Know Yourself as an Artist: How to Really Embrace Your Uniqueness

People, including creators (yep, me too for a while), think art is all about precision, technique, fundamentals, methods, having that perfect execution. There are certain criteria, some very specific skills that you need to go over until you master them. Don’t get me wrong- the fundamentals are important to learn and know, they are what help you start. Judge me if you want, but personally, for me, as an artist, that is one of the smallest parts. Sure, like any artist, I want to learn new techniques, experiment with new mediums, but for me, that is not the most important, not my biggest goal, not the highest priority.

Real talk- and I am speaking as a professional artist, someone dedicated full time to art. I don’t understand. I really don’t. Why does every artwork have to be defined and measured? Why are artists expected to follow every single point they are taught to the core? What- so every creator in the world is just supposed to follow the traditional techniques they are taught in school? There is no fun in that. The real fun is to carve your own path, discover your own style.

I have talked about this many times and I am saying it again: for me it is all about embracing uniqueness, that special voice inside of you. It is forgetting about the fundamentals, destroying the structure, and just creating your own experimental mess. Make your art a feeling, a moment, an expression capturing your own version of life. Your art is all about expressing your core, your soul, your spirit, your story, your energy. It is way more than fundamentals.

Step away from those foundations and put aside your ego. Not thinking about those likes and comments, those ooos and aaas, those “wow, your art is amazing”, not thinking about “is anyone going to like this or buy this?”, not thinking about the future… the list goes on.  Why am I telling you this? Because I have had these thoughts and let myself slide into this and you know what happened? I stopped being true and authentic to my art and to myself. When creating, what is the most important thing? To create only and only for yourself. To not be someone else for the camera. To be completely aware of what is inside you, knowing yourself.

Listen to yourself. Make your flaws, your weaknesses, even your strengths into your uniqueness through your art. Be real and open with the public about both your highs and lows. Let your art define your journey. Let your art speak for itself.

The Good Life or The Best Life?

I understand. I really do. If you feel like you can’t draw. If you go through all those tutorials and keep trying for a while, months even and can’t learn that one thing you really wanted to and consider yourself a failure and want to give up. If people give you those strange looks and ask “what is that? I don’t get it” when they see your creations. If you feel like you don’t have those skills, talents and experience to do art professionally. If you love painting and yet don’t feel confident of putting it out in the world. If your fear, self- doubt is nagging you and you keep making excuses not to create. If you say “I don’t have the time or money to do art. I don’t want to be one of those broke starving people.” If you think you can’t become a real artist and constantly compare yourself to the high skilled fancy world class artists out there. I feel you. I do. You know why? Cause I have been there. Done that. I mean, I still go through some of these things today. 

You know what? It’s not easy being an artist and living your dream. The struggle is real. It takes a lot of hard work, effort, energy, time, money, pain even. It takes years to get where you want to be. But you know what? It takes the same things to build a life with that alternative career you choose instead of becoming a creator. Those feelings I described above you can and will face them in the other job you do too. Both paths are tough. 

There is a difference though. This difference is how I knew art will be my career and not communication. How despite deciding to do art on the side and have a real proper career where I actually earn money and have a good life, I firmly decided and told everyone that I am going to be an artist. No matter what. Come what may. Because I may have led a good life if I chose another career, but not the best life as I am currently drawing, painting and doing mixed media. Because creativity is the way I can be the truest most authentic version of myself, the most real way I can connect with the world. 

Here’s the difference if you choose your dream path. Because it is your calling. Because you have that uniqueness, that magic that no one else has to lead and inspire people in that field. Because you are serving people with your highest possible potential. Because no matter how much you ignore it, it keeps following you. No matter how much you push it away, it is all around you everywhere you look, think and feel. If you choose to do what you love more than anything else in the world, it will be fun. You will spend each and every day doing what you truly enjoy, getting one step closer to your fantasy every move you make. You will be happy and much more willing to face those struggles and difficulties because you chose the path that will take you forward towards the life you want to live. 

