I’ve been self-conscious about my art ever since I was a kid. My parents sent me to art classes when I was really little, but I fell out of the art scene after that, around the time when I became too shy to share what I created.
I wondered if I was “good enough.” And what happens if I’m not good enough? Will people laugh at me? Could my ego take a hit like that?
The answer is that nobody is “good enough.” An artist who paints in the classical style and an artist who arranges junk into an abstract sculpture have the same chance of success, because there is no good or bad art. There is subjectivity and open-mindedness, but no set standards.
I sold handmade zines and stickers at WWU Queercon this year, which was the first time I sold art in a public space. When I told my friends, they told me how cool it was that I was able to sell my work, how much they would like to follow in my footsteps.
"Okay," I said, "I can help you sign up." My friends are incredibly talented people whether they know it or not. But they would just shake their head and claim they weren’t good enough.
It’s a tragedy, frankly. All this to say that in this letter I’m going to prove that everyone (yes, everyone, even you) can create and sell art if they so choose.
- Going back to my first “good enough” point: if you compare two works of art, can you tell which artist had more passion, or which artist is worth more monetarily? Absolutely not. Take one look at the art market and you’ll be bamboozled. For instance, this piece called “Zip” depicting two blue blocks on a white background sold for over $40 million. On the other hand, this piece called “Old Faithful” is listed on Etsy for $564, and it’s also an abstract blocky blue-on-white painting. Making a profit on your artwork doesn’t come down to talent or even passion – selling art is a matter of marketing and luck.
- By the way, what are the ethics of being “good enough”? What are you comparing yourself to? Will you be “good enough” once your artwork has surpassed the “Mona Lisa” in fame and recognizability? American hustle culture is incredibly detrimental to the artistic world because art doesn’t work like that. Sometimes art is a deep expression of the soul. Sometimes art is a drawing of a wolf furry with massive biceps and a jockstrap. You will never be “good enough” because capitalism creates hundreds of unachievable ideals in order to keep you running in your little hamster wheel until you croak and your family has to buy you an Amazon coffin. Life is too short to be perfect.
- Now, of course there’s the problem of literally being unable to create what you want, like illustrations for a certain character or a technique to change your linework, but that’s what YouTube is for. There are thousands of free courses online that will help you hone your craft in whatever areas you need as long as you are willing to put in the work and practice.
- Some people claim that they want to be an artist, but doubt their own skill. I counter you: handwriting is art. Organization is art. Fashion is art. Everyone has a different eye for art, but an eye nonetheless. Art is ingrained differently into every person even if it tends to manifest in different ways. Some people will find that color theory comes easy for them and others will have a very steady hand. You can find out your strengths by experimenting with different mediums!
- Don’t worry about creating something that you’re proud of the first time you pick up a pencil. Just like with any other skill, it will take some trial and error until you find a style that you can jive with. As long as you had fun making it and you’re proud of yourself, you have won at art.
Whether you’re doodling in textbook margins or painting a mural, you are an artist, and nobody can tell you otherwise. Go forth and create.
Milo Openshaw (he/him) is the opions editor for The Front winter '22. He's a junior majoring in creative writing with a teaching endorsement. This year he will read 60 books and write at least one.
You can reach him at email@example.com or you can find him on Instagram @miloohno if you want to see him. Or don't. (I wouldn't recommend it.)