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You Should Quit, You Just Aren’t Good Enough | Slice Of Pye

By Pye Jirsa on January 30th 2017

“You just aren’t good enough to make it.”

I couldn’t believe the words when I first heard them. My high school art teacher told me these words just after he completed grading my celebrity portrait sketch assignment. There is no need to call out my art teacher by name because honestly, he was operating in the belief that it was in my best interest. But, we will discuss that more in a bit.

Nonetheless, the words stung. I had always dreamed of being an artist, it was one of the few careers I could imagine doing. But after he said those words, I slowly started to compare my work to my peers to find that he was right, I just wasn’t that good.

A pencil drawing from my junior high sketchbook

I had been drawing since I was young, yet my friends and classmates who just picked up a pencil months prior were following instructions and completing incredible celebrity portraits. When I compared my work to theirs, there was no comparison. Their work was hands down better than my own, despite me having spent far more time at the craft. I knew my teacher was right, so I put down my pencil and brush. I didn’t attempt anything artistic for the next decade of my life.

DREAMS AND IDEAS ARE FRAGILE

If you get a chance, pick up and read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The book provides an incredible and unbiased look into Steve Jobs’ life and career. You will come to envy Steve’s ability to hone in on a vision, and you will probably also come to despise his methods of achieving it. Regardless, Steve Jobs understood that the best dreams and ideas start as something incredibly fragile, something easily overlooked or squashed.

Many big thinkers will encourage you to keep your dreams and ideas to yourself, and I would have to agree with these individuals. Most of the time our dreams and ideas come at us as vague and incoherent messes, and while we can see so clearly through that mess towards an ultimate vision, your friends and family most likely will not. Give your dreams and ideas the time you need to mature and be organized into a cohesive plan before sharing them and even at that, be extremely careful who you share them with.

My advice, don’t share them with anyone but your closest friend who can help you to analyze objectively and encourage you once you make a decision.

YOUR BEST INTEREST

My high school art teacher, my father, my friends and family around me, all of them have something in common; they all believe that they had my best interest at heart. Your friends and family believe the same thing, that they have your best interest at heart, and for this reason, there is no point in getting upset or resenting them for what you perceive as “not believing in you.” In reality, your friends and family love you and are acting out of their own fears on your behalf which we will discuss in a later article.

My high school art teacher was a great artist, yet he struggled to make a living outside of teaching. His advice to me makes complete sense from his point of view. “Boy, if I struggle to make a living being that much better than Pye at his age, then he’s truly not going to make it.” For all intents and purposes, as a painter/sketch artist, he was most certainly spot on.

What he didn’t understand was WHY I wasn’t a good sketch artist. He wasn’t judging my ability as a creative, he was simply basing his advice off of one medium of art, sketching.

WHY I SUCKED

Only later in my life did I realize why I sucked at sketching and painting. I am the kind of person that needs variety, I get bored when I work on one thing too long. I need to achieve a result and push forward towards the next thing. That’s just who I am.

When I look back at my high school sketch portraiture, it’s so easy to see this trait manifest in my artwork. In fact, it’s kind of hilarious. I would start a sketch, and I would work really hard on a small piece of it. That small area, maybe it was the sail on a sailboat or the eye of a person, it would look amazing. But, then after a few hours, I’d get bored, and while I might spend 4-8 hours on a single small area of the image, I’d then spend the next 2 hours finishing the entire sketch.

So every single sketch would have one small area that looked great, surrounded by a whole bunch of awesomely below-average crap.

I was a creative at heart, but the medium was incorrect. My teacher had no way of knowing this, nor did he really have any method of testing it.

PICKING UP A CAMERA

Despite being a creative at heart, when I picked up the camera for the first time in 2008 (nearly 12 years after quitting art altogether) I was terrible; I made every classic mistake as you can see below.

Then…

Now…

From lighting to composition to post processing, it was all bad. But, I was in the right medium for my personality. I could go out, shoot, work on something for a day, learn, and then move on to my next shoot. I fell in love with the process (something I discussed in my last Slice of Pye article) and I continued to push forward hungrily absorbing every bit of knowledge, training, experience and education available.

During this process of bridging the “artistic gap” is when it’s absolutely crucial to shut out the naysayers (I will discuss this in the next ‘Slice‘). My work has grown tremendously from where it was, but I am still in no way satisfied. I will always continue to push forward in my desire for progress and growth.

In the end, I am grateful for my friends, family, and even my high school art teacher. They have taught me valuable lessons about the importance of failure, not as a destination, but as a required step along any journey of progress.

I’m incredibly grateful to be where I am and do what I do today, because I was the guy who should’ve quit art long ago.

Check out the other posts in the series ‘Slice Of Pye’:

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About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

19 Comments

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  1. Bilal Akhtar

    Awe inspiring Pye. Nuggets of wisdom.

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  2. sam tziotzios

    Really enjoyed this article but sorry if I got to ask. Whats so wrong with the first pic? :) That was your  bad photo at your begining? Thats a pretty cool pic. I was expecting lines going thru heads, dappled light on face, no scene.  I mean you have a good scene there.
    I see a few minute things like the poses and the busy scene but I’ve seen those in albums.  Unless I am missing something….

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    • Pye Jirsa

      There are a lot of subtle changes I would have made, butI think the most glaring issue with that image is its over processed look. 

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  3. Mircea Blanaru

    Well, between being or aspiring to be an artist and to be a janitor, I prefer the first choice. I don’t compare myself with the impressionists, but if Van Gogh or other painters would listened such an advice from a successful guy of their time, we wouldn’t see today their masterpieces. Not to forget that Van Gogh didn’t sell a painting in his entire life. Well his brother bought some just to help him… