The Imaginary Quality Bar

Am I alone in this?  We tend to believe that because we’ve seen a few shining examples of achievement in whatever our artistic field is, then by extrapolation, there must be thousands of people producing better work than us.  It’s a common belief, I think, but one that you can prove to yourself is totally wrong.

We tend the remember the outstanding works by renown artists.  They stand out in our memories and those works become the standard to which we aspire.  In doing that, though, what we ignore is that the majority of the artistic output of even the best, most accomplished artists isn’t actually very good – or at least not as good as their very best work.

Take a look around the Internet at other painters posting their work, or other musicians posting their latest songs and mixes, or other writers showing their stories and poems.  There are numerous web sites where all comers are encouraged to post their work for others to see, hear or read.  Take an honest appraisal of most of these artistic works.  Quite a lot of them are pretty good, but still more are not.  Very, very few meet the highest standards – the standards you may have internalised and hold your own work up against.

So take heart.  Chances are that your work falls into the “pretty good” category, if you are diligent, work at your art and have a little bit of authenticity and inspiration on your side.  In any case, you shouldn’t rubbish your own output just because it isn’t the best of the best.  And who knows?  Maybe with enough application and a little serendipity, you might produce something that others think of as the very paragon of the art.

The point is this:  you can never tell.  What one person sees as ordinary, another sees as revelatory.  Same work, different responses.

The quality bar is in your head and it’s imaginary.  You can produce all kinds of different artistic works and you never know – somebody, somewhere will think you’re brilliant.  You don’t have to compare yourself with the best of the best of what you like.  Others may already see your work in that way.

Whatever you do, don’t ever let the imaginary quality bar make you despair and give up.  Think of what you may be denying the people that really love your stuff.


About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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5 Responses to The Imaginary Quality Bar

  1. Lets do what we do out of the lust to do it, and not out of idea of a goal to achieve.
    I wonder each time about poem competitions and other hierarchical trips applied to creativity. I wished I could invent a creative art response to this new 10 points list obsession too. The harder people try to succeed, the more it smells the driven effort.

    • That’s a really good point. What matters is the passion. Why do it at all if it doesn’t make you smile and experience joy? My creative art response to a 10 point list might be a list where each bullet point was a shape or a colour. Shapes tend not to be as hierarchical. Who thinks triangle is better than parallelogram? 🙂

  2. My mother used to paint wherever she could find a place, successful or not, did not matter, she simply had to, to feel well. She shared that spirit with her students too. Even at the start of her Alzheimer, she did extraordinary portraits. Studying at the Parisian Beaux-arts was the first thing to do, after she had fought actively in the Resistance and the war was over. A celebration of life .
    During years, I did mostly mail art , only out of the pleasure to communicate and the hope friends would enjoy it…only these days, I realise, some build up a career on far less, but who cares. It simply felt doing the right thing and the pleasure of sharing beauty(these days, more problematic due to temporary cheap labour in the post chain!). I think, the future points towards allowing everybody s creativity instead of flattering the new boring art speculation toy.This vanity has show his vacuity.

  3. Cher ami, I think it is necessary sometimes to risk a bit of personal authenticity to help other to feel more safe in a world where I expect our true caring nature will survive the actual mess created by very uncultivated people who only aim for power and plus value.
    Best wishes!

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