I have been asked a variation of the same question by budding artists often enough I thought I would address it here.
Q: Do you ever make a drawing you are not happy with?
A: Yes, all the time.
I am probably my own worst critic. Whether I have just finished a quick 5 minute sketch or spent days working on a painting, I always see room for improvement. I scrunch up my nose when someone compliments me on a sketch I am not particularly fond of, and work at smiling instead of gritting my teeth to say ‘thank you’ for their appreciation.
Q: Do you think those pieces were a waste of time?
Despite this occasional blind spot when it comes to seeing the beauty in my own work, I have never thought of even the most hideous chicken scratch as having been a waste of my time.
Something no one ever really talks about is the physical process of creating a piece of art. We talk about athletes honing their bodies and improving their movements all the time, but rarely do I hear conversations about the connection between a painter’s brain and her hands.
Each line, splotch of ink, and puddle of paint on paper helps to refine that connection. I think of all the fine motor control I have developed regardless of my judgement of the final product in front of me, all the nerves grown and trained towards capturing impulses tracing from my eyes, to my brain, to my fingers.
So, on those days when it seems unlikely that any line I have drawn will please me I try to think back to a conversation I had with a young artist in Paris who shyly passed me his phone to flip through a few of his own pieces.
Have patience, and instead of passing judgement based on that one image, pull out a collection of work from the past year or so and take in the progress that has developed over time. Draw comfort from the fact that tomorrow’s masterpiece will be that much better due to today’s efforts.