You Can’t Be Trusted To Judge Your Own Art

I have been, and will probably always be my own worst critic. I default to thinking everything I do sucks. My art, my writing, my face, and whatever else I can think of. My inner critic says it all blows. My inner critic is an asshole, and it should not be trusted. If you have an asshole inner critic too, then you my friend cannot be trusted to judge your own art. Or anything else you create for that matter.

I can be somewhat objective and evaluate the technical aspects of my art. I can tell you if I am lacking negative space and balance. I can tell you when I need more contrast or need to rework different forms. This is basic critiquing and every artist should learn how to recognize and manipulate design principles. What we cannot be trusted to do is judge the objective value of our work.

Is it good enough to show the world? Is it good enough to sell? Is it straight garbage to add to the dumpster fire of my life? Things like that. Most of the time, the judgment is wrong and biased.

I have created work that I hated, and it sold immediately. I have created work that I thought was amazing, and it sits in my studio for years. I’ve learned that the accuracy of my judgments needs improvement–but it’s been easier to just stop trying to judge my work at all.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

When I was writing my novel a couple of months ago, I kept hearing this nagging voice in my head that was all like “You’ve never written a novel. You will not be good at this. This book will be terrible. Who are you to think you can do this?” Before I accepted I was an artist, that voice said the same thing about my art.

Happily, I ignored that voice and continued writing (I’m working through third draft edits at the moment. Jury is still out on whether or not this thing does in fact suck major donkey balls–but that’s not my biggest concern.) While I was taking a break from writing, I googled “How to know if you suck at writing” and came across a video explaining the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

“The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are. Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence. The combination of poor self-awareness and low cognitive ability leads them to overestimate their own capabilities.” -Verywellmind

This filled me with hope. If I believe I am amazing at what I am doing, then that might actually mean I am worse than I think–so if I believe I suck, does that mean I am actually better than I think? Maybe. I might just have the ability to recognize my own incompetence and lack of skill. I might not be good–but I have the power to recognize that and try to get better.

You have to believe you suck just enough to keep you moving forward, but not suck so much that it paralyzes you.

Judgment Paralysis:

Past me would judge my work so harshly that 1) I didn’t show it to the world and 2) I let myself get so discouraged that I stopped creating. (I did this over and over again with writing most of all, but art as well.)

If you do either, then you have work to do. Dial back the judgment. Your internal critic needs to be quieted.

Grow while recognizing weaknesses:

Current me knows that my art isn’t the greatest, my writing could definitely still use a lot of work, and perfection is unattainable, but growth is always a good goal.

You’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to be the best. Just make art and keep moving forward.

F**K It. Put it out into the world.

Every day I work on art, I still think 75% of the time “Well, this is garbage.” But I still finish the work and put it on social media and in my online store.

I have trained myself to not give shit if my work is good or bad. I make art that I enjoy. I put it into the world. Then I go make more art. I repeat that cycle and hope some of it sells. When I get tired of art, I go write. I don’t think I am great at writing, but I keep doing it. Maybe I am the worst, but that doesn’t matter, because I’ll only get better at what I do the more I do it.

Make the art. Put it out into the world. Let everyone else decide its value. But, if they do think it sucks, f**k ’em, because the value of art is subjective. Really, nobody can be trusted to judge your art objectively, but especially not you.

In summary:

Don’t judge your work. Recognize your weaknesses, and keep practicing. If you do judge your work, don’t let that stop you from creating or putting it out into the world. And if you think you’re the best f***ing artist that ever existed, then you probably do suck at what you do, but high five for being confident! Keep putting that art into the world!

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Uninspired Work is Still Important Work

A few weeks ago, I saw a quote that sort of stuck in my head. I say “sort of,” because I don’t remember who said it and I don’t remember the exact wording. This always happens to me. I will misquote movie lines even after watching it a hundred times. I get the gist and my brain fills in the rest. Anyway, this quote said something about how social media is bad because it is forcing artists to create uninspired work in order to keep up with the fast paced need for more and more content. Artists no longer spend months or years on a project, because they have to churn out new content as often as multiple times a day.

