An Artist's Story of Becoming



Creative Wellness Challenge

Reflect on your story as an artist. Where did your journey start? What problems did you have to face? What are some key moments of growth and transformation in your story?


In sharing my story as an artist with you, you may be able to relate to parts of it. I’m hoping that you do, knowing that we experience these things as a collective, and that someone else’s success story is simply a demonstration of how you can live out your own.


This story does not follow a natural timeline as stories usually do. Instead, I’ve divided my story into the three things that have come to shape who I am as an artist today. While there are many more pieces woven in between, I touch briefly on the topics of perfectionism, burnout, and imposter syndrome as they’ve each played a significant role in my creative wellness journey.

Perfectionism


“Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports)... Healthy striving is self-focused - how can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused - what will they think?” -Brené Brown


We’re always told that there is no such thing as perfect, but I’ve always tried to come pretty damn close. Whether it was getting good grades or colouring inside the lines, it felt imperative to endlessly refine and polish everything so that there wouldn’t ever be space left for judgement or criticism, only praise and approval.

When I started making art at a young age, I was always receiving compliments and being praised by my peers, it was only natural to want to chase after that same feeling. I became attached to the idea of achieving the perfect art style, surely because all the other successful artists I looked up were only distinctly successful because of theirs? Looking back on this period, I was constantly changing into and out of different art styles like trying on outfits at a store, though none of them fit quite right. The problem was that I was entirely focused on how it looked rather than how it made me feel, and that’s why nothing ever really stuck.


Deciding to do the Pantone challenge and coming up with the idea was my way out of this stage of perfectionism in my life. The purpose of a daily art challenge was not only to enforce a level of consistency into my creative practice that I never had, but it also gave me the grounds to create art simply for the sake of creating art. For the first time, it allowed me to immerse myself in the process and forget about the outcome just for a minute. Now when I start fixating on achieving and people-pleasing, my first move is always to strip back from appearances and look for ways to explore new creative ideas that make me feel excited and energised.


Burnout


My history with art has never been consistent, riding high waves of creative inspiration only to come crashing down into art blocks and breaks that would last for months at a time. Achieving a sustainable creative routine felt like an impossible mission when my inner artist felt like a 5 year old child that couldn’t be tamed.

Shortly after the Pantone challenge first took off, I started posting my art on Instagram more frequently. In this strange world of social media, we’re fed formulas and strategies that leave our heads spinning — how many posts to make in a week, what type of content to create, the promise of success in a jumble of numbers and algorithms. My creative practice quickly became centred around these made-up rules, deriving a sense of worthiness from the performance of a post, trying to keep up with the frequency of posts and feeling guilty when inspiration runs dry. You can imagine how this story ends up, I was burnt out and tired of running after checklists and to-do’s.


The truth is that I’m not sure I have this whole burnout thing figured out, though I do know that our creative wellbeing means becoming more mindful of when pieces start shifting out of balance. I could go into greater detail of every single component to burnout, but here are three main ones I practice everyday:


  1. Balancing inspiration — most of us think that inspiration means waiting for a burst of energy to strike before we jump into action, but we’re actually searching for something steadier. Our inspiration needs to be in constant fluidity — we can find and create things to inspire us when we’re not, explore our ideas through making but set aside new ideas when we have too many instead of reacting to them all immediately.

  2. Balancing energy — Burnout is a type of mindlessness that happens when we don’t pay attention to internal cues and choose to ignore them and push through them instead. Work deadlines, social media algorithms, and other external factors have their way of determining our pace of work for us. With our limited resources of energy, Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests creating a system of prioritisation, rest should always be one of them.

  3. Balancing motivation — between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, there’s nothing wrong with monetizing your work nor is enjoying art as a hobby, but where do we strike a balance between the two? When my mind begins to hyperfocus on numbers and outcomes, I return to my love for creativity and an inner child way of fun and play.


Imposter Syndrome


"Have the courage to rise above your fears, because there is plenty of room for everyone to succeed."


There is a healthy type of comparison that motivates and inspires us and a type that puts us down, with only a fine line of separation down the middle. When you’re sitting in a classroom of people, your certainty of self might not be tested because only a handful of others are as good at what you do as yourself. Social media on the other hand is a connected group of millions, and all the sudden you find yourself surrounded by the enormity of the digital world feeling smaller than ever. Imposter syndrome is the self-doubt that quietly creeps in when we hold on to the belief that we and our work are not enough because maybe someone else can do it better. Whether it was taking the first leap to launch Colordrunk or painting my hundredth post, the voice of an imposter always remains loud, fearful, and an obstacle to our biggest dreams.


Being on social media has taught me a lot, being able to gather such a close-knit art community always leaves me feeling grateful. Above all, it’s shown me not to place my whole identity on the outcomes of my creativity. Instead, I choose to focus on the bigger picture, practising creative wellness in the same sense as working on our holistic selves. When we become more balanced, aligned, and confident, we really get to know our creative purpose and learn how to immerse ourselves fully in the process. We don’t have to worry about the success of others or our own enoughness, but really just create from a place of passion and life.


This might sound like an impossible task, but stepping out of doubt and into abundance takes courage. Whether the courage lies in putting away social media for a few weeks to focus back on your craft or in starting a new creative project, it all starts by choosing to believe in ourselves. If my art journey has taught me anything, it’s to forget about the numbers because we’re defined by so much more. So friends, have the courage to rise above your fears, because there is plenty of room for everyone to succeed.


With love,

Dory (bigbluetang)