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"Good" and "Original" Art is Entirely Subjective

*The information in this blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Jasmine Eddy, AMFT is not establishing a therapeutic relationship with readers and this information is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed psychotherapist*

original oil pastel drawing

How many times do you look at your art and think ‘Yikes, this is not good'? Do you let a bad art piece discourage you and launch you into a negativity spiral? It’s ok. It’s ridiculously common. Self-doubt and imposter syndrome can be hard voices to silence. If you’re anything like me, it doesn’t take much to go from ‘My work isn’t good or original’ to ‘I’m not worthy or talented’. Sometimes, I lose perspective and let others’ perceptions of my work and its worth become an indicator of my value. There’s so much to be said about how imposter syndrome impacts creatives and how society is still conflating work and productivity with self-worth. However, those are topics for another day. Let’s start to unpack the subjectivity of “good” or “original” art, how to leverage the concept for your work, and how it could be counterproductive.

What does good or original even mean?

As a gestalt therapist, I find there’s great value in understanding what the words we use mean to us. I’d recommend really stopping to think about how you’re defining “good” and “original”. These are subjective terms much like art itself, so getting clear on your definitions gives you a framework for analyzing your work and others. Speaking of others, take the time to find artists whose work is good and/or original. What do you like about the work? What would you do differently? Where is this artist’s work situated in the wider artistic and societal conversation? Is it similar to where you want to situate your work? Essentially take the time to understand where you’re coming from. It can provide you with more clarity around what you want your work to say and how you want it to be experienced.

What’s the purpose of your creative work?

art collage using magazine clippings

Once you’re clear about the function(s) of your creative work, you’ll have a better understanding of whether the subjective quality of your work is that important. Depending on your values, you might be aiming for a specific balance of prioritizing your view of good work with your audience’s definition.

If you’re a creative who needs to love their work or it doesn’t get created, then you might spend very little time focusing on what the buyers are looking for. You create what you want and therefore decide what good and original mean. You can even determine if you care about your work being perceived as either of those things. It might be more helpful to consider how your work or the creative process makes you feel. If it speaks to others, then that’s a bonus.

If you’re making art primarily for recognition and profit, then creating work that speaks to a larger audience is essential. In that case, knowing what your audience thinks is “good” or “original” work becomes more important. If profit is of utmost importance, you may want to do some market research on trends to get a sense of what’s resonating with people.

There are many ways to mitigate a dramatic difference between what the audience is looking for and what you like to create. Having separate, dedicated art practices can help you satisfy your creative needs as well as support your financial needs. It’s likely that the practices will inform one another and create truly innovative art.

The terms “good” and “original” are as subjective as art itself. Figure out what those terms mean to you and you have some sense of direction for your work and growth as an artist or creative. Consider whether what others find to be good or original matters at all for your practice and apply that to your work. Stay connected to different creative spaces to get a sense of broader trends and conversations in your industry. You will find your place in the conversation, whether your creative voice is aligned or not.

Would you like some support around self-doubt and imposter syndrome? Consider working with a licensed professional. If you’re a California resident, I’d be glad to work with you. Feel free to contact me for a free 20-minute consultation to see if we’re a good fit.

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