When I read it, I agreed. “You’re right, stranger on the internet that I will forget about in 4 seconds, because social media has shortened my attention span!” *continues scrolling to distract from existential dread*

I forgot about the quote until yesterday, and was suddenly like “Hey! That person was wrong!” Or course, the social media post I saw was long gone, so I couldn’t go write a strongly worded comment–which I wouldn’t do anyway, because I avoid conflict–but I can scream into the internet void via my blog! So here I am.

What is uninspired work?

You know that feeling in your chest when you have this beautiful connection with your muse? You feel all light and airy, and you want to immediately gush some sort of magical idea onto a canvas, sketchbook, or whatever surface you can, because a creative power is surging through you? And suddenly, this new twist on your creativity is birthed into the world.

Yeah, uninspired work is not that.

Uninspired work is cliché, overdone, or unoriginal. Uninspired work is muscle memory or mimicry. It’s going through the motions. It’s showing up when you feel empty and squeezing some semblance of a creative product from the depths of your being. What flows through you when inspired, comes out like a dusty wheeze when you’re uninspired. It’s easy to think that social media begs for uninspired work, because it begs for content regardless of your state of inspiration. Artists are forced to create when they have nothing new or meaningful to say.

This can lead creative people to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to content, but this isn’t necessarily true for everyone nor is it inherently detrimental to creative end products. In fact, I think social media can lead to a wellspring of creativity if leveraged and I think that uninspired work is the most important work you can put yourself through.

A demand for content can keep an artist focused.

Even without social media, you shouldn’t wait for inspiration to hit you before you work on your craft. If you are serious about whatever form your creativity takes, then you should be exercising your skills often. Though, like any form of exercise, it’s easy to say “I don’t feel like it today. I’ll do it tomorrow instead.” How many “todays” have been wasted while waiting for tomorrow’s inspiration? I’ve wasted many.

The constant demand for content on social media keeps me accountable as a creator. I know that if I want to sell art, I need to grow my following. If I want to grow my following, I need to post often. If I am going to post often, then I need to create more art and more content. If I create more art, then I’ll have more to sell, and the cycle continues.

Inspired or uninspired, I make art and social content. Products from either state of creation don’t appear any more or less valuable, and I bet you can’t tell what art was created in either state if you looked at my Instagram.

A demand for more content can force an artist to to tell a bigger story about their creativity.

Anytime I work with my consulting clients during Instagram Assessments, I can hear the panic on the other end of the phone when I tell them they should be posting on social media every day.

“But I don’t have enough art for that!” They say.

And I try to soothe them with this: You don’t need to post a new piece of art every day. You need to post new content every day. There is a huge difference.

Social media isn’t demanding that you create new art from start to finish every day. If you are rushing your creative process, then you need to make adjustments. You need to make your art on the timeline it demands. Some artists create quick work that comes together in minutes, some create insanely detailed work that requires months of dedicated time. Do what your art demands, but expand your idea of what counts as social media content while you honor your creative process.

Create cheap content. Not cheap art.

When I say create cheap content, it’s not about creating something that has little value. It’s about creating content that doesn’t sap your energy. Be energetically thrifty on social media. Like I said before, you don’t need to create new art every day just to post on social media, but you can capture small parts of your process as you work.

A video of a brush stroke, a portrait of you next to your art, your studio space, your art supplies, your messy hands, your spilled paint water. What tells your story as a creator? Your social media posts are not just for your art. Your posts are for your entire story and life as an artist. Zoom out and capture the details of you, your process, and your inspiration. When you are forced to create more content, your creativity can flourish as you see your entire artistic life as a work of art.

Capture all of it. Show us who you are, why you create, and why we should care about your art when you finally have an end product to show and sell.

Showing up can shake inspiration loose.

