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Aaah life as an artist! It can be full of wonder and awe for sure. It’s exciting, interesting, and so much fun. Creation never stops, you make ideas come to life on paper. But it’s also very different than what people think and the artist itself thinks! The reality of it is often diverge with expectations one has. Here’s a list I call Art: Expectations vs. Reality. 

Art Expectations vs Reality pin

Art. It’s a vague word. It encompasses a lot of things and its definition is always subject to debate. Nevertheless, it is all around us. Art is inescapable. Whether it is in exhibits, books, advertisements, movies, graffities on the streets, if you look, you will see it. 

From as long as I remember, I’ve always liked painting and drawing. Who hasn’t spent hours playing with crayons as a kid? Then you grow up and you move on to different things, but art still surrounds you. In my case, I just decided to go back to playing with crayons as an adult. 

As an artist, I find inspiration in the most common places all the time: walking down a busy street, hiking through the trees, talking with people… Once inspiration strikes, the process of bringing the idea to life is not as straight forward as one could think. That’s the first thing in this expectations vs reality list.

Leopard acrylic painting mockup
Get this art print in my Society6 shop.

1. A painting never turns out the way you expect. 

When I get an idea, it can be very ephemeral. Both the inspiration and the motivation to start putting that idea on paper are fleeting. Then, there is the matter of how that idea looks in real life, and how it looks in my head. These two things are worlds apart sometimes. 

This is not always a bad thing, mind you. Actually, most of the time it leads to something different but interesting. 

Honestly though, artworks never end up the way I envisioned. They have a life of their own. I start painting with a specific idea in mind, a color palette, and an atmosphere I want to create, but the creation takes me to new places in my head I didn’t even know were there! 

2. An artwork will be good until it isn’t. 

Once an artwork is finished, first, I always struggle with wanting to add more. Shouldn’t I correct that line, add more color there, or add more details? You have to learn when a painting is done and stick to your first instinct. I know a lot of artists struggle with this. Thankfully, for me, it’s not that hard. It can be a bit difficult at first to resist constantly changing things but overall, I have a pretty good feel for when a painting is done. A sense of completion. 

So I will put down my paint brushes or my graphic tablet if I’m working on the computer, take a step back, look at the artwork, and if I feel satisfied with it, I will consider it done. Then, sometimes, I will look at it again a few days later and I’ll think it’s horrible! See that’s also a problem I know a lot of artists have: you feel satisfied with your work until you look at it again later and it’ll look horrendous. 

Sometimes I’ll make some changes, sometimes I’ll just let it be and move on. It’s important to learn to move on. 

3. Inspiration is not that easy to come by. 

Inspiration can be found anywhere. A tag on a wall, a crack in the pavement, a leaf falling from a tree. True. But most of the times, it won’t. Just like anything else, it will take practice and work to cultivate inspiration. 

Sometimes, inspiration will go on vacation and you’ll end staring at a blank canvas, feeling empty. And you’ll have to drag its ass back. 

4. An artist’s life is not what you think. 

Clichés die hard. Most people think that life as an artist is either very glamourous – that you are an rich and eccentric creative genius – or a starving artist barely able to buy pasta for lunch. Reality however is mostly in between. No, you probably won’t get rich and you probably won’t be able to afford a top-notch studio in Paris or New York. You will have to work your ass off. But also no, if you put in the work, you won’t be starving and you will make a decent living. 

The struggle is real and the process of creating is hard but it’s incredibly rewarding to live the life you have chosen for yourself. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Doing what I love for a living is one of the most important thing in my life. 

5. You won’t get to create as much as you think. 

A big part of being an artist –  or a creative entrepreneur in general – is the business aspect of things. A lot of your time will be taken by marketing, fixing and improving your website, working on SEO (search engine optimization), figuring out your taxes, and so on… 

The process of creation is actually only a small part of my art business. What takes most of my time is typically marketing. Especially social medias! It’s hard and takes time and effort.

cat acrylic portrait work in progress

Life is never what you think it’s going to be. Neither is being an artist. It will take you places you never dreamed existed. It’s hard but oh so rewarding! 

Expectations are often miles away from reality, but sometimes, that a good thing. 

Art Expectations vs Reality artist life pin

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  1. Great blog! So true. I feel like I spend more time on promoting my work and improving tags/ descriptions over being creative. I find inspiration in everything so that part isn’t that hard but when the dreaded artist block hits it sucks! Artwork defiantly has a life of it own too. 🙂

    1. Haha I’m glad you can relate! I must spend more time promoting than everything else combined! I’ve been pretty productive lately though, got a bunch of new artworks coming 😉

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