Saturday, October 20, 2012

Compare and Contrast

Compare: to examine in order to note similarities and differences
I've had a lot of time on my hands lately and it's mostly been down time.
 By which I mean I haven't been able to do a lot actively other than the things that are necessary.
So..I have filled in the gaps with a lot of reading and internet browsing (mostly Etsy and blogs written by artists I admire) and I realized the other day that I had fallen into this rut of not just looking to admire or inspire, but I found myself comparing not only one artist with another, but all of them with myself.

Now, this is dangerous. For a few reasons.
 I will expound upon them here because no matter where you are in your creative journey, you've done this, admit it.
And it does absolutely no good for anyone.
Here's just a peek into the games my mind plays with itself:

"Wow. Her beadwoven patterns are so intricate and elegant. Mine look so amateur compared to that. I could never create a pattern that complicated. I'm sure she used herringbone stitch. I suck at herringbone stitch."

Oh, and then there's this one:
"Holy Smokes. Did you see how many sales she has? She's got like triple the amount of sales I do, and her shops been open like a year less than mine! What is she doing right that I'm doing completely wrong? It must be her photos. She's totally nailed the white background. I suck at the white background."
Oh, and now that I've started metalwork, my mind has two different disciplines on which to dwell on my shortcomings:
"Oh, in the world does she get that gorgeous finish on her jewelry? Does she tumble? She must tumble. I don't understand how her patina can be so even, is she painting it on?!
That filigree is so delicate. How in the world do you get filigree to solder onto sheet, shouldn't you have solder running all over the place?!
I must suck at soldering because I could never get those tiny pieces to stay in the right place even with a third hand. What am I doing wrong?"

Oh, and then when you start reading blogs...well...cue floodgates...
"She went where and did what? I am so jealous. There's no way I could ever learn that technique, I'll never be able to take that class! I can't travel to Timbuktoo!"
"She met WHO?? Oh my goodness, she's like the best of the best. I'll bet she knows all her secrets now and her jewelry will be perfect from here on out. Man, there's no way I could ever hope to be that good or manipulate metal the way she does!"
You get the idea, it's a vicious cycle and the one that'll send you spinning down the road to nowhere.
I think it was at that point that I realized that comparing was doing nothing for me, that it wasn't boosting my self-confidence and it wasn't feeding my creativity, not to mention the feelings of artificial restlessness that it creates in your soul.
That was when I realized that I should be contrasting, not comparing:
Contrast: to compare in order to show unlikenesses and differences; note the opposite natures

You see it is the contrast that makes for beauty. It is contrast that allows us to really see the differences between things that can hold us captivated by one thing or the other.
It is the contrast that allows us to find the unique and original in what we do and helps to shape our creativity into something that is distinctive to us.
So, yeah, her beadwoven designs are intricate and delicate but I pride myself on creating pieces that lend themselves toward experimentation. I like to give my students a template and then let their color sense shine through in a way that makes the project all their own.
And yes, she does have like triple my sales, but what of it? I have numerous repeat customers who come back again and again (sometimes in the same week!) and each purchase is a vote of confidence that my patterns work, that they understand what they're doing when they create a piece of mine and they want to try their hand at something different.
And as far as metal goes, I've only just begun to experiment with copper and silver. I know my work isn't like that of a seasoned professional, but I can tell you, there's a certain pride that I feel each time I wear a piece of silver art that I've sawed and pounded and heated and finished.
I know it's mine that the work came from my hands and for that reason it has plenty of value (at least to me!).
Oh, and the life comparison thing?
Yeah, just don't. We are all at different places in this journey and one is never better than the other.
(Oh, and as far as classes and experience, did you know that some of the best teachers in the world at all different disciplines have started creating and teaching online courses complete with videos and forums and interactive interactions? Well, they have. It truly is the future of learning and it will only continue to grow with time.)
I say all of this to say this:
The next time you're tempted to compare yourself to another artist, or anyone for that matter, try contrasting yourself instead. Find what makes you uniquely you and your art uniquely your art.
That's one compare and contrast you'll never regret.
(P.S. In case you were wondering, I typed "contrast" into Etsy's search engine and came up with the pretties above in the photos.)


  1. Lovely Post...and in today's world of Facebook and Twitter as well it's so easy to be comparing your life/art to others without seeing the "whole" picture. I love the positive approach of contrasting. What a great morning discovery today! Thanks!

  2. Wonderful post, Marcie, thank you!

  3. Great and thoughtful post, Marcie. As a new(er) artist, it would be tempting for me to reach for the stars and come up short, so the only comparing I do is to my own older work. That way I can see how far I have come, and it doesn't prevent me from admiring and enjoying the unique work of others!

  4. How interesting that I've been comparing my work to yours for a while. I've been attempting to use your blog as inspiration instead. I shall contrast instead. :-D

  5. Ha! Right on the spot! My most reoccurring comparison is: How do they have time to make all this jewelry and take photos and blog about it and still have a life?! Thanks so much for putting everything in perspective!!