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Dare to Compare

July 13, 2021 7:41 PM | Dan Nelson



One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older is that I have (pretty much!) embraced who I am— strengths, weaknesses, good points, and foibles. Overall it has been a very freeing experience.

As an artist, I've discovered that we all carry out a very delicate balancing act: to be satisfied with our work, and yet not “settle”. Why not settle? Because a big part of the pleasure in life comes from the sense that we are improving. It doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” you are at something, if you think you’re improving, there’s a bounce in your step. 

But wait! It gets complicated! In order to feel like you’re improving, you have to compare yourself to your previous self, and in that transaction, you can’t help comparing yourself to others. Uh-oh! That sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? And IT IS! But no matter how much you tell yourself NOT to compare yourself to others . . . you CAN’T NOT do it! There’s only one solution: Learn the difference between GOOD comparing, and BAD comparing. Then just do the GOOD stuff. 

So what's GOOD and BAD comparing?

First of all, it's easy to tell if you're doing the WRONG kind of comparing—  you get grumpy, deflated, discouraged, and envious. The GOOD kind of comparing, on the other hand-- usually called INSPIRATION-- leaves you excited, ambitious, motivated. 

I think one of the keys to doing the GOOD stuff is to choose the right artists (for YOU!) to compare to— Don’t just pick an artist who’s work you admire, pick someone who’s work you feel like you “grasp” to some degree— someone from whom you can pick up little tips and tricks just by looking at their work. You can ADMIRE the work of many artists, but if looking at their work makes you feel like hanging up your brushes, quit looking at their work! There are plenty of other artists out there who will INSPIRE you. Focus on those!

Other than that, just keep on getting older. The older you get the more you understand that you are just you— strengths, weaknesses, good points and foibles— AND that nobody else in the whole world can fill your shoes. 

So compare carefully . . . 

And KEEP ON PAINTING!

Dan


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