You don't suck at art, you suck at discipline.

Want to annoy a professional artist? This phrase will do it every time - "Oh, I could never do that. It's easy for you, because you have talent." 

I think a lot of people consider this to be a compliment. Objectively, artwork looks like magic to non-artists. You put pen to paper, and a visual concept springs forth - perfect in form, color, and style. 

 I refuse to apologize for this cleavage shot #sorrynotsorry

I refuse to apologize for this cleavage shot #sorrynotsorry

The reason it's annoying for an artist to hear is that... art takes years and years of hard work and discipline, not talent. Sure, the natural aptitude is there, but there is no substitute for hours of labor learning the skills. Not only are there learned "hand skills" - the actual methods of holding your pencil or brush, the stroke pressure, the feeling of the medium and the paper. There's also a mental practice of learning to observe the world around you - an artist is never "just looking" at a scene - we are recording every detail of light and shadow, color, texture and form in our mental vaults, to be let out when needed.

Learning art comes in waves. As a child, first we learn how to recreate shapes and forms in two dimensions. As we grow and our observations and understandings of the world become more sophisticated, so do the techniques we practice. After we have learned ( we really never stop learning) to reproduce those forms, we start to consider style and expression. No longer content with accurately reproducing what we see, we start to weave our psyche and unique experience into our artwork, to make it our own - our pure expression.

This, as you can imagine, is a sometimes extremely painful, extremely frustrating process - and it goes on and on, never ending. 

I have had many friends who are "dabblers" - beginner artists who like to draw or paint a little - they enjoy creating but are not professional and consider it a hobby. Inevitably, we have a conversation that includes them saying something along the lines of "You're so good. I suck at art." It pains me to hear this, because no one "sucks" at art - they are just at a different part of the path than I am. I've been walking the path a long, long time. Some people are just setting foot on it.

If you're a dabbler or a hobby artist and you think you suck at art, let me assure you. You do not suck at art, you suck at discipline.

This is the aspect you need to cultivate to not suck at art. Make art every day, and you will become good at art. This is a bit harder to achieve when you're an adult starting out. For instance, I did all the hard, mucky, "I suck at art" part when I was a child and I didn't have a big, adult ego to feed. I didn't care THAT much if I sucked, because I was just having fun. If I saw some great art and I knew I couldn't do it yet, I just practiced and I didn't think twice about it. Eventually I moved on to the "I'm pretty good at this" stage, and from there it was a natural progression to "I'm a professional." 

 I get paid to do this :D

I get paid to do this :D

The point is, it's taken 35 years. If you're just starting out, it might take you more than a few months to really start to feel good about your work. Don't give up!

Another thing that you'll get used to and stop worrying about is not being satisfied with your artwork. After all this time, sometimes I'm satisfied and sometimes I'm not. 

Here's a recent case study for you to consider -

I just got my iPad Pro and I'm having a blast using it. Although I've done a lot of digital painting on other programs and tools, I've never used Procreate so there's a little bit of a learning curve while I feel out what I can do in the program.

I decided to start learning how to use it with an illustration series. I've always wanted to illustrate my own Tarot deck. Since middle school, actually, which is a very long time. When I was in middle school, I was considered the best artist in the school. However, I knew in my heart that I didn't have the skills to make a Tarot deck I would be proud of. So I waited. As I got older and had children, I kept thinking about the project. But I knew I would need skill AND time to complete such a big project. I didn't want to start and not finish. Years passed - and here we are today. Now I have the skill AND time to start. (Discipline in action!)

So, I got started. I decided a good way to start would be to draw the illustrations in series - all 4 queens, all 4 kings, etc. Breaking the project up into chunks would be a good way to keep it manageable. So I started with my favorite queen, the Queen of Cups.

I completed the illustration and it was good. It was detailed, the layout was nice, and the linework was solid. However, I wasn't in love with it. It was a good drawing, but it was not the right style.

I looked at my illustration over a couple of days, pondering if I should go on with the other queens and see if I started to like it better. However, in the end I decided that if I was going to do such a large series of illustrations, I wanted to LOVE the style. 

So I redid the drawing. 

A person with less discipline would not have put in the extra time to rework the entire drawing. Hell, a past Rachel wouldn't have! But that is exactly why I waited until THIS time to do this project.

I switched to a more graphic novel/comic book illustration style and I like the outcome so much more. The new drawing has the vibe and feeling I want for my Tarot deck. I'm so happy I put in the extra time and work to make it perfect.

Now I'm moving on to the color stage. And guess what? I'm on the fence about it. I'm trying out a new coloring style with some digital watercolor brushes, and I'm not sure if I'm going to love it. I might scrap it and do a whole new recolor. 

Watercolor on the iPad Pro - custom watercolor brushes for the iPad

It's all part of the process. 

If you're an artist, a wannabe artist, or an "I wannabe a wannabe but I'm afraid I suck" artist, please take my advice to heart - don't give up. Especially don't give up before you get started. It does take dedication, practice, and discipline to get where you want to go. Don't be afraid of that. Learn to love the process, and you will become an artist.

Are you struggling with self limitation or fraudy artist feelings? Let's chat! I'd love to throw wisdoms at you, or help you will resources to gain the skills you want. Hit reply and ask me a question, or shoot me an email at and let's connect! 

P.S. - I have an artist's Insta account! You should head over there and give me a follow nyaow.