So which hard will you choose? The good life or the best life? The alternative career or the dream career? I recommend the latter. 

Beginning A New Artwork On A Blank Slate

Today is the day you start a new artwork. You have set up your blank canvas or paper and feel it staring back at you. Oh no, what do I do now? You freeze for a minute. How did I manage to create last time, you wonder? Will I be able to make something new, something not seen before? Did I get the right idea, is it the right inspiration for this time? What if I get stuck? What if I choose the wrong size? Will it work? And on and on….  

If you have been following me for a while, you know I don’t really like to plan out my works. Yes, I may start out with a basic idea or inspiration but I don’t exactly fully structure my work. I like to have that element of surprise and exploration, discover things along the way.  I have no clue, no clue at all what the final result will be. So I know too well that feeling of a blank slate.  

The thing is, and this is my personal belief (yours might differ- please don’t come at me), if you know exactly what you are creating, create dot to dot to that envisioned end result, it is not art. Art is to be on the edge of the cliff, to have that heart pumping little hesitant feeling of jumping off, then finally taking the leap and experiencing that feeling. That excitement is art.  

That fear, that being frozen by that stare is normal. You just need to start, take that leap of faith, and fly.

Not Caring About What Others Think

You hear those voices in your head when you are discouraged as an artist. Those words, those frowns about your art that has stuck with you, that wavers your confidence, that at times stops you from freely creating. You doubt, you feel stuck. Then you scroll through the comments, through the messages, read the appreciation and support. You remember the smiles and the conversations with people about what a positive effect your art has had. You feel good and encouraged and willing to create again.

It happens to me and am sure it has happened to you. Don’t treat it as criticism or praise, they are people’s opinions.  And isn’t art meant to be subjective? Seen and felt from different perspectives? Then why do you (the artist) care so much?

Ok, as artists, we want to please people, want to impress people. We feel deeply, whether its positive feedback or negative. But, we shouldn’t be affected by either (easier said than done, I know).

These days, I have been consciously working on not caring about what other people think. Not to say that I don’t get affected at all. I do. There are still those days. But I am trying not to as much.  It took me a while to get here.

How did I get to this point? Well, my art. Becoming more and more in tune with my voice and thoughts every day. I am concerned on what I personally feel about the work, if it is aligned with my artistic vision, if I am satisfied with it, rather than those likes (or dislikes) and what people are saying about it.

Do the people on social media know what was going inside your head when you were creating it? No! Do they know all the times you failed and got frustrated and how many canvases and papers you threw away before you got to the final piece? No! Do they know the joy and the happy excited feeling when that thing you were trying to explore clicked and you finally got it? No! Do they know all of the behind the scenes and all that went in your studio? No! Do you know all this? Have you lived and experienced every second of it? Yes!

Then whose opinions, whose praises, whose criticism should matter? Yours or theirs? Why, yours and ONLY yours of course! Now, go make art your way, and ONLY your way.

Why Success is Scarier Than Failure

That dream collaboration. That magical wonderland studio space where you can be one with your art. That first time experiment with techniques and mediums you haven’t tried before. Those heartwarming conversations. Seeing the products made from your handmade designs. Being selected for an exhibition. Getting a sale. Seeing all your dreams come true, your goals being achieved. It’s beautiful getting those new found opportunities and freedom.  But also…

You are scared. You are overwhelmed. You at times have no clue what to do. You have the fear of messing up, of getting into that imposter syndrome. You think “will I be able to perform?”, “will I be able to feel at home in these new surroundings?”. You feel like you have these big shoes to fill, this responsibility.

What you need to remember and tell yourself during this time is that your art pieces are a part of you and your life. They are a representation of your thoughts and emotions. Art stimulates you, motivates you and these opportunities are a chance to show people that. To let them get a deeper insight into your world. You got these opportunities because people connect to not the contents of your work or the details in your posts- but your unique essence in the way you created the work, and how much of you you put in your posts.

