I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s so easy to fall into this trap of comparing ourselves to others, even for me. I absolutely love to look at other artists’ work and see what they are doing. Sometimes it’s for inspiration, especially when I’m at a roadblock and need to get an assignment done for school. Other times it’s just because I like art. Let’s face it, I’m a nerd and I wear that title with pride. Haha. I know for me, though, there’s always a nagging voice in the back of my head whenever I look at other pieces of artwork thinking “why am I not as good as them?” There are a couple artists I’ve been following recently via my trusty Twitter account who post work fairly regularly. One in particular is an amazing fine art photographer (here’s his website if you’re curious http://www.enrique-pelaez.com/). From what I’ve seen, most of his work is landscape, nature and still life. But he is just amazing. I love to see what photos he links to Twitter to share with the world, and sometimes I’ll even find myself browsing his website for the millionth time. And each time I see something new, even if I’d seen it before. By that I mean that it still speaks to me. Sometimes I see a different meaning in a photo depending on my current mood. Sometimes I pick up on a detail I hadn’t noticed before. But regardless, his work resounds in me enough for me to continue to follow it. And each time there’s that voice in the back of my mind saying I’m not as good as he is in photography. Today was yet another day where I fell into that trap and started questioning my work and myself. Which led me to writing yet another article about comparing ourselves to others. Even if absolutely no one reads this (aside from the very few stalker friends that I have of course), it will at least stand as a reminder to me… a reminder to knock it off.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with comparing your technical abilities with someone in the same art field as you. But there’s a point where that just has to stop too. At some point we all hope that we at least know what we’re doing technically. I can look at a photo and usually can tell how they were able to shoot it. I think the problem is that we begin to compare our work so much that we try to start mimicking other artists. Some people actually do this on purpose with a specific concept behind WHY they are doing it. I’ve been told to do it as a homework assignment too… I think more-so at the time it was to try and get us to pre-visualize what we were trying to achieve and learn how to look at a photograph and understand how it was captured technically speaking. But I digress… in the grand scheme of things we need to not be so worried about comparing our work and trying to mimic others as to defining our own style of art. The way I shoot a flower and my friend Jess shoots a flower is going to be different. It can be the same flower and we are both proficient in how to do it…but how we “see” the flower in our minds and then recreate that visual in our heads is different. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s a good thing! Otherwise every picture of that flower would be exactly the same. Shoot, one time I asked how she created her pictures and tried to mimic her style and it still looked different! Good, but different. And this was because of one important thing – we have our own styles and we have become confident in them. I can compare my work to hers all day long and in the end there’s no difference in how much better anyone is. I think the difference really lies in the fact we know each other and are friends; we’re comfortable enough in asking each other for their opinion and not taking anything personally when we’re given constructive criticism.
So back to this other photographer that I’m using as an example. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. So when that little voice in my head says I’m not as good as he is, I need to try and figure out the truth. In reality, there is absolutely no truth to it in this case. I can look at his work and I understand exactly how he probably got the image. Technically speaking, I am just as good probably. I’m just different. And aside from that evil little voice in my head that no one else hears but me – WHO SAYS I’m not as good?? No one has told me I’m not as good as he is…. Shoot he doesn’t even know I exist! Honestly no one has told me I’m not as good as anyone to get really literal. Doesn’t mean that I’m the best or one of the bests…just means no one has said it to me. Would I be willing to hear it? Sure. If I were to put up a photo and someone say “this could improve it” I’d sure as heck listen IF I felt their opinion had any weight to it. That is to say I’m not going to listen to a 6 year old tell me a picture isn’t good just because it’s of a cat and he doesn’t like cats (no this never happened – just saying). But if it’s a professional photographer who can legitimately see where an image can be improved without trying to force my style to change or the concept – sure why not? I’m not so far above anyone that I can’t hear constructive criticism! But thus far in my photography career, no one has ever gone beyond constructive criticism and said “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not as good as that person.”
Honestly I can’t think of anyone I know who’s ever heard anything like that. I mean, we all THINK that of other people, especially people new in the field. But that’s when we give the constructive help so they can improve. I don’t understand why no one really compares our work to other people, but we do it all the time on our own. We should be more confident in our work, willing to hear feedback, and striving to be different then everyone else. We will never be noticed if we constantly try and be like other artists. Likewise, we will never be happy as artists until we stop trying to be everyone else. So knock it off! Stop comparing yourself and your abilities to everyone else and start being different. Hopefully I’ll remember all this tomorrow when I look at my Twitter feed again and see so many amazing artists.