Pushing to be Better (With a Nod to the BBC)

Pier 43 Ferry Arch San Francisco, CA
Last Stop Before Alcatraz

I believe every artist has one thing in common — feeling one’s work isn’t as good as it can be. Every written word, every developed photo image, every brush stroke is held up to a celestial light of judgement. Invariably the judgement rendered is along the line of “Not bad…but it could be better.” (Except when the judgement proclaims “yuck”, which also occurs.)

Self-help books abound for the artist. Want to learn to be more creative? To use the right side of your brain? (Is there a wrong side?) To overcome fear? To develop better habits? The book/blog/podcast is there at the lightning speed of a web search.

I am known to reach for those books/blogs/podcasts. As a friend of mine said, “We all need help, self or otherwise.” These resources have their place — as a starting point. For in every artist’s life comes a time when thinking about doing better turns to action.

For me, action is finding ways to share my photos, to critically look at my shared images, and to incrementally improve each time I share. Websites, blogs, invitations to juried shows, and contests have become part of my equation.

The image of Pier 43 in San Francisco was sent to the BBC “We Set the Theme, You Take the Picture” weekly contest. It’s a free contest that I frequent. Although the BBC didn’t use my image for the theme “Railways,” I can check back and see what they DID use. What were the strengths of the images? And in retrospect, could my image be stronger? I think about composition, about themes, and about human interest.

Then, I look at the next week’s theme and I give it another go, an incremental push to offer a better image to the celestial light of judgement.

If you’re an artist, what’s your action?

3 responses to “Pushing to be Better (With a Nod to the BBC)”

  1. Nice post Mary Lee, Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com) is a (mostly) weekly drawing contest that I like to do sometimes. It is very interesting to look at what other people come up with and to push you to do better. A week isn’t very long to get a good drawing out though so I don’t stress myself too much.


    1. Mary Lee Dereske Avatar
      Mary Lee Dereske

      Thank you Tina! I love how artists inspire each other, no matter the genre.


  2. Very nice and oh so true!


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