5 Reasons You're Not a Good Artist (Yet)

Time, Patience, and Practice Will Lead You to Create Better Art

Young female artist working in her studio
Alistair Berg / Getty Images

Your relatives think your art is great, your friends say they like it, even the dog seems to think it's good. But how can you know whether you're a good artist or not? This is a difficult question that many people contemplate when they first begin painting and you may not like the answer.

Now, none of this means that you need to throw away the brushes and smash your last canvas! Just the opposite, this is both a reality check and a challenge. Art is rewarding and a fantastic opportunity for personal growth. You may not be a good artist today, but tomorrow may be a different story.

Reason No. 1: It's Too Soon

Forget instant gratification, you're not going to become a great artist in a month. Nor a year. Not even two years, probably. This is not to say everything you produce early on will be bad, you will produce some satisfying pieces. But when you start out, you’re mostly cooking at the beans-on-toast level, certainly not baking soufflés.

  • It takes time to learn the technical skills of painting. Over that time, you will learn how to handle paint, what you can do with it, how to create the illusions you visualize, etc.
  • It takes time to develop your artistic eye. As you paint, you will learn how to see more critically, how to be selective in what you’re looking at, what to include and exclude from a painting, identify and use colors, etc.

It's important to keep early paintings and drawings so you can look back and see where you’ve come from. (When you become a famous artist, an art curator will want these early works for a major retrospective!)

Reason No. 2: Giving Up Too Easily

If you’re disheartened easily and want to give up every other day because you hit a stumbling block or something hasn't turned out right, you're not there yet. Reconcile yourself to the fact that how you visualize a painting in your mind will probably not be how it turns out on canvas.

Many paintings are unlikely to be as good as you think they should be. You will produce paintings that are mediocre, and you will produce dire ones. That should motivate you, not dishearten you.

Allow the painting to be as good as you can make it today, with where you are today and strive for more tomorrow. Art is a long-distance endurance race, not a sprint.

Reason No. 3: Not Following Your Own Vision

Listen to everything you're told but don’t believe everything you’re told. Your opinion and artistic vision should count more than everyone else’s because inspiration and creativity are fueled from within. Don’t be conned into believing that artistic greatness is created by social acceptance. That’s called popularity.

Sure, we want popularity too because that usually means that our paintings are selling. But in order for your paintings to stand out, you need to believe in them and create them from your soul. The majority of successful professional artists do not merely churn out fodder to feed their bank accounts, they believe in the work.

Also, when you feel a deeper connection with your vision, you will be able to discuss it with passion. This is another point that makes great artists great: they can sell the work through their own stories, experience, and personal relationships with the subject.

Reason No. 4: Trying Too Much for Too Long

Painting is filled with subject and medium choices and all of them can be very appealing. While you will want to explore each of them and experiment as a beginner, at some stage you need to be more selective. You will need to choose a medium and a subject or style to focus on.

The aim is to create a body of work, a group of paintings that show you’re not a one-off wonder but can produce high-quality work repeatedly. Then you create another body of work ​and another.

They may be related subject wise and they may not be. You may change your style, but it’s risky to do so rapidly (it makes it seem like you’ve changed your mind and rejected your earlier work). Change is better done gradually or through a few pieces that can still sit comfortably with others in your work.

None of this means that you can’t ever use other mediums or paint other subjects, simply that there should be a definite focus for your work. The rest of what you do is for your own personal development and pleasure, not what you’re trying to sell.

Reason No. 5: Believing You’re Perfect

If you’re perfect now, what will you be painting next month? The exact same thing? Good artists know that they don’t know everything. There is always more to learn and do and they constantly strive for something more.

Instead of thinking that you're perfect now, believe that your next painting will be your best (then the next, and the next...). This is how you grow as an artist and professional artists are all about growth and exploration in their medium, subject, and style.

There's a Good Artist Inside You, Just Wait and See

Art is a journey and a never-ending one at that. It takes time, patience, and practice to become a good artist, even more, to become a great artist. There are many failures and, hopefully, just as many successes along the way. It is not necessarily an easy path to pursue, but if you love it, then stick with it.

Over time, you will see yourself develop. You may even chuckle at yourself for having thought you had it all figured out. Yet, if you didn't think you were a good artist (or have the potential to be), you wouldn't pick up that brush again. Now would you?