Successes, Failures and Celebrating Where We Are

This morning there is a blanket of snow over everything. When I checked the thermometer it said 23. And yet I have more energy and feel more inspired today than I have for a long time because the SUN is shining.

I have been so tired lately. The change of season — the cold and wet and dark — is exhausting to me. And I’ve been wavering back and forth between discouragement and excitement in my work. I’ve had to remind myself to be patient. I’ve had to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

This November marks eight years since I first picked up a paintbrush. In 2010 I took part in Art Every Day Month and began learning how to paint with watercolor while also sewing and crocheting. At that point painting hadn’t yet become my main focus. And as you can see from this post on my old blog, I wasn’t very good at it.

When I’m stuck in the day to day, it’s easy to forget how far I’ve come since I began my creative journey. Fresh failures, disappointments and rejections loom large, temporarily overwhelming my successes. It’s easy to focus on all I still want to accomplish instead of celebrating all that I’ve accomplished so far.

 My art is in the 2019 Flow Calendar!

My art is in the 2019 Flow Calendar!

I know we all feel like this sometimes. Even the most successful of us struggle with these feelings (see this recent post by Holly Becker, celebrating her new endeavors but also admitting how she feels like she’s not doing or accomplishing enough).

I’m not sure what the answer should be. Sometimes it’s easy to shake off these feelings. There are days when all it takes is a little sunshine. Sometimes it’s not so easy.

It helps me to take a step back and to make some art just for fun. Play in my sketchbook, enjoying the process without worrying about the outcome. Delighting in color. Savoring using different tools or media.

Last week you got a glimpse of a spread from the collaborative sketchbook I’m working on with Dana Barbieri. Here are the finished pages:

A Page From My Collaborative Sketchbook With Dana Barbieri

If you’ve been around a while, you may remember the first collaborative sketchbook Dana and I did.

That project was featured in UPPERCASE Magazine and working on it was a turning point in my relationship with sketchbooks.

Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri Featured in UPPERCASE Magazine

This time Dana and I don’t have a schedule and aren’t sharing our pages. Keeping it (mostly) private is very freeing. In these days of sharing everything online it’s easy to forget that sketchbooks are supposed to be a place of creative freedom. They can be messy and fun and the only person you need to please is yourself.

Chicken Sketches in My Sketchbook

I think the key to long-term success as an artist is pleasing yourself first. By success I’m not talking about money or likes or followers. I’m talking about satisfaction deep in your spirit. About joy. Creating can be hard. It takes courage to ignore negative thoughts from your inner critic. It takes courage to learn how to do something new. To make terrible art and to keep going anyway is an act of bravery.

Eight years ago I was scared to admit to anyone that I was an artist. Today it’s hard to remember the apprehension I used to feel.

Giving Myself a Pep Talk in My Sketchbook

I don’t know where you are in your creative journey. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself an artist (and maybe you don’t want to be, which is perfectly OK!). Or maybe you have a yearning to create — to embroider or sew, to grow a garden or cook, to dance or write poetry. Art is not only painting. Whatever it is, do what brings you joy. Try new things. Create your own definition of success. Ignore your inner critic and stop worrying about meaningless numbers. Celebrate where you are RIGHT NOW. Yes, you may have further to go, but instead of focusing on that, take a look at how far you’ve already come.