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Who Are You Doing It For?

Posted by Koosje Koene in ArtJournal, Draw Tip on August 7, 2017

The other day I was drawing, using a loose, continuous line. I wasn’t thinking about the drawing itself but just noticed how wonderfully the juicy ink was flowing onto the paper, and how good it felt to make the pen move onto the paper. 
Then my husband glanced over at my sketchbook and said: ‘that looks nice’. I thanked him for the compliment, and even though it was a small gesture, it made me feel good. Then it also made me mentally take a step back and assess the drawing as if I was a viewer. He was right, it was kind of a nice drawing, with the expressive line and loose style.
Then a thought struck me:

Does it really matter?

I wonder why some days I can be completely oblivious of other people’s opinions, and other days I feel very self-conscious and even a little insecure about the end result of a drawing (and if others will like it or not… damn you, Instagram!)

People are often very kind when it comes to commenting on art. And we love that! You love hearing people say they like what you made, don’t you? And the idea that you might be inspiring someone with it, is fantastic – that’s why sharing is so much fun!

I don’t like to be a party pooper, but there can be a downside to that though. When you anticipate on what people will say, your art process becomes less personal – it becomes less… YOU. Instead of just going with the flow, you’re allowing other people’s opinions (even if it’s all inside your head!) influence your creative decisions. You’re suddenly doing it for THEM.

I don’t know the exact cure for this, because part of it is also the inner critic bugging us, as always, but I do know that it helps to realize it when it happens.
Because when we feel that pressure of an opinion (your own, your inner critic’s, or someone else), we tend to become more careful, stay inside our comfort zone. Why would you do that, if you’re just working in your sketchbook and you have all the freedom of playing around with colour, tools, materials, line and marks? These are YOUR sketchbook pages and nobody else’s.

Compare it with writing. If you’re writing something, people don’t come up to you and read it unless you ask them to. You write for you. You could look at your drawings like that too. It’s for you, and for nobody else. It doesn’t matter what other people might think. 

If they have an opinion, well they can have it. Let them make their own drawing according to their standards.

Now go and make something, just for YOU. 

Koosje Koene

Hi I'm Koosje. I'm an illustrator and art teacher in Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. I went to school to study graphic design, then worked for ten years as an award-winning professional photographer. But eventually my love of drawing and painting took over and I became an illustrator. My illustrations have been published in many Dutch magazines and in 2011, I began blogging and started developing and teaching online art classes. In 2014 I founded Sketchbook Skool, which is a flourishing community of artists from around the world of all skill levels.

Comments (3)

  1. Nicole says:

    So true!!!

  2. Mike says:

    Apologies for the delay in responding – I have been reflecting on this most of the week, and yes, performing for others is a trap. My difficulty is that for the time being, at least, I need the support from #asketchaday et al to keep motivated and going. The inner critic ( I see him a bit like Fuleli’s little monster in the Nightmare) telling me I need to be more realistic, which creates a tension between making a decent realistic line and a a more free one, say using a continuous line drawing approach. I compared a selfie sketch done on the course “seeing” like that with a more realistic one done this week and was surprised how boring that appeared compared with the fun one I had done three months ago. I wonder if creating realistic drawings is a necessary stepping stone in developing art skills towards something towards developing a personal style or just another diversion along the way. The only comparison I can think of is music. I used to play a lot (guitar), memorising a new piece is hard, but once done you can play it and start to relax and then the music can ebb and flow with the lightest of touch. Is that what eventually happens with sketching?

    Incidentally and not connected, you mentioned in an earlier blog about being criticised for using speech marks, something to do with continuous line drawing. Rubbish! As a native English speaker I can say with confidence this is simply a way of highlighting something as being a bit differen.

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