Setting Expectations

What is your motivation to paint? What is your inspiration? What is your end-goal? If you don’t desire to become the greatest artist of all-time, is it even worth practicing?

Too often, I find that we set expectations that are more aligned with society’s expectations than our own desires.

Let me lead with my story. I enjoyed art as a child, but never excelled at it. I was a “sports kid” and was always more likely to be found on the playground than drawing. The last art class that I participated in was in 5th grade of Elementary school. From then on, I rarely, if ever, participated in any drawing-based form of art. The lone exceptions that come to mind would be sketching the back of people’s heads into my notebook at church or once when we purchased framed paintings from the thrift store to paint in additional characters. If I remember correctly, my sister unceremoniously painted a Pokémon into one of the art pieces.

I have always had this ill-conceived conception that if you participate in art after the age of 12, then you must be exceptionally talented. After all, each of my friends that continued to participate in art were very skilled and talented. Could it be that they had just continued to practice? Nah, that would make too much sense, wouldn’t it?

So when a close friend of mine invited me to start painting with her just a few weeks ago, I initially balked at the offer. It was flattering, but I knew that I was not nearly skilled or talented enough to participate. After all of these years of not practicing how could I ever become a master? At this point, it is simply too late for me. And the truth is too late. It is too late in my life for me to become the next Picasso or Van Gogh. With a full-time job and other responsibilities, there really is not enough time for me to invest in the dream to become a famous artist.

This has been the almost humorous hurdle that I have had to face with my expectations. You don’t have to do everything with the anticipation that you will become great at it. As to why I see a societal perception that only those who are great at art should practice art is unknown to me.

I am glad that I accepted my friend’s invitation to start painting. Since starting, I have set clear expectations for myself. None of which include becoming a world-renowned artist, entering competitions, or even improving, to be frank. Honestly, my only expectation is to find a pastime that encourages creativity and provides inner-peace and comfort.

The perfectionist inside me still aches every time my blobs of paint look more like a decayed chunk of broccoli than Bob’s happy little trees, but knowing my expectations and desires helps me to overcome any disappointment in what I perceive to be imperfections.

I hope that each of you have healthy, clear, and realistic expectations for your art abilities and can find both inner-peace and happiness in your work. If we paint for ourselves, there should be no fear of failure.