And if it really feels like a lot… slow down. The worst thing I feel I can do artistically (and I think it applies to all artists) is give myself too much space . Focus on what matters. Start small, even though you are working on something big. Go back to those simple shapes, those basic colors, those slow and thoughtful strokes. Start easy and when you keep getting into it your thought process and work will naturally expand into something elaborate.

Success has nothing to do with how complex or detailed or luxurious it is. It has to do with how you simplify and adapt the big complex world to what feels right and comfortable to you.  Mastery is taking those big shoes and customizing them to fit you. You own your space. Don’t adapt yourself to the world, adapt the world to you.

How to Handle Criticism From Yourself

When I first got on the road to begin my art journey, to find my unique voice, let me tell you, there were lots of bumps on the way. I faced failures (and still do).

I was entering a new unknown place, attempting something I had never done before, and to be honest, no one had ever done before. Because no one can create like me, and no one can create like you. We all have our unique styles. You are on your own journey. You are the only person that has ever or will ever take it. Isn’t that fascinating?

I would draw and the self-bashing would start. “You have no talent”, “Look at what a mess you have made”, “Who do you think you are anyway?”, “You really think people will like this?”, “You call that art?”, “Look at all the greats, you are nothing compared to them” and on and on.  

What I didn’t understand then and what I have now understood is that every artist feels this way at one point or another. Because if you are doing something out of the box, exploring something untouched, you are not going to get it right a lot of the times. There will be tons of mistakes. Honestly, that is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

Failure is to be welcomed. Let it in. It is a badge of honor, an award. Anyone can do the thing someone else is doing, make the painting that has been made so many times. What is so different about your art then? Be proud of yourself that you are putting out your voice in the world.

As artists, we need to be able to look at our artwork with an objective eye (easier said than done, I know, but give it a try). That is DIFFERENT from criticism. I have learnt to frame the criticism into questions, into creative puzzles. That’s what we are best at doing as creators.  Instead of thinking, “Oh no, this paint is so watery and runny on the canvas. It is ugly”, I think “How can I turn this into something beautiful using my style?”. Instead of thinking “Oh man, this color didn’t stand out the way I thought it would”, I think “Hmm… what color can I blend it with or what color can I put around it so that I get the effect I was going for?”. Instead of thinking “This is such an ugly disgusting mess”, I think “Maybe this got a little bit too playful. Do I need to make this more structured and controlled?”.

Turn that criticism into analysis instead of making something gone wrong something bad about you. Convert your negative thoughts into a fun problem to solve, into a game. You got this. You have the talent, you have the skill, you have the uniqueness. You just need to steer your thoughts into the right direction.

How to Find Your Unique Style

Forget a unique style. I used to think I didn’t have any style, even an ordinary one. Until I realized that your style is your voice, your personality, your story, your reflection. We all have that, unique to our individual selves and all you need to do is bring that into your art and lo and behold: that is your unique style!

It is absolutely true that your story is totally personal to you, no one else can walk in your shoes. Only you have had the experiences you have had, lived the life you have lived. But it is also absolutely true that we are all humans, and we go through similar experiences, and can relate to each other’s stories and can feel the emotions in that journey. That is the power you have as a creator by sharing your unique style. People see an artwork that is unique, completely different to anything else, but yet it still resonates with them. You have expressed something unique to yourself, yet it is connected with something inside so many others.

That is why it is so satisfying to put your life, your journey in your work. It really means something when someone buys your creation which is a piece of you.

So how do you find your style…? Get to know yourself on a personal level. What are your preferences? Dig deep inside. What colors appeal to you? What composition? What patterns do you look at and go “wow”? Any favorite objects/animals /places you like to talk about? Who are the artists you most follow? What is their work like? Abstract? Bold? Dramatic? Quiet and calm? Realistic? What are you into? Drawing? Painting? Digital Art? Sculpture? Glass? Printing?

Outside of art, what do you generally like to do and look at? What are your favorites? Where do you like to hang? What brings you joy? What can you talk about all day? Do you have a particular story you like to tell? Really thinking about this and narrowing down your preferences will help you find your style. What feels good to you?

Another thing is you can’t let your fear of doing something different, doing something that is totally you get in the way. The fear of what others will think. The fear of how the response will be. The fear of messing it up. The key to finding your style is to let go. Let go of everything and fly free. 

Art is a journey, not a destination.

The second you start a painting, you are waiting to see the final result, wondering “is this going to work?”. The minute you put your pen to paper, you think to yourself “Is this going to be any good?”. Let me tell you, there is no point, no point at all, thinking about all this. Enjoy the process.

What’s important is exploring different ideas, doing the things you are interested in. Figuring out how far you can dive into your experimentation. Learning and growing. This will all eventually emerge into a beautiful creation, a masterpiece, if you let it naturally, by being your true artistic self. Let go.

Honestly, trying too hard to make it good, to make it perfect, to make it exactly like that picture or scene, is what ruins it. Don’t think about getting an end result. Think about living every day of the creative adventure.

The real joy is to just be messy, just go crazy and play around. Instead of thinking “oh no I messed it up. I have to start over”, think “this is my chance to turn it into something unexpected, and my chance to discover what I can make of this”. Instead of thinking “ugh I failed again, no one is going to like it”, think “I am going to keep going with this and see where it leads”. Every stroke, every mark, every line, every shape, has a purpose, has a reason to be there. Just follow it and cherish the progress. Have fun with it.

​Are Artists Selfish?: Redefining What It Means

As creators, one of the main struggles is making something we want to make (something to fulfill our creative urge, to experiment, to play, to try something unexpected) vs making things that others need (the trending, this is sure to sell, the thing that works and people will like).

This leads to the question: are artists selfish if we choose the first option? Firstly, the word “selfish” is often perceived as negative. But I disagree. That is not always the case. Sometimes you need to focus on your own needs and priorities, see the world from your own unique eyes. You need to be selfish at times in order to become selfless.

Art in a way, is selfish, because the creations come straight from the artists’ soul, from their life, from their experiences, from their perceptions, from their identity. Art is selfish because you need to lock yourself in a room and need that alone time, sometimes for hours at a stretch, away from everyone in order to create. Art is selfish, because some days you choose it over everything else.

But it is also selfless. Because you are sharing the 100% true, authentic version of yourself with the world. Because those days you devoted pouring your story on paper people relate to and get inspired by. Because by creating things that stir your heart, you are spreading your beautiful light and helping people.

​The same applies to life as well. When you take a day off, or tell your circle “I need some me time”, when you take some time to check in with yourself, you bring the best versions of yourself to your family, friends and even strangers. Because by putting yourself first, you are more fully present to the needs of others.

So let’s redefine what it means to be selfish and see the good in the word because in the end, everybody wins.

Creativity and Mental Health

The word that I like to use when someone asks me what art means to me is therapy. That is the first word that comes to mind. I am working on it and have improved, but I am the kind of person that likes to run away, hide, escape when I don’t want to face something. Art is the outlet that I use to bring out my vulnerabilities, to just let go.

Just let everything out on the paper/canvas/screen. It is a blank slate. Fill it up with whatever you want. There are no judgments, no rules. It is just you, your feelings and your art. It reminds you that you can get through the difficult moments, it just frees your mind.

Channel your energy, your thoughts, the darkness, the bad, the tough, the broken into something beautiful, something colorful, something that you can turn to let it all out. Turn your story, that part of you into a creation. Something that you can’t use words to express, express by turning that into artwork.

So many people come up to me and say how can this be therapeutic when I can’t draw? Everyone can draw. There is no good or bad, right or wrong, skilled or unskilled, talented or untalented in art. Creativity is about what you create, the journey the process you go through to get to the final piece, how much of you you pour into the creative process. 

So go create something, pour out those feelings, you will feel so much better.