I don’t want to beat the very dead horse, about the impact of social media on our world view. There are so many articles out there that discuss the damaging impact social media can have on your self-esteem, and even our culture as a whole.
Let me be the first person to say, I LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA. Instagram. Is. My. Jam. I spend a lot of time on IG, connecting with amazing makers and artists, patrons and friends. I love sharing my crazy colorful world with other like-minded, crazy colorful people.
"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt
But I think it is time we discuss the impact all these polished posts are having on us as artists and as a community. It is time to take a look at how our increased access to visual media via social networks is totally killing our creative flex.
Good ol’ Teddy R. said it best, and I want to address how comparison isn’t just stealing your joy, it is squashing your creativity, and it is holding you back.
I was recently featured on an artist community account over on Instagram, and was a bit taken aback by some of the comments. I am not talking about criticism of my work, which is something I value highly and always take with a grain of salt, I am talking about the self-criticism applied to the comment-ers own studio practice.
“I hate starting a new sketchbook - I feel so much pressure to have everything look great in it and make it all flow right!”
Hates starting a new sketchbook? SHOCK! AWE!
“…I think I need less precious sketchbooks or I get hung up on wasting the paper”
What is wrong with wasting paper!?
“Ugh yes. Story of my life. It's too 'precious'. I just need to get over it”.
Sketchbook + precious? What. Is. This. Insanity?
But let’s not get this twisted, I know, that YOU know, what a sketchbook is, but can you tell me when they become precious things? I blame social media.
The rise of styled shoots, curated feeds, and the never ending race for all the followers, amongst all the other pressures to present the digital world with your best self is hurting your creativity. When you take a visual platform and put it in the hands of talented artists, you are going to see incredible work, beautiful studio spaces, sketchbook pages that look like they have been touched by an angel.
Artists are carefully selecting the work that is shared with the world. As they should be.
Now, this isn’t where we’ve gone wrong. Obviously, if you are someone who is making a living off of your work, you want to share the best version of your work.
Where we go wrong, is in looking through these posts and photos, we seem to forget that the studio struggle is real, for new, emerging and established artists alike.
For every beautiful page you see shared under the sketchbook or moleskine hashtags, there were hours and pages of planning and mistakes, holes rubbed straight through the page from frustrated erasers, scribbled napkins, broken pencil tips and frayed brushes, crumbled pages tossed to the bin. I know personally for every shareable sketchbook piece, I have at least 6 terribly failed attempts to convey the same movement or texture. I have been sharing a few throughout this article, in case you didn't believe me. For every successful piece I produce, it feels like there is triple the crap work that was produced at the same time.
So where do we go from here? As a visual consumer, content producers and a community?
When we are looking for inspiration, browsing for visual content that speaks to you, I don’t just think it might be a good idea to keep perspective, I believe it is imperative to remind yourself that what you are seeing is a carefully curated construct. The best version of this individual’s body of work. When you stumble across an artist and find yourself intimidated by their skill, step back and consider the hours and failures that went into their development.
As you sneak a peak into the little squares of beautifully lit studio tables, with the casually tossed brushes and pencils, remember that, likely each one of those items was carefully placed for composition and effect, the pages under that beautiful work, are probably filled with muddy scribbles and frustrated thoughts.
Remember it is ok to make bad work, work that isn't sharable, work that makes you mad. Everyone does, it is part of the process. If you aren't making bad work, you aren't pushing yourself. Try new things, and trust that your failures are the first steps towards your next break through creatively.
When you open a new sketchbook and have that nagging feeling that you might make a mistake, that’s the time to make a mark. There isn’t a sketchbook fairy that is going to show up to scold you if what you are working on turns to crap, I promise, I have empirical knowledge that that does not happen. I pinky promise.
Now, go forth, grab that 'precious' sketchbook, and fill it with scribbles. Good scribbles, ugly scribbles, notes on life, the texture of silence, the feeling of orange. Make a mess, and don't for a second give a shit if it's perfect, life is messy, and so too, your sketchbooks should be!