Comparison is the Thief of Joy – Newsletter Thoughts

I don’t know if you know this, but I’ve been writing some thoughts in my monthly newsletters – thoughts on creativity, making art, and being an artist – along with some other info about what is going on around here. In January I shared the following – a topic that I feel really passionate about as both an artist and teacher. I hope you enjoy and you can sign up for my newsletter HERE for more of these :)

“Comparison is the thief of joy”
I truly believe in this. Trust me- I know. Been there, done that… many times. While I am checking out the amazing work of our students in Creative JumpStart and reading hundreds of comments, I stumble once in a while over something that goes like this: “I tried it for the first time but it doesn’t look perfect!” and all I can think is, “how amazing you actually did this and hey, this looks pretty awesome – I cannot believe you did this the first time”. And trust me the latter is not just some Nat-Kindness-Program – because oh boy you should see some of my first takes on something. There is a lot of Schtuff that goes down the drain. I also admit I curse a lot in my studio… you don’t want to hear me some days.

The problem with a sample or tutorial we art teachers show, is that we usually do not show the many, many in between steps, the failures, the ugly stuff. I make a lot of ugly stuff …my trash bin is littered with ugly stuff right now from a “brilliant idea” I am working on for a technique for an online class. Trust me… I am getting there. I am making notes on what worked and what didn’t. I am still thinking about how I can tweak it and make it work so that I like it and that it comes closer to what I envision, and then I will teach it. This part makes me actually excited and if it doesn’t get to that point that I want to teach it, oh well! I learned something new. EVERY TIME. None of this is wasted.

But to get back to the initial point: I usually don’t show in my classes the many hours that it took to get to that point, and the really bad failures along the way, because that is not what the class is about. Maybe it should be… I have thought about a book called Art Failures… but I guess now that I put it out here someone else might write it – LOL.  

So in the end, as a student, I hope that you might have it easier because I can give you some tips on the way: which materials to use, what worked for me, and what you should or maybe should not do. (Hey, ask me how I know what not to do ;) But at the end of the day you still have to put the work in if you want to have it look as you envision . “You haven’t even tried as many times as the Master has failed”  is one of my other quotes I have been saying for years in my classes, as probably some of my longtime students eyerollingly will notice ;) . But the reason I want to stress this is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to your teacher or your co-students because you will be taking the fun away from trying something new and exciting. You don’t know how experienced the other students are, how many times they tried, how often they work with the material, yadayadayada. Look at their work as something that could spark an idea in you or as another take on the same theme. And if that still doesn’t keep you from comparing yourself to others… then take a hiatus in looking. That is absolutely ok – I do that ALL the time. 

Don’t take the fun away from discovering something that you might explore further, and from the experience of getting better, and maybe even taking it to a whole new level than you initially started out with. Don’t let perfectionism and comparison creep into your hobby and something you love doing – there is enough of that pressure out there in all sorts of other areas of our lives. Kick it to the bin… along with the fun ugly stuff you do and embrace it like I do. A full trash bin or drawer of “new collage paper” is a sign of lots of great hours in the studio. Have fun – fill your waste bin!

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts. If you’d like to read more, please sign up or my newsletter HERE for more of these :)

Comments (3)

  • Cate D


    Excellent thoughts and a great reminder. I know I am sometimes guilty of this and it totally steals the joy.


  • tracie


    Great reminder!! Thanks Nathalie


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