self-doubt is a reoccurring theme for many of us. What has helped me along the way is to think back to when I was younger and how inspired I felt watching some show or movie that made me want to get into art in the first place. Basically i needed to reevaluate what I really wanted. In art school sometimes we focus on getting good critiques or good grades, but oftentimes that might actually be a slow stagnating process if we lose sight of why we are really in school….to learn to become a better artist.

    Chuck Jones (famous for his work on Looney Tunes) once said something like, “we all have about 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” That’s all it takes. Keep drawing, keep learning, and keep pushing yourself to follow the dream you’ve had since you were little. That grit is what’s going to take you farther than many who may simply be riding on natural talent, rather than truly developing their craft. But the truth is that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Set your mark high, and even though it might be by painful effort and self sacrifice you WILL get to the level you see yourself reaching.

    Keep drawing!

  2. Ohmygod, I know this feeling! Especially at art school, there’s this competitive streak, and I haven’t seen it be anything but destructive to all involved, but it’s so difficult to get over! I know people who have kept open call information to themselves or lied to others about grant deadlines to “eliminate competition”. I think the issue really starts with schools, and not just art schools, but schools in general. Most institutions are structured with a ranking and tracking system, from GPAs to limited slots for college applicants. I’ve found that once I got into the real art world, at least in my small section of it, the art community operates on a “spread the wealth” mentality. If one person gains recognition, it’s in the best interest of everyone, because that person lifts everyone with them. Visually speaking, envy of another’s skills is a great opportunity to steal their technique and learn what you can from it to grow your own work. I know it’s almost painful to see other artists be so exemplary and awesome at what they do, but trust me, other artists out there feel the same way about your work and you! :]

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