When I finished filming my video for Project Pack No. 14, I was pleased with the finished piece of art (sorry about using white charcoal! I thought they were included in the project pack!), but I was left feeling like there was more I could have said about the message I was trying to convey, so I am sharing with you a companion blog to Zentangle Project Pack No. 14, Day 04.Theordore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and this statement still holds true today, if not more than ever. In a world where we are sharing more than ever on social media, it is hard not to compare yourself to others. I feel like there is more pressure than ever to keep up with the jones’ and this constant comparison can have a serious effect on our mental health and overall self-esteem. This pressure is not limited to the car we drive or the promotions we get at work – it happens with our artwork as well.
I hear it all the time - people will call or email ZentangleHQ and share that they love seeing all of the beautiful Zentangle art that is shared on the Zentangle Mosaic app or other social media platforms, but theirs is not “good enough” yet to post. My heart breaks each time I hear this. Not only because I KNOW that their artwork is “good enough,” but because I also know what it is like to feel that way.
I have written in blogs before that until recent years, I did not consider myself an artist. In fact, I would go out of my way to be good at other things to compensate for the fact that I was not an artist.
Although I had tangled for many years in private, my practice really ramped up when I began working for Rick and Maria. Tangling is not required, but I am sure you can imagine it is hard not to be inspired by the beautiful artwork I was surrounded with. Unfortunately, that inspiration quickly turned into intimidation.
I would tangle in private, but going into the office, I kept my tiles to myself. They did not compare to Rick, Maria, Molly and Martha’s Zentangle art. Everywhere you look, there were tiles and mine were not “good enough” to be in the midst of theirs. I would tell myself I just needed to practice more.
For a while, I thought that this mindset would be motivating, but it was counterproductive. For starters, whether you are tangling or training for a marathon, I don’t think negative self-talk is constructive motivation. Secondly, this mindset was not motivating or inspiring, it was hindering. My artwork was never going to look like Rick or Maria’s, so striving for that was never going to be fruitful.
I am not sure when it was exactly, but there was a point when the switch flipped in my head. All of sudden I gave myself permission for my artwork to NOT look like anyone elses at ZentangleHQ. I gave myself permission to enjoy the process and not be concerned about the end result and that was the most freeing part of my Zentangle journey.
Once I focused on the process, I started to become more satisfied with the result. I found a style and rhythm that was all mine – that no one else at HQ could recreate, just as I could not recreate theirs. I started sharing my Zentangle art and wouldn’t you know it – it fit right in with all the other tiles hanging around. That intimidation the crept in so quickly in the beginning, evolved into inspiration. Now, when I see a tile of Maria’s that is beautiful (they all are!), instead of telling myself “I will never create a tile like that,” I will ask myself “how can this tile INSPIRE my art?” and the creativity begins to flow.. it becomes contagious.
I wanted to share a little more about my story, as I know it will resonate with many of you. I wanted to share, in hopes, that you may find inspiration where you once found intimidation, and I want to encourage YOU to share. Share your artwork with your friends and family. Share it with the Zentangle Community without hesitation Your art is more than good enough.
Creativity is contagious, pass it on! – A. Einstein
Susan Williams on
Vickie L. Stamper on
Akila Kalaichelvan on
I believe when people I have shared my art work with don’t appreciate the efforts of ink to paper individuality-it’s their lack of inner self awareness of the differences of artful expression.
When I first began tangling I would gaze at the tiles of the great Zentangle ‘masters’ (founders and CZTs) and doubt I could ever achieve anything close. Now sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t – because not every tile comes out quite how you hope, but every tile comes out as its own truth. I’m still inspired by others, but those just starting out have just as much to offer me. Sometimes seeing the fresh naivete of someone’s first tiles reinvigorates my own practice enormously. I truly believe we all feed each other and so we’ll never go hungry for inspiration.
Jem Miller on
Donna Woods, CZT 37 on
Rimona Gale on
P.S. – I think, in paragraph two, you mean “it is hard NOT to compare yourself to others.”
Margaret Bremner on
Thank you for elaborating your thoughts Julie, and for your courage. :) I’m sure it’s something we all feel at some point, about some area of endeavor.
When I studied art in university, I generally felt that my art was not really acceptable. I preferred to work small rather than large. I preferred to draw rather than paint. My work was finely detailed, not ‘painterly’. I didn’t do landscapes. My work was pretty or decorative, both no-no’s at the time (and still!). Everything about the art I produced was not in line with current dictates. I stuck with it because, really, I couldn’t do anything else. Many years later, in 2009, I encountered Zentangle and arrived home.
Margaret Bremner on
Thank you Julie, for sharing your heart! In sharing your struggles of being “good enough”, you express it on behalf of most of us. Sometimes I look back at my earliest work and that helps me to see that there has been growth. Often, when I see the creativity of others I say to myself, “Now why couldn’t I think of doing something like that?” But more often, I now look to be inspired by the uniqueness that I see, rather than use it as judgement of my own work. Thanks for sharing your journey. We needed to hear it!
Bonnie Johnson CZT36 on
Donna Jacobson on
Could not love this more! We all gain so much when we share our work. It definitely feeds the flow and power of creativity among us.
Michele Couture on
Sometimes I still am my own worst critic but I don’t let it stop me
Michele Couture on
Georgi. CZT11 2013 on
Thanks for the wisdom, Jules. I am glad you have discovered the value of your work. Those of us who are less experienced artists look up to you as you look up to Maria and she looks up to someone with more experience. If we didn’t ’t strive to grow and learn there would be no improvement!
Betsey Youngs on
Jennifer Sparrow on
Clara A Brunk on
Deborah Bowyer on
Thank you, thank you, thank you Julie for this blog about comparing our art to others.
I belong to a Zentangle ladies group and I often think what I create just isn’t as beautiful as everyone else.
Instead of trying to “copy” others artwork I am going to look for inspiration to create an original of my own.
Sandra Ariatti on
This is a perfect, ever-timely message. Thank you, Julie!
Danielle DeRome on
Kim G on
My reason for telling you all this, is that it changed the way I looked at other people’s art. Instead of being intimidated, I looked for ONE thing I could learn from the painting. ONE. Then I would do that until I was content with it. When wandering a museum, I’d admire a painting, and with my ever-present journal in hand, draw one little piece of it.
One strike at a time. While I oohed and ahhhhed at all the fabulous work, I could handle learning my one favorite tiny detail.
The trip was worth 10 times the cost of my class in Venice: for the lesson I learned, about one little thing at a time.
Maria Thomas on
Julie u r terrific! Thank you for the reminder of the dangers of Comparison. Long ago a man named Paul warned how destructive these attitudes are… and can be so destructive to our well being and even turn into envy. “Which can cause one to give up. Why do it? I will never b good enough.” These are things I have said to myself! No more. I took a cleansing breath and refocusing!