I can’t tell you how many times I have entered my studio without a shred of inspiration in me and walked out hours later with something completely new and inspiring laid out on my work tables. If I didn’t need to create in order to produce content to post and sell, then I’d easily shirk my creative responsibilities and go eat ice cream or watch TV. Or both, more likely, while I wait for inspiration to hit me.

Inspiration is a strange thing. You can’t predict when it will hit, but you can make sure to show up and be close to your medium when it happens. Almost every time I create from an uninspired place, I start to see my art supplies in different ways. My brain hates the discomfort of being forced to sit with my creativity when it isn’t flowing, and so it actually becomes more creative as it tries to get rid of the discomfort.

When I am tired of what I’ve been doing in the studio, I do different things to excite my brain. I look at old work from the past and try to combine it with new stuff. I pick up a tool I haven’t used in awhile. I grab a color that normally doesn’t speak to me. Even if I change what I did before in just one small way, I can still experience creative growth.

A lack of inspiration forces me to shake inspiration loose to end the discomfort I feel. This wouldn’t happen without being forced to sit in my studio and create in order to feed the social media monster.

***

Your work won’t always be inspired. Your work won’t always feel new and fresh. Sometimes you will hit a wall and get tired of your creations, but if you keep moving forward, you will grow. If you create for the sake of producing content and never actually feel inspired, you will still grow creatively. Uninspired work is important work. It’s where you sit in discomfort and struggle through the process, and it’s where you make the most progress. Social media can lead you to create art that is inspired in ways that can surprise you.

So, sorry random person on the internet whose quote loosely stuck into my brain. You weren’t entirely accurate!

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why You Should Let Your Followers Get to Know You

Artists and creatives being themselves on social media.

When you operate on social media as a creative person, it can be hard to show your genuine self to your audience right away. Though, this is one of the most important things you should do. It can take time and persistence to get comfortable putting yourself out there, but the benefits are worth it.

If you are a creative person it’s likely that the world has tried to stuff you into a box so many times that you actually hide the best parts of you. The parts that are a little weird or eccentric, or the struggles you experience. I’ve been there. I hid a lot of myself. In the past, I felt so “other” that I would shrink around new people–but then I met a friend years ago who was confidently weird and eccentric. By being herself, she gave me permission to do the same. After that, I continued to evolve into my own weirdness and loved it. When it came time to put my artwork online, I took that love and ran with it.

I had a goal to be me and speak my truth as a creator and business owner and I’m glad I did. I write these blog posts to help artists and creatives succeed in their businesses and in creativity, but this topic is relevant as just a regular human in society as well. Here’s why you should let your followers get to know you and your true self on social media:

You Can Build trust and make sales

Clearly, making money is a main goal for creators online. Sometimes we put our work into the world just for kicks, but selling it is often a focus. When you allow your audience to get to know you, it is more likely they will buy from you.

When your followers can see that you are a real human they can relate to, they will feel less hesitation to give you their money. It’s easy to support people you know and like. Online transactions take a lot of trust. A customer will wonder if their money or their personal information is safe, if they will even get the items they ordered, or if you will be there if they have questions, etc..

When you share who you are, what you value, and why you do what you do, then customers will be eager to support you if they relate to you.

Be cautious though. Don’t share too much. Being yourself while running a business does not mean airing dirty laundry or being dramatic. Nor does it mean sharing everything about where you live, your family, your children, or anything that leaves you vulnerable to the creepers on the internet. It only takes one request for pictures of your feet in your DMs to realize the necessity of some privacy.

Keep yourself safe and make sure that you are giving your audience something valuable while sharing your story.

Do good in the world.

Being yourself creates a ripple effect through everyone you interact with, and gives them permission to do the same. Just as my friend from years ago gave me permission to be a weirdo, I try to do that for others with my online presence.

When you open up, show your quirks, your sense of humor, share your life, your struggles, your triumphs, or your humanity, it inspires others. We attract the energy we put out into the world and we amplify it in others. Good and bad.

