For the longest time, I always felt like a cheat when I called myself an artist. Being detail-oriented by nature, my overbearing perfectionism was one of my biggest setbacks. If a piece didn’t immediately look the way I wanted it to, I would become upset with myself and give up. As someone who often enjoys looking at art, I’d find myself inspired to recreate someone’s style, only to become disappointed that I couldn’t perfectly replicate it.
Last year I became fascinated with the watercolor medium. I loved seeing other artists’ work and the different kinds of effects they could produce on the canvas. Inspired, I found an old watercolor set sitting in my room and began my work.
My first attempts were frustratingly unsuccessful. Watercolor is a tricky medium, and I couldn’t figure out how to layer the paint on the canvas or how much water to use. But with the help of references and lots of trial and error, the paints started to flow together on the canvas, intertwining like a sprouting bouquet. Of course, when I look back at those paintings now, I can spot all the errors I made. But back then, I considered it a huge success and I’m not going to discredit that now.
In the past, I hated the process of watercolor painting for how tedious it was. I didn’t like the permanence of every brush stroke; I had to be careful to never make any errors. But somehow I’ve learned to find a strange beauty within the process. Mistakes give art authenticity, and sometimes it’s better not to erase. If my brush slips, I leave it in, I paint over it, I transform it into something new.
Mistakes give art authenticity, and sometimes it’s better not to erase. If my brush slips, I leave it in, I paint over it, I transform it into something new.
As my dedication to art grew, an element which I started taking more seriously was social media. Throughout my whole journey as an artist, I never placed much importance on the value of marketing myself and publicizing my work. But during my path of artistic self-discovery I started to understand the value of doing so. Besides the obvious importance of building a following that can advance one’s art career, posting my work gave me a greater sense of accomplishment about my improvements.
When I look through my old pieces I always feel a little bit embarrassed — I always find ways to critique everything I did wrong. But I’ve learned to convert these feelings of shame into something positive, using them as a tool to know what I should work on more and what I can improve upon. I’ve realized that messing up is okay, and I don’t need to be embarrassed in front of others because of a piece that may have not been so great, because it’s just a part of my journey.
I pushed myself to experiment with different styles until I found something that really resonated with me. For the longest time I was on a wild goose chase to find a style which I felt comfortable in, constantly changing and imitating other artists. My art was incohesive — it looked like an amalgamation of different artists and styles all merged together. None of it was really me. I was under such pressure to maintain a cohesive aesthetic and I was always trying to find a style that would look good in my feed, but in turn I was doing the exact opposite.
Over the past year and a half I worked on building my art skills, but something that I didn’t realize at the time was that in return it was helping me build my own character. I started understanding the value of mistakes and learned to be proud of my progress at every step of the way. And most importantly, I feel like I built a much deeper relationship with a hobby I never valued as much as I should have.