I was reading a great article about 18th century pastel portraits last night and decided that I would work on a pastel self portrait today. I worked all morning and had the sinking feeling that it wasn't looking too good. And, as a result, I became all too frustrated.
As I work more, I am able to deal with frustration better, but the truth is that I feel very overwhelmed when my expectations don't meet up with my ability. I set myself up for trouble with this pastel because my expectations were set on masterworks, which are far beyond my skill level. The other factor is the medium; the fact that I find pastel extremely difficult made me even more frustrated.
The question is, how does one deal with frustration? Here are some tips that will help.
1: Stop Working.
When you feel frustration coming over you, lay down your pencil and step away. Don't work while you feel frustrated because only bad things can happen. You're essentially digging yourself into a hole. Don't abandon the work after you feel frustrated because you'll return to the work once you've cooled down.
2. Do Other Things.
As hard as it is sometimes, the best course of action is to engage in another activity or work on something else . Do whatever can take your mind off of it. The standards are always to take a walk or whatever, but the important thing is to not dwell on it.
3. Realize That it's Difficult.
Realizing that art is mind-bogglingly hard is an important realization. This isn't meant to scare you into not working, but you've got to realize that good drawings or paintings don't spring up immediately. It's a long process that can cause much anguish. If you put the right amount of pressure on yourself, then you'll make good work.
4. Return When You've Chilled Out.
Once you've settled your nerves then it's okay to pick the pencil back up. You'll also find that you notice things about the work that you hadn't seen before. When you put the work aside for a day or two then your eye has a chance to rest, which allows sharper focus once you return.
All in all, everyone gets frustrated at one point or another. Nothing ever comes easy that is worth having. And knowing when to let yourself rest is as important as knowing when to work. I'll leave you with a quote from Bouguereau about the topic:
When asked by a journalist if he worked quickly, Bouguereau replied:
"That depends. I produce a lot because I work all day long, without any breaks. It is the only way in fact of achieving good work. Often I find the desired gestures for my figures immediately; in that case, my painting is quickly completed. If, on the other hand, things don't go the way I want, I put the canvas aside for a day or two and wait till I feel better disposed. I never work on one picture only but have three or four in progress in my studio; that way, if a model doesn't turn up one day, I don't have to sit around with my hands in my pockets, I can work on the others."