Artist Taylor Lee on Leaving Your Expectations in the Rearview Mirror

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Artist Taylor Lee On Leaving Your Expectations In The Rearview Mirror

By Taylor Lee

This post originally appeared on TaylorLeePaints.com

I think sometimes we place expectations on ourselves that are not fair. We see other people - peers especially - moving quickly toward their goals and we feel that we "should" be succeeding in the same way. When it comes to art, I think that is even more amplified. I should be unique! I should be a genius! I should be innovative! But then we pick up that brush...and are we actually unique/brilliant/innovative?

The questions become loud enough to block out the actual creative process. Sometimes we move so fast toward our idea of success that we leave our art behind, way way back in the rear view mirror. 

When I first started sharing my art with the world last year, I expected to be booed off the damn stage. I did have a few skeptics, but I found several communities on Instagram that encouraged me and supported my dive into the world of abstract art.

As the year progressed, I noticed some of my peers succeeding in ways that I couldn't imagine. Someone who had fewer followers than me had all of a sudden tripled their numbers. Someone else was selling paintings left and right. Another painter's posts ALWAYS had what felt like a million comments - soooo much engagement.

I was dragging up the rears, my social media growth stagnant. I was so downtrodden about this that I took a break from social media, leaving my Instagram to gather dust for almost four months. During this time I went back to school and got married, and these were my excuses, but they weren't the truth.

The truth? I had only been sharing my art since August...and I quit sometime in October.

Um, hello? Two months?! My expectations for myself were so brutal that I had given myself only two months to become a superstar! 

I look back on those four months and I want to go back in time and slap myself. I was focusing so hard on becoming popular and being validated by social media that I neglected the whole reason I was doing this in the first place - my ART. 

There is no shortcut to success, and there is certainly no shortcut to making great art. Great art takes time to develop, and it takes vulnerability, bravery and above all things, authenticity.

I promise you, that last part about authenticity is a real doozy. When I jumped back into Instagram (I mean, painting) I was so dry of inspiration that I looked to other artists to see what they were doing. Yes, I was creating, but what I was creating wasn't really mine. 

It doesn't matter if you're popular or if you're painting. If you're still not allowing yourself to...well, BE YOURSELF...then one day as you're driving your "I'm an artist, I swear" car down the highway at 90 MPH, you're going to look in the rearview mirror and see that your art has actually opened the passenger door and rolled out in a desperate attempt to save itself from the cliff that you're driving straight toward.

The cliff of self-destruction. The cliff of unrealistic expectations. 

We live in a society that loves instant. We want our food to be fast, our movies to be available RIGHT NOW, to order something and have it show up on the same day. But art, honey? Art does NOT operate on this schedule.

As Wendy McWilliams said on a recent webinar, for success in this field you have to be in alignment with these things: confidence in yourself, engaging and having real connections on your social media, and most important of all, you have to practice your craft!

So when you’re driving your “I’m an artist” car down the highway, make sure that your art is actually in the driver’s seat and that you are back shoving your expectations out of the window. And make sure that the art that's driving is YOURS. Not anyone else's.


Taylor is an artist exploring the relationship between color and intention. You can check out her work at TaylorLeePaints.com.