The Inner Artistic Struggle We All Fight

Artistic struggle
It’s easy to look at a work of art created by a master and think that it was so easy for them to create. It often seems that when when we watch a master work, it even looks easy.

It’s no wonder that many of us become discouraged by this thinking and doubt starts to enter our minds. You may think, “it’s not easy for me, so I’ll never be able to reach this level of skill.”

Although some accomplished artists will never discuss this or admit it, the truth is that art is a struggle – for everyone. It doesn’t matter your skill level.

The Inner Struggle of Creating

Every work does and should include a bit of a struggle. It is never “easy”, nor should it ever be. Although the finished work may look “effortless”, it never is.

If we succumb to the thinking that artistic skill is a talent that is somehow “effortless” for some, we also start to believe that if it is a struggle for us, then we are somehow lacking.

“The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph” – Swami Sivananda

I have never created a work that didn’t include a battle with my own doubt. I am constantly questioning my decisions throughout the work. It is an inner conflict of thought and execution.

This doesn’t mean that I am lacking confidence in what I am producing. It’s just part of the process. And again, every artist goes through this, in every work of art.

It is the struggle of production that ultimately leads to the satisfaction that many of us love about creating. The artifact that is produced becomes a record of our victory. The satisfaction that comes during art production is often the result of small battles won – commanding the material and speaking from our soul. This may be one of the reasons that we become so attached to what we create.

Struggling is part of it. You should expect it and embrace it.

Don’t Give Up

The unfortunate truth is that too many new artists lose the inner battle. They allow their thoughts of doubt to stifle their art and their development of skill. Over time, they simply give up.

But if we know that struggling is part of creating art, we can cope with it when it comes. And instead of giving up, we face the battle and may even find enjoyment in it.

Sure, not every work will be a success and not every decision will be perfect. But art is not about perfection and success is only earned after failure. The only true failure is giving up.

How to Win the Battle

So, how do we overcome the doubt? How do we recover when we think we have made a irreversible mistake?

The answer is simple. We learn from our mistakes, continue to grow, and keep producing. With each work, we become stronger. We continue to work through the voice of apprehension. And although the doubts will never be silenced completely, they will become quieter with experience.

Knowing that your struggles are normal and experienced by other artists means that you are not alone.

Take comfort in knowing that even the greatest artists fight off feelings of doubt and inadequacies from time to time.

Accomplishments are Born From Struggle

No accomplishment, no matter if be art-related or not, is without its struggle. If it were easy, then it wouldn’t be a significant accomplishment. Therefore, it is the overcoming of adversities that often lead to our greatest accomplishments. Each work that we produce is an accomplishment.

Think of the things in life in which you are most proud, your accomplishments and achievements. I’ll argue that none of them came without a struggle.

Your Thoughts

So, how do you feel about your art? Do you fight those feelings of doubt? Are they overwhelming at times? I’d love to hear your perspective. How do you cope and work through? How do you win the battle?

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Lesson Discussion

  1. Hi Matt as a learner studying your drawing course at the moment I do struggle so this is very interesting to know that it will happen.
    I am currently drawing a portrait for my best friend of her 2 collie dogs that came about when I did a practice sketch of one of her dogs.She liked it and asked me if I could do one of both her dogs.

    I said no problem but she knows I am a doing your drawing course but I reminded her that I am still not as good as where I want to be and she still wanted me to do it.

    At the moment I have done one dog and I started on the other dog and I am on that one at present but I ended up having a break because yes I was having struggles just with detail of fur on second dog but I will go back and do it I just needed to take a step back do a few more of my lessons.

    So yes it was good to read this and you make so very valid points.

    Cheers Matt I will embrace the ‘struggle’ 😉

  2. I couldn’t agree more with the topic. Every drawing, I always see where I can improve, I am my worst critic. When I watch your videos, or other great artists videos I just wonder how they make it look so easy, but then remind myself they everyone has to start somewhere and everyone has doubts about their work. Reading motivating articles like this are so inspiring and help me keep going! Thanks!

  3. I like the Zen Buddhisms attitude of a ‘Beginners Mind’. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a professional, we all have things to learn and improve on. There is no ending to learning art skills.

  4. Hi
    I treat painting and drawing as a journey, and ease into the journey slowly building confidence as I go, when I come to an area that becomes a struggle, I move away from it for a while and work on another part of the painting. In that time away I have built up more confidence , and the painting / drawing is looking more complete, so I can now re-visit the area i was having difficulty with. I can now be more objective and ask myself what don’t I like about it, and then work through resolving the problem. I have found that when you do come up against a area that is difficult and you keep trying to resolve the problem, the worse it seems to get, so time out away from the problem works for me. One other thing, I use photographs for the basis of my drawings /paintings as I am sure other artists do. Please don’t fall into the trap that your painting or drawing has to be the same! The photograph is a guide, and you shouldn’t be trying to reproduce it exactly, its your interpretation of the scene that is important.

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