Stay in Your Art Lane. One Wobbly Foot on the Mat and What it Can Teach You About Art.

woman with art journals at desk

It’s all about art, but it starts on the mat.

Standing on one foot, with my eyes glued to the tiny spot on the floor, I’m trying not to fall.

It’s not easy.

The teacher encourages me to contort myself into the strangest positions. And I listen, lifting my foot further off the ground, leaning my body forward like an airplane. I shake and dig deep, settling my eye onto my spot on the floor, not wavering.

Every week I grab my mat and head out to yoga. And every week, I have time for my mind to calm down and sync with my body. Not an easy feat for a thinker like me. Sometimes I don’t even know I have a body, only a brain. But balance is a massive part of yoga. Without focus, there is no balance. Otherwise, you fall. Glance up to look at another person, watch them wabble, and you’ll go down too. But, if you can hold tight to your focus and space, your feet will root down, and you will stay put.

Art is Like Yoga. Too Much Comparison and You’ll Fall Fast.

It’s like that in art too. Stay in your lane so that you grow as an artist, free to experiment and be free. Look around too much at other artists, and you can get stuck. The more we look at others, comparing, feeling left behind, or like we aren’t good enough, the more wobbly we become. But suppose you can settle into our own artistic hands, see your work with a discerning eye, choose your color palette with freedom, and create in your own way, big or small, fast or slow, precise or wild and organic. What might happen? Imagine how you might grow and learn with that perspective.

Sometimes we compare ourselves to others, and then we want to quit. You wobble and fall if your eyes are too focused on everyone else. But just like in the yoga practice, if you can take a moment to focus on yourself, you will hold steady.

Social Media is a Breeding Ground For Comparison.

Social media is a breeding ground for comparison.

It can be easy to spend so much time and emotional energy looking at others, feeling not good enough, and wondering if we will ever break through our invisible glass ceiling of creativity. It causes us to get tight, to become downtrodden, and maybe even give up.

Let’s be careful about how much energy we spend in that comparison place.

But What if You Can’t Seem to Stop the Comparison Game?

Now, I just feel I should mention this.

There’s no shame when we do compare ourselves to others. It’s natural. Human beings are made to compare themselves to one another. It’s in our biology. If that’s so, why berate ourselves when we do it?

Perhaps we can recognize it, say, yep, here we are feeling weird about what everyone else is doing, and that’s okay. But I’m also going to choose to shift into focusing on what I’m doing right now so that I can learn, grow and enjoy. Not everything is about production, far from it.

Nothing can become a barrier faster to our creativity than only focusing on production.

What if You Focused on Enjoyment in the Process?

But what if we focused on enjoyment? The process of it all? The journey? What might come of that in our lives if we allowed it?

For me, feeling connected to the journey or the process of making is why I show up. I just love how I feel when pushing paint around, seeing all those pretty colors, and coming up with new designs. Adding bits and bobbles, beads, glitter, ribbon, and other little pieces brings in the unexpected and drive my curiosity.

At times, I struggle with comparison too. My artwork is super colorful and vibrant. It’s wild in the brushstrokes and layers, all having a ton of energy. Sometimes I worry that my art isn’t calm, pretty, subtle, or neutral enough. But that’s just not me. So I press on, staying focused on the things I love that matter to me and get me excited.

Spend Some Time Focused on Yourself

So spend some time with yourself, focusing on your own practice.

Ask yourself about your preferences. Get to know yourself. I’ve heard before that the people who know themselves best are the ones who go the furthest.

5 Questions to Help You Know Yourself as an Artist

Do you like…

  1. Painting fast or slow? Think about the rhythm you feel most comfortable with.
  2. Working big on a wall canvas or teeny tiny small in a journal?
  3. Figurative or abstract art? Landscape or cityscape? Shapes or words?
  4. Are your hands smooshing paint or making precision with a brush?
  5. All the colors of a rainbow, vibrant hues, or hushed neutrals laying peacefully on the page?

This is just the beginning of things to think about as you get to know who you are as an artist.

It’s worth taking the time and energy to hone in on what makes you who you are. It can be very informative to your practice.

It’s Worth Getting to Know Your Creative Self

It’s worth putting your eyes on yourself for a minute. To get quiet, hush the mental space, and get into your groove.

If you don’t know what your groove is, or you’ve been stuck in the same place and feel rutted in the road, now is an excellent time to push just a little into an unknown space.

Heck, maybe even into an ugly space. I know, I know! Ugly is so hard! We don’t want to go there.

But so much learning can be made if we do! If we never go into the ugly phase, if we’re always avoiding that in our journals, our inner critic, or the actual confines of what we can do at that moment, growth stops. Right in its tracks.

And what a shame. To stymie ourselves like that. We owe it to ourselves to open, push, ask, allow and open up.

If you ask me, that is the essence of a whole artistic life.

What Are Your Tricks and Tools to Help With Comparison?

What do you think? How do you hold your own focus versus observation of others? Any tricks you can share or thought processes that help you navigate through feelings of comparison or not being enough in your art practice? We’d love to know. Leave a comment so we can all grow together.

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2 thoughts on “Stay in Your Art Lane. One Wobbly Foot on the Mat and What it Can Teach You About Art.

  1. Marilee says:

    My goodness Shay, this is exactly what I needed to hear today! I’ve been in a bit of an artistic slump lately. A couple years ago I was having the hardest time with an online class assignment. I “tried” so hard to work as the teacher did and it caused so much conflict for me. When I shared the difficulty I was having, my husband asked me, “Do you know what you want your art to look like?” “Yes, I do, and it isn’t that!” Now, I work to remind myself of that question whenever I’m tempted to compare myself with others (which happens quite a bit). It’s not that I know how a piece will turn out when I start, but rather, as I work I try to keep in mind this is an expression of me and no one else. And yes, sometimes there is ugly art. But even ugly art can be ripped into smaller bits and added to collage. 🙂 Also love the yoga analogy.

  2. Penny J. Douphinett says:

    I’ve just recently started using the term “my art”, that in itself is freeing and empowering. Most of my work is in a journal with a few canvases and all deal with emotions relating to my military ptsd or the deaths of 2 of my adult children. The ideas for my art is ugly sometimes, so is the product, but I build on it in future sessions. Thank you for this post, it resonates today as I have been having trouble working on art at all.

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