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  • Emily Brantley

The Happy Artist: The Importance of Achievement


The Happy Artist: The Importance of Achievement

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In almost every job, you have a task set before you. There is a distinct goal and a method of accomplishing this goal. There is a time-frame in which you must accomplish this task, and then it is finished and you move on to the next project.

Then, there is art. By nature, art is very different. You create imagery from nothing, and most artists will work best when feeling “inspired.” We often work odd hours, will sit staring at a half-finished piece for hours or days before returning to it, and we are notoriously bad with deadlines. Fickle by nature, we may lose interest or grow frustrated.

There it sits, staring at me—the unfinished painting. The artists out there, whether fine artists, writers, crafters, whoever you are, know exactly what I am talking about. The pieces you started and then either got distracted from, frustrated with, or gave up on entirely. It’s been sitting there in the back of the closet, on the shelf, on your computer. A sign of your imperfections, lack of follow-through, of defeat.

I will venture that most artists struggle with a sense of achievement because we often don’t finish our work. We have a graveyard of the incomplete. Once we have left it for a while, it becomes a symbol of failure. For me, they are my little abandoned children. I had an idea, I gave birth to it, and then I abandoned the babe. Perhaps it wasn’t living up to its expectations. It turned out ugly. But there is still a part of me in it, and I see it there and feel guilty. I have no closure. It is that item on the to-do list that never gets checked off and nags at me day after day.

Painting professionally, I have learned the importance of having closure as it is necessary for a sense of achievement. Follow-through, completing paintings, even the sub-par ones, has been a healthy discipline for me. Not all of my pieces are good, and I have had to learn to come to terms with that. Some of them needed to be put aside for a while, rethought, and returned to before I could feel victorious or at least content in its completion. In some instances, I have conceded that a piece is simply no good and granted myself permission to give it up entirely. Emotionally, it can be difficult to surrender it, but just as stress-relieving in its own way.

3 Tips for Finding a Sense of Achievement & Closure

1. Create realistic goals. You will work in constant frustration if you never see the fruits of your labor, so be sure to give yourself the necessary means of having this: Goals. Create for yourself achievable projects, and complete them.

2. Allow yourself to hate your work for a while, but finish what you started. Most artists go through this phase. We are known for our angst for a reason! The important thing is to move through this stage and not let it defeat us. Take a break, complain, mutter and pace, whatever you need to do, then knuckle down and put in the work. If the finished product isn’t perfect, that’s alright. Consider it practice, and remember that practice makes perfect. Move on and do better next time!

3. Allow yourself to surrender a piece that does not have merit. We artists have egos, but here is the truth of it: Not everything we create is a masterpiece, or has the potential to be a masterpiece. If a project does not show promise, it’s OK to abandon it. Yes, forever. If the original idea is good, see if there is a way to better actualize the piece. If the original idea has no merit or heart, abandon it, and start something new.

Don’t let yourself be caught in a sense of failure; instead, give yourself the encouragement of achievement.

Happy creating!

Emily

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