What to Do When You Don't Like What You Create - Joanna Baker Illustration

What to Do When You Don’t Like What You Create…

What to Do When You Don't Like What You Create - Joanna Baker Illustration

It’s something all artists have in common – at some point along our artistic journeys, we will not like what we create. Have you ever worked so hard on an illustration or painting and then felt frustrated because it looked nothing like the vision you had for it in the beginning?

This is actually where a lot of aspiring artists give up. They have an idea of what they want to create and when it doesn’t turned out as planned, they assume making art just isn’t for them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Making art is for everyone, and if you have the desire to create, you already have everything you need to make great art. Sometimes it just takes a bit of a mindset shift to get you back on track!

Here are a few stumbling blocks that I’ve encountered over the years and what I’ve done to work through them:

Judging your practice work too harshly

Time for an honest self assessment. Is the reason you don’t like your work because you are comparing it to other artists you admire? It takes time to build up your skills through practice. And it’s not fair to compare yourself to someone with decades of experience. Many artists start out making work that when looking back years later, they cringe at a little bit. Don’t believe me? Just look at some of my very first fashion illustrations and how my style has progressed over time. Making art and developing your own personal style is a process. The best way to improve is to keep making more art!

Not giving yourself enough time to fully form an idea

Maybe the piece isn’t finished and you’re just in the middle of what I like to call “the ugly phase.” When I’m rendering fashion illustrations with markers, if I were to stop in the middle of the process, it would look pretty terrible! There are lots of little details that go into each sketch and it’s often those last little details that really transform a sketch and bring it to life. Don’t judge the result before you’ve finished.

Creating something that isn’t true to you

It’s easy to get wrapped up in trends or fads. Just think about it it terms of fashion – some trends no matter how hard you want them to work, they just don’t feel like you. (For me – that’s headbands 🤣).

The same thing applies to your artwork. My most successful pieces flow from a burst of creative energy that springs up from a genuine source of inspiration. It has me excited to create, it feels true to who I am as an artist, and I can’t wait to get started! When you genuinely love the subject matter you’re illustrating, for some reason the work just flows easier. Don’t draw what you think you should, draw what you love!

Not knowing when to stop

Have you ever taken a piece of artwork too far? This has happened to me countless times – I get stuck in a creative process loop and add one too many lines or emphasize one section a bit too much and before I know it, I’ve ruined it. Depending on what medium you’re working in, sometimes you can walk it back. But it’s even better to know when to stop ahead of time. This comes with experience. Just remember that every “failed” piece of art is an opportunity to learn. Make a mental note about how you took it too far, step away from your work to reset, and be intentional about each element as you near the end of your next piece.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share for what to do when you don’t like what you create? It’s easy to give into critical self talk – making art is a vulnerable process after all. But if you can find ways to view your progress with kinder eyes, you can silence the inner critic and enjoy the process!


P.S. – I put together a beautiful guide with all the steps I took to make consistent progress towards all my illustration goals. To help you figure out what next steps to take in your own creative journey, download my free guide below: