Drop the Comparisons

— People say the most ridiculous things. Soon as you declare yourself an artist, you can bet you’ll draw any number of idiotic comments. And not just from other people, either. You can expect many of the absurdities to come from your own head.

The obvious one: Soon as you take up digital artistry, you can bet someone is going to question whether it’s “real” photography or not. The assumption being that just capturing a great image — even one pretty much already captured 10,000 times by other photographers — is in some way superior to result of the hours and hours spent crafting something original in Photoshop. Those types tend to see Photoshop as “cheating.”

But that’s clearly just stupid.

I suppose if anyone were to justifiably question the real worth of digital art it would be the master painter who spends days on a canvas, questioning the “painterly” results we can accomplish so much easier in Photoshop.

But even there, I’ve never encountered a digital artist who tried to equate the two processes.

Sure it’s easier to create painterly effects in Photoshop. That’s kinda the point.

Yet what difference does that really make?

It’s not a contest of who worked harder.

Art should never be seen as a contest. Those who do see it that way tend to be some of the most unhappy people I know. Forever comparing themselves and their work to others, they usually end up twitchy, hyper-sensitive neurotics.

But why?

Why care what others are doing (much less what they might say or think about what you’re doing)?

What is it with this weird inclination to put every work of art on an imaginary set of scales and weigh it against something else?

Can’t a work of art just BE? And can’t we just admire it, or enjoy creating it?

Too often I find beginning photo artists all but crippled with self-doubt … usually the result of their endless comparisons and ceaseless need for reassurance and approval.

You’ve gotta let that stuff go.

If you want to last as an artist. If you want to find happiness through your craft. If you want to discover something authentic and real within yourself and learn to express that authenticity with any kind of power.

Next time someone says, “Is that really art?” — next time YOU ask yourself that — I want you to smile and reply simply, “Of course it is.”

If someone compares your digital artistry with “pure” photography, implying that your work (often the result of hours of creative work) is somehow less impressive or less important than a shutter click, I recommend you treat them as the morons they are, and either refuse to comment or reply with something along the lines of this:

“It starts with photography, sure, but I then push it further. Is it Ansel Adams? No. But I don’t want to be Ansel Adams. I want to be me.”

They might claim that Ansel Adams (or pick any other famous photographer) is “better” …

But frankly, says who?

And more importantly, who cares?

If someone is walking around with some kind of weird rule in his head that says using Photoshop is “cheating” or that “pure” photos are automatically superior to anything “Photoshopped” — that’s their problem.

Don’t fall for it.

And if for any reason you ever catch yourself questioning the worth of your own artistic creations — stop it.

Strive to improve, strive to get better. But go about it boldly, determined to enjoy the journey. And for goodness’ sake, stop demanding to look over the passport of your Muse to make sure her papers are in order.

If you are engaged in creating art, you are an artist.

You belong here.

Whether you work in paint or ink, film or Photoshop, your work can mean something and can be important.

I know that when I look at a rich, imaginative piece like the one featured in this post (by AWAKE artist Amelia Blanco), I can say with assurance that what she has created here inspires me far, far more than any “straight photo” I can imagine of this model or any of those birds.

The magic of this piece originated entirely in the imagination of the artist. That’s what’s exciting about it. In the best sense of the word, Amelia has taken the original photos and pushed them further, opening up an entirely new world for us to experience, a story in which to lose ourselves … and perhaps in which to find something of ourselves too.

But I make no comparisons.

I evaluate each work on its own merits. Whether it’s a painting, a photograph, or a digital composition, I allow each piece to teach me what it has to say and how it is I am to enjoy it.

Because that’s all that really matters.

Do I like it?

Does it make me think?

Does it make me feel something?

Does it move me in some way?

Let no one tell you what does or does not constitute “real” art or the “real” instruments of art.

I’m not saying that anything can be legitimately called art. Obviously you’ve gotta CREATE something.

So get busy, and set about creating.

Take up whatever tools or materials you like, and DO something imaginative with them.

Above all, ditch the self-doubt, and start believing in yourself and in the value of your work.

And if it’s an artistic life you wish to live, return to that work every day.

Again and again, return … each day carrying it further … with all the boldness and passion you can bring to it.

– Sebastian


The image featured on this post is by the talented Cuban AWAKE artist Amelia Blanco, the featured artist from Issue 29 of Living the Photo Artistic Life, and whose portfolio of work can be found at www.ameliablanco.com Enjoy!