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The Art of Regret

the art of regret blog post, paint brush dipped in brown paint

Author: Yi-Nuo

Last fall, I quit drawing lessons after seven long years of taking them. I first started to love drawing and art when I was very young. Although the scribbles done by my six-year-old self were no Van Goghs or Picassos I loved creating them. I loved it so much I asked to be put into drawing class.  Looking back I definitely improved my skills a lot over the years, and had worked hard to get to the skill level I was at.

All-in-all I was doing pretty well, so it made no sense for me to quit- yet that is exactly what I did.

Flash forward a year and I’m in high school. I am so busy all the time with new assignments or tests coming up every second day that I seldom have time to just sit down and draw; especially without the benefit of private distraction-free classes.  Of course, life and time management are all about priorities, so technically I could make time to paint and draw if I really wanted to, but I don’t.  I don’t and I know I should, but I just don’t- and for a reason that I know perfectly well is completely illogical, yet still cannot shake.

 I don’t draw that often anymore because of the exact same reason that made me quit in the first place: I would never be good enough.”

I don’t draw that often anymore because of the exact same reason that made me quit in the first place: I would never be good enough. When I quit drawing lessons over a year ago I quit out of frustration, self-doubt and self-loathing.  My teacher had been giving me the same advice for years, yet none of it seemed to be going through into my head.  I made mistakes all the time and I was rarely satisfied with my progress.

Most recently, I had been stuck on one single painting for over two months, and it felt like I was just redoing the same wrong colours and lines over and over again.  Feeling like an absolute amateur and failure I told myself that I didn’t even deserve to call myself an artist.  I wasn’t getting anywhere with anything, so I thought to myself, why bother trying?

Now, seven years is a lengthy time to be working at something, and to tell the truth I really wasn’t that bad at art after pouring that much effort and passion into it- I just couldn’t see it at the time.  I told myself that in the whole huge world full of amazing artists my skill was equal to nothing and my artistic talent was even less; when I looked at my drawings and paintings, all I saw were flaws.  While I should have been priding myself for my hard work and encouraging myself to improve, I was comparing myself to other people and trying to hold myself to impossible standards.

I hated myself for not being good enough and I hated art for being the reason I felt that way.

So, thinking that this would be the decision that would finally give me some peace of mind I just quit.

I had become so fixated on the feeling of being at a dead end that I forgot everything that had gotten me up to that point.  In the face of all these difficult emotions my love for art was completely trodden out and replaced with fear of it; fear of failing at doing something that I should have been good at, fear of disappointing myself, and fear of creating something that I couldn’t be proud of.  But in reality I was failing to see how far I had come, and how far I could still go.

Looking back on it now, I regret quitting so much for so many reasons.  I know that I took the easy way out, and I lost a valuable skill because of it.  Seven years of drawing lessons, of accumulating technique and knowledge, left to go to waste because I thought there was no point in continuing. I should have known that there will never be such thing as good enough, no amount of hard work that will bring you contentment, unless you allow yourself to feel good enough.

Mistakes are bound to happen no matter how much you try to avoid them.  No matter how smart, talented or practiced you are you will always experience feelings of inadequacy and insecurity at one point or another.  But in all this, what matters most is that you don’t give in to these feelings; don’t quit no matter what. Negative feelings and worries are things that will pass, but once you quit, you are giving up.

I’ve made another decision lately, hopefully one that will end in less regret and more happiness: I’m going to try my best to pick drawing back up.

I’m going to see if I have time to take art class as a course in school next year, because it’s something that I have really missed.  No matter what old doubts, fears, and insecurities come back I’m going to try my best to beat them.

Finally, this time, I’ll remember why I want to make art in the first place.  Not because it’s something I have to be the best at- after all, art is so subjective that there’s literally no such thing as ‘the best’but because it is something I love doing, and regret has taught me that if there’s one thing in life that we should never give up on it’s the things that we love.


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