I feel like this should go without saying, because I’m assuming if you are reading this, you aren’t a genuine asshole–but if you are an asshole and you like to be mean and get people riled up, then ignore everything I am saying here. The world has enough assholes right now. Though, if you can do it in a delightfully snarky way like @effinbirds or @whiskeyriversoap and manage to make people laugh, then carry on with your salty sentiments. I, too, like to say “fuck” a lot.

Be yourself. Be kind. Own your weirdness. Or if you are an asshole, at least be funny about it. Please and thank you.

Connect on a genuine, human level.

It is refreshing to come across real people doing cool things online. The internet is full of weird stuff. A lot of good-weird stuff, but a lot of bad-weird stuff too. The internet allows us to craft an identity that might have some truth to it, but unfortunately it’s easy to lie. It’s easy to pretend to be something you are not and social influencers do it all the time. I even do it when I’m staging photos. You think I wear jeans all the time? No. I’m wearing sweat pants, two sweaters, a cardigan, bed head, and fluffy socks that would make your grandma swoon. But if I cringe when I catch myself in the mirror, I’m not putting that on the internet to live forever. Maybe an IG story though…

Anyway, there is room for real people online. There is a place for genuine, down-to-Earth, good people to exist and thrive in an online space. I have met many people through Instagram that I would consider true friends, because I made the choice to be open and invite people into my life. I have shared enough about my life and struggles that long lasting friendships have grown within my DMs. I’ve been a shoulder to lean on for people who are struggling, and my followers have often been there for me. When I was deeply depressed in early 2020, one of my friends from France sat with me on the phone one afternoon and made my life a bit brighter when I needed it most. I wouldn’t have met him without being myself online. This part has little to do with running a business, but everything to do with feeding the human spirit.

It is up to you to decide how much of yourself you want to share with your followers. You don’t need to be vulnerable and share everything, but I can promise you that if you have struggled through something and found a way out, sharing your story can help your audience feel connected to you and feel less alone in the world. Even if that struggle is spilling your coffee on your laptop or your kid sticking gum in your hair. Life is interesting. Share the quirks!

Personally, I share what is relevant to me as an artist and my creative process. Which means I am open about struggles with confidence, depression/anxiety, battling with my internal critic, and more. I always try to share with a positive tone, and I try to encourage others. Social media can be used to actually connect deeply with others, and it’s beautiful when that happens.

Embrace your voice as a creator.

When I decided to become a professional artist, I lacked confidence. I had a dream, and I wanted to succeed, but I also had a really loud internal critic that told me I wasn’t good enough all the damn time. Somehow, I still put my work online. The desire to create was stronger than my fear of sucking. Over time, the more I shared, the more confident I became in my voice as a creator.

When you show up, be yourself, and focus on your craft, you get feedback from your audience than can help you gain more confidence in yourself as a creator. I know it’s scary at first, but this is where faking it until you make it comes into play. Well, not even faking it. Just ignore the fear and internal critic and put yourself out there anyway. Easier said than done, I know, but the benefits can be amazing.

When you open up about your creative process or something relatable in your life and have followers respond positively, it helps you trust your own voice. That positive reinforcement feels damn good. Even when your art still needs work, you can evolve in the open. I honestly cringe at some of the work I created a couple of years ago, but having a mission of being honest and vulnerable to my audience kept me accountable to the creative process. The more I shared, the more I painted, the more I grew and found my voice.

I want the same for you. Do your thing. Put your creations and yourself as an artist out into the world. Watch yourself evolve over time as you interact with your audience.

I wouldn’t be here writing this without the positive feedback I’ve received from my audience over the last few years. Your audience can help you find your voice and embrace it. And then you get to continue the cycle and inspire other artists. It’s pretty cool.

***

Now get out there and be yourself! Open up and start conversations through social media. You never know who you will inspire when you own your weirdness and connect with others.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: