catharsis_logs: (let's make better mistakes tomorrow)
[personal profile] catharsis_logs
My sister, being her usual self, accidentally said something hurtful today. Well... maybe not so much hurtful as it made me stop and think a bit about what I was doing in a negative light sort of.

In 2005 I had a intense relationship, with art. During this time I produced about 100 pieces of art, all mostly unfinished on loose printer paper. I drew every day, or thereabouts. Lately I've been missing drawing.

Now, the complicated part comes in. (I'll get into what my sister said later) I'm a perfectionist, and all my education has done is show me how far I have to go to do anything of actual 'worth'. (worth being subjective and harmful in this case) I'm also terrified of doing art, because nothing I do will make me satisfied with what I produce. This sucks. I have so many negative emotions tied into art (and writing) that it makes it hard to do anything.

Good news: I wrote a little bit the other day, part of a fanfic I will likely not finish (as per usual) but it's the most fun I had with writing in a while. Then today I drew a tiny bit, and printed off some tutorials that I taped into my reference sketch-book.

Now an ethical question comes up, related to what my sister said to me. I asked her about some art pencils that I had found in one of my many boxes littering the house. I asked my dad if I could have the pencils and he said to ask my sister, but that it was fine for me to have. Then when I asked my sister if she wanted the pencils or if I could have them, she said sure, that she didn't use pencils and then somehow... this came up : "I'm the artist of the family after all."

And that's what she said that kind of hurt and kind of raised an ethical question. I have no doubt that I could learn to draw fairly fast, and I kind of think that I might overtake my sister in the realm of physical rather than digital, art. Is this okay? I can see a fight coming up, or my sister's self-esteem becoming threatened by my even trying to do art at all, putting aside words like 'better' and 'faster' because those words are silly in this context.

I don't want to threaten my sister's self-esteem. But I also want to learn how to draw and draw well. I just worry that my sis might think that I'm getting better faster than she is (which really is unlikely).

I also resent the unspoken idea that only one person in my family can be a 'recognized artist', and I resent my thoughts that also lean in that direction. It also makes sure that I don't want to share my art with my family, which also sucks.

Then there's the self-esteem problem that's there in the first place, the 'if I'm not perfect now, I'll never be perfect' with perfect being an also subjective and harmful word.

Sorry I've been so incoherent about this, but I've been thinking about it for a little bit, and what my sister said and the way she said it just rubbed me the wrong way.

Date: 2016-09-13 01:55 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I don't have the brain to give this a very good reply right now, but here is a rough go:

Whether or not you self-identify as an artist and/or are skilled at particular kinds of art has NOTHING to do with whether your sister is or is not an artist, etc. There is no limit on the number of artists (or cooks, or sailors, or teachers, or trip planners, etc, etc) in a family, and nobody has automatic dibs on all of a type of resource within a shared family pool. Your sister is trying to squeeze others out of occupying an imaginary "designated space" within the family; it is hurtful silliness that comes from insecurity. She probably did feel threatened, but the threat came from her own negative self-image, not from your perfectly reasonable request.

You can't improve your sister's self-esteem or your own by making yourself less in order to make her seem better by comparison. People whose comparisons are all external, negatively phrased, and/or based on people they have put down generally notice eventually that they are not achieving real stature and they are hurting people along the way. If you want her to feel good about herself, celebrate her actual successes, and either entirely ignore her bullshit or call her on it.

And do (or don't do) whatever art you want, for yourself. And share it, if you choose to share it, first and mostly with people who do celebrate your successes.

There are ways to work on improving self-efficacy and self-worth, but trying to avoiding 'threatening people' simply by doing something interesting and/or getting good at something is not one of them.

Also, congrats on doing some art. That is awesome! I think the world would be a better place if people just let themselves color and make things sometimes, the way little kids do before they start making comparisons, as well as pursuing developing significant creative skills in a more adult way.

Date: 2016-09-13 02:00 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
PS: And if you don't want to encourage your sister in comparing herself to you negatively ... don't try to show her up, or measure your progress relative to her. Set benchmarks that are objectively measurable (minutes spent, sketches made, lessons in a tutorial completed, etc) and fairly easy to achieve given your current skill, and try to beat those. If someone has to be better than someone has to be worse; it's much more fun to let everyone try to get *really good*.

PPS: If the pencils came out of your box, why did your sister get first refusal anyway? *puzzled*

PPPS: Sorry, this reply is a mess, I am a mess right now, please tell me if I have said offensively awful things. I'm sorry I'm not more coherent.

Date: 2016-09-14 03:33 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Okay. Glad I helped.

Date: 2016-09-13 03:49 am (UTC)
enemyofperfect: a spray of orange leaves against a muted background (Default)
From: [personal profile] enemyofperfect
Oh, what a wonderful tangle of feelings perfectionism and art can produce. *wry* It's so great though that you've been writing and drawing a little despite that fact! Just managing to create something, whether or not it's finished or "good enough" according to whatever standards might loom large in your mind, is such a victory when anxiety and perfectionism conspire to make it hard to do anything at all.

I'd like to hope that if your sister stopped and thought about it, she wouldn't actually want to suggest that she's the family's one and only artist and no challengers will be permitted. But even if she does think that (and you know her better than I do), in no universe would that be your problem to solve. Obviously you shouldn't actively try to show her up -- that would be mean! -- but if you want to draw, you should draw, and the only reason for any comparison to exist between the two of you is if one of you looks for it.

And realistically speaking, there's practically zero chance that you'll be in direct competition anyway, right? I mean, let's say you both develop into absolutely amazing artists -- in that case, you'll almost certainly find your own individual styles, which means that there will never be anything that one of you drew that the other one could have drawn in exactly that way. You will always, inherently be doing your own thing, and while it can be tempting to compare yourself to other people, especially if you feel uncertain about your own abilities, ultimately it's almost as pointless as comparing yourself to perfection.

None of this means that that kind of anxiety is any easier to deal with, though, especially when interpersonal issues are added to the mix. This is sensitive stuff, and I wish you the best of luck navigating it. <3


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