Blog / 2023 / Mistake #2: Publishing Art That’s Not My Best
March 22, 2023
2023 is the year my art career turns twenty! To celebrate this milestone artiversary, I want to focus on some of my most mundane mistakes, little things that ultimately make keeping on keeping on as an artist so difficult. Because if I had to name one main reason why I’m still making art after all this time, it’s that I refused to let these everyday fails frustrate me.
Today’s installment of the Carnival of Errors is all about the art I regret and can’t take back.
I’m the sort of artist who often creates in series—everything from portrait collections about what it means to be a woman to surreal bodies of work about mental health. Because of my tendency to create paintings in groups, I’m almost always setting myself up for the heartbreak of publishing work that I’m not 100% happy with.
Case in point: this image of a mole and the series it comes from, Crime Against Nature. Because the series is also a book, and because I was on a deadline to finish the book and get it printed, I ended up using this artwork even though I’m not completely satisfied with it.
But, then again, this painting from that same series also felt like a fizzle to me, and, from the beginning, it was a crowd favorite, earning many compliments at the initial exhibition of Crime Against Nature. In fact, it would go on to be one of my top-selling images in my print-on-demand shop.
That’s a “good news, bad news” situation because, on the one hand, I was glad that my concerns over the piece hadn’t stopped me from including it in the book considering how much it was appreciated. On the other, I worried I’d lost my taste—in an artistic sense, not a COVID one. I wondered: what were others seeing that I couldn’t?
With a little bit of distance and by looking at images like this one of an animal that most people hate, I realized that maybe my “does this stink?” sensor wasn’t broken. There are a lot of factors that play into why someone might enjoy a particular image.
For example, just because the painting still hasn’t sold eleven years after I made it doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile image. After all, in 2016 it did appear in this beautiful anthology of works that explore the how kids relate to nature.
Plus, I realized I’d made and judged the 56 images for Crime Against Nature, including this mediocre squirrel painting, over the course of just a few months. I came to understand that my discern-o-meter was out of juice, not out of order. The pressure of getting the project done so quickly had thrown my perfectionism into overdrive.
Ultimately, I learned that sometimes I have to publish my art even when I don’t totally feel it or my art anxiety will prevent me from getting any of my work out into the world.
While that means I may cringe a little when I see certain images of mine, my oeuvre as a whole makes me nothing but proud, and I’d never have known I could feel that way if I had let my perfectionism stop me from making more art.
There will eventually be twenty mistakes published to celebrate my twenty years, but, for now, you can read about these:
- Putting off making changes.
- Trying to be like everyone else.
- Worrying about being too sensitive.
- Blaming myself for being too nice.
- Confusing bravery with confidence.
- Not realizing that people want me to succeed.
- Hiding my queer identity for years.
- Feeling guilty about wanting to earn money with my art.
- Not asking for help enough.
- People pleasing.
- Being afraid of feedback.
Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!
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