How to Overcome Artistic Perfectionism

While many of us as creatives are solopreneurs, our businesses and artistic ventures are usually run by two people: us, and our inner perfectionist. That voice inside our heads that can at times push us to do great things, but more often than not can prevent us from attempting the truly wonderful.

How to overcome artistic perfectionism - my top tip for building creative confidence! By Simply Jessica Marie | Photo by Callie Lindsey

photo by Callie Lindsey

In my SJM Art School survey, I asked my fellow budding artists a key question: "What has been your biggest struggle in your artistic journey thus far?" And an incredible amount of the sweet artists who responded felt the same way. They lack confidence in their skills and constantly battle with perfectionism. Just listen to what a few of them had to say:

My biggest struggle has been...

"Trying to be perfect. Being afraid to fail, so I choose not to even try."
"Probably comparison/developing my own unique style and being confident about it, rather than comparing to others and wishing I was better/more like others."
"Feeling like my art isn't good enough to show. A lack of confidence in my work."

And then these two responses stood out to me as incredibly intriguing:

"I feel like I have a lack of talent to begin with - I was never good at art class in school, and I lack patience in honing new skills I feel I'm bad at. But the desire is there!"
"I just get in my own way, I'm a perfectionist! I spend too much time trying to make my art "just so" and "perfect" but I find when I let loose and just paint/design from the heart, my art is ALWAYS better!"

Y'all. I feel you. I've been painting my whole life, and professionally for the past four years. And I would be lying if my inner perfectionist didn't start whispering in my ear each time I pick up a paintbrush to begin a new piece. 

BUT, over the years, I have learned a handful of truly helpful techniques to overcome artistic perfectionism and build creative confidence. And I'm excited to share my top tip with y'all today!



want to hear my 5 top tips for overcoming artistic perfectionism?
i'm sharing my secrets at the creative hub conference this friday!
the online conference starts tonight, sign up below to hear my talk,
and hear from 14 other amaaazing speakers!

ps - use code CHC for $15 off now through 5/23!

We've likely all heard the phrase, "don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle" - right? I firmly believe that, because doing so allows your inner perfectionist to take the reins and say - "See! That artist just created a stunning new line of prints that are selling like hotcakes! And THAT artist just did a live painting event with Kate Spade - your favorite brand! And THAT artist just came out with a How to Paint Watercolors book, which I know yoooou've wanted to do for years! You're not that good, you'll never get there and be as amazing as they are!

Those words are not made up. Those are real examples of what my inner perfectionist tells me each time I see my favorite watercolor "idols" post something new on Instagram. Not very community over competition-y now is it? I think my perfectionist needs to join a local Rising Tide Society group!

So, my top tip for overcoming these thoughts?






What I encourage you to do is first find an accountability buddy - an artist/creative who is at your same "level" (aka, y'all started your businesses or artistic journeys around the same time). Someone you feel comfortable confiding in, and who you consider a friend or potential friend!


don't know where to find an accountability buddy?
this upcoming monday, i'm going to be starting a new facebook group
just for budding artists - which will be the perfect place for you
to connect with others throughout your artistic journey!!

want to be the first to know how to get in the group?
sign up below, and i'll also send you my fav downloadable guide

about how to infuse just 15 minutes of artistic practice into your weekly routine!


Each quarter, set aside time one morning or afternoon to have mini art critiques with one another. For your first critique, pull both your favorite pieces you worked on during those past few months, as well as your not-so-favorite pieces. Have an open conversation with your buddy about what you loved from your favorite paintings (try to point out the technical elements rather than general fluffy terms), as well as what you didn't like from your least favorite pieces. What bothers you about them? What can you learn from that, and how can you grow?


The second time you meet, bring those same pieces back, along with your new set of favorite and not-so-favorite pieces from the current quarter. Go through the same critique process, but this time compare your pieces from this quarter to the pieces from the last quarter - to evaluate your growth!

Because I bet you you're picking up new knowledge each time you create a new painting, but your growth won't be visible to you while you're in that piece or season of life. We don't have parents proudly hanging our work on the fridge anymore, or teachers critiquing our work and assigning us grades - so it's now our job to keep up with our own progress, successes, and failures to see how we can grow!


Taking the time to do this for yourself, and for your accountability buddy (because you'll both want to grow together!) will help you get sassy and talk back to that inner perfectionist of yours. The next time they creep into your mind and say, "Ha! You're attempting to paint that intricate floral piece? Good luck! Hope it doesn't look like a kindergartner painted it!" You can respond with, "Oh yeah? Look how far I've come in the past few months - I know this piece may not be Monet-level, but it is sure going to be beautiful!!"

Because there truly is beauty in the process and progress - and you should get excited about your potential and the progress you'll continue to make in the upcoming months!


Cedarwood Watercolor Map


Custom watercolor wedding map of Boca Grande, Florida by Simply Jessica Marie | Photo by SC Stockshop

photo by the SC Stockshop

And because I love teaching by example, I wanted to do a mini art critique of my own work here with y'all today! I was torn about what pieces to compare, but thought comparing a couple of my watercolor wedding maps would be a fun example!

The photo on the top is the very first watercolor map I ever painted. It was of the beautiful Cedarwood Estate in Nashville, and it was for an editorial shoot with Southern Weddings Magazine. Y'all, I'm fairly embarrassed that this piece is immortalized in print in my favorite wedding magazine, because looking back on it there are so many flaws I would change. But, I have to always remind myself of the beauty of growth! 


Here is what I would say as my critique:

  • I didn't use enough water mixed with my paint to create a soft, delicate aesthetic for the piece. There are a lot of dry marks and areas that would look much better if smoothed and blended with more water.
  • The scale and orientation of a lot of the details are off. For example, the main estate is facing forward, but the area behind it is tilting upward, which isn't natural. The layout should all be the same, to create a cohesive piece.
  • When digitizing this piece, I did not edit the colors properly. They are too dark and muddy, especially in comparison to the bright white area in the top left corner (which was filled in with a font when sent to print).
  • The calligraphy is really chunky, and a bit hard to read. It should have more contrast between the upstrokes and downstrokes (but, I was still learning brush calligraphy at the time!).


In comparison, how have I grown over the past few years in painting watercolor maps? The second map photo is my most recent watercolor map for a sweet SJM Bride!

  • I have definitely gained a better grasp about the amount of water to paint ratio I need when painting! I still love having a more defined clean look, rather than a more abstract flowing watercolor aesthetic - but everything is blended really nicely!
  • The orientation and scale of all of the icons is appropriate. Everything is in the same forward-facing direction, which allows your eye to easily move throughout the piece. 
  • It has taken a LOT of trial and error to learn how to digitize watercolors - but I have finally found a process I love to achieve bright and colorful edited watercolor designs, without losing the quality or over-exposing them. So much so, that I'm even teaching a course about it in the SJM Art School
  • I have since learned how to vectorize my brush calligraphy, which provides a much cleaner look.

How can I still improve, based on this piece?

  • Some of the light areas in the piece could still be a bit more defined. For instance, the pink lines leading from the island to the icons aren't consistent in color, and some could be a tad darker to pop more. Some of the light peach areas of the island itself could also be darker, to provide more contrast and depth so they don't blend into the water. And, certain icons (like the pink elephant), could use a bit more paint to really define them.
  • I love the level of detail I included in most of the icons, but "The Temptation" (a local restaurant) icon could use a bit more definition, to really show that it was a booth at the restaurant. That icon is a tad vague.
  • I love how the calligraphy pops, but it could be a tad more delicate to make the words even more legible!


I hope reading through my own critique helps guide you in how to critique your own pieces! I would recommend first critiquing the piece on your own as I just did - saying these things aloud to your accountability buddy so she/he knows what you are thinking. Then, have them critique the pieces too, so you can gain insight from an outside perspective! Sometimes we're too hard on ourselves and need extra support, and other times someone else might spot an area to improve that we wouldn't have even noticed! 

And one final tip - always write down the details from your critique, so you can go back and read them throughout the year!


want to hear my 5 top tips for overcoming artistic perfectionism?
i'm sharing my secrets at the creative hub conference this friday!
the online conference starts tonight, sign up below to hear my talk,
and hear from 14 other amaaazing speakers!

ps - use code CHC for $15 off now through 5/23!

I hope this tip helps you tackle your inner perfectionist and build your creative confidence! If you've found any other tips helpful that you'd love to share, I would love to start a conversation in the comments below! And if you get an accountability partner and try this technique, I would love love love to hear from y'all as well!!

Please note: This blog post contains affiliate links for the SC Stockshop. I absolutely adore using Shay's amazing styled stock images to enhance my brand aesthetic, and would 100% still do so without affiliate links!