I looked at her art, and had a soft ache hit me in the chest: would I ever come up with something clever or smart?

Hey there! 👋 I’m Carrie. Here on Artist Strong I help self-taught artists who have a home studio, feeling stuck with their art, move from wondering what’s next to confidently expressing themselves through unique, original art. To date, thousands have joined the community.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 If you feel like gaps in your learning hold you back from making your best art, sign up and watch my workshop, called How to Create Art from Your Imagination. It’s completely free for you to watch and the link is in the description below.

Now I know some of you were wondering who the artist is and I’ll tell you… at the end of this video. Today I want to talk about the way we live in comparison as creators and how to break free from this culture of comparison.

Art is by its very nature, visible, and visual, which naturally lends itself to comparison. Scrolling through Instagram and Facebook groups gives us exposure to way more artists than we can imagine. All of these factors set us up to compare our art. We begin to ask ourselves (without even realizing), “how does my work fit into the work I see?”

Additionally, it’s in human nature to compare and try to figure out where we fit in. Historically we lived in small groups, such as tribes or clans, and this still influences us today. One trip to Yankee stadium wearing Red Sox gear can tell you that!

So when we are still developing and growing as artists, it truly is inevitable. You will compare your art to someone else’s work. This only becomes a problem when we allow those thoughts to stop us from making the art we want to make.

So, when our inner critic starts getting loud, telling us to quit, that we will never measure up to the art we admire, let’s have a plan of action in place to help us move through the negative thoughts into a place of possibility.

I already hear you thinking, how the heck do I do that Carrie?!

I’m going to share one possible plan you can use step-by-step next time you need to break out of the culture of comparison. But I encourage you to adapt this to your personality, interests, etc. which may mean iterating a few times, and adjusting the steps as you use them.

Now let’s dig in.

Step 1: Acknowledge and Observe

What are you feeling? What do your thoughts look like? How do these feelings show up in your body?

It’s important to be curious here about what happens when we feel triggered because we need to know when it’s happening to do something about it. It’s likely your thoughts and physiological response will be similar with each negative experience of artistic comparison.

Why? Because usually the negative self-talk comes from the same or overlapping issues around mindset.

Growing up I never felt skillful enough with my art so I’d look at a peer’s work and think I’ll never measure up or, I’d see art from history, and feel achieving those effects in my own work was impossible.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽I’m curious, do you observe a recurring thought or concern that gets triggered when you’re experiencing a negative comparison? If you’re comfortable, I’d be grateful to have you share it in the comments below.

There is good news here: the thoughts that come up for you, when you feel triggered by comparing your art, tell you something.

And when you identify what that is, you can do something about it. 


Step 2: Identify the Outcomes that Trigger you

Spending time reflecting or journaling, which I highly recommend, can help you dig a bit deeper and begin to unpack what you truly want for your art.

Here are a few questions to journal on:

Why does this trigger me?

What do I wish I could do that they do?

Why is it important? 



Ask why several times after answering each question to see how much further you can go.

When you clearly unpack what you truly want, and why, it becomes a great motivator to take action.

Step 3: Create a Plan

There are several artists who have triggered my feelings of comparison at different times, and I’ll tell you who at the end of this video. By being curious about my state of mind and reflecting on what exactly they do in their art, I found overlapping topics or themes.

(1) unusual or nontraditional use of materials;

(2) hyper realism; and

(3) a community element.

Once I started to see this over and over I started to think, what can I do about it? I’ve slowly explored work and ideas that incorporate at least one of the elements into my own work.

My experience was organic; I sat with these ideas and asked myself how they might relate to my current work, and do that when I show up to my studio.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽Now that you’ve had a minute, can you see any overlapping connections between the artworks that trigger your feelings of comparison? Share these qualities in the comments below

Step 4: Incorporate your Plan into your Practice

My plan is pretty simple: consider the elements and ideas that trigger me in my own art.

Now I said the plan was easy, not the putting it to practice. It’s taken years of slow steps, of testing, exploring new series, and evolving. And I don’t ever expect this to really end.

But what I can say is I make better, stronger artwork that reflects my unique voice and style by engaging in this process.

For me, the community element has been hard to figure out. In my Anonymous Woman series it was about a specific group or community of women.

In my Women Who Tattoo series I’m celebrating women in the local tattoo community.

But I’ve always wanted more participatory elements, and I’m starting to explore this with my art about being a primary caregiver.

Right now this looks like a public project on Instagram, where I invite primary caregivers to finish the following sentence. I am a primary caregiver; I…

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 (And if you identify as a primary caregiver, I’d love you to join me, I’ve linked that Instagram and the anonymous form for you to fill out below.)

And that’s only the first step. But I never would’ve gotten here if I hadn’t seen Candy Chang’s Before I Die project. Or, the skill and event-like exhibitions of CJ Hendry. Or the use of nontraditional materials like Jen Stark.

Comparison can be related to the word competition, where someone wins and someone loses. This for me is where the idea of comparison goes wrong. Making art isn’t the Olympics where only one person gets a gold medal for acrylic paint. And the only person that loses out is you if you stop making or avoid your studio.

Today’s video is brought to you by my premium program Self-Taught to Self-Confident. If you are tired of spinning tires spending money on classes that teach you how to paint like someone else and are ready to make art that reflects your unique voice and style, this program is for you. 

Self-Taught to Self-Confident walks you through building strong foundations to draw and paint whatever you want so you can confidently build a practice to show up regularly for your art and begin to explore what you want to say. Hop on a call with me to see if you’re a good fit and walk away with a clear plan for your art today.

Comparison is not the reason to stop making. 

Feeling triggered is an indicator that you care. 

That it matters.

I hope today you’ll take some time to reflect on moments of comparison that triggered your inner critic. Through:

Step 1: Observing,

Step 2: Identifying the thoughts and feelings you have,

Step 3: Creating a plan and,

Step 4: Incorporating it into your practice.

Your moments of comparison can propel you forward into opportunities for new growth, and if you feel all over the place with your art, this gives you a strategy grounded in the values that matter most to you.

One thing I didn’t talk about today was the one person you should regularly compare yourself to: your previous you. I have a few videos about that, and how to actually measure and see your own growth, which I’ve linked below:

Who you should really compare yourself to

How to use a baseline drawing to improve your art

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 Now it’s your turn: what’s something that surprised you from today’s conversation? Be sure to like and subscribe to support Artist Strong and then share your takeaways in the comments below. 

Thank you so much for watching. 

Remember: proudly call yourself an artist.

Together, we are Artist Strong.


Use this calendar to chat more about Self-Taught to Self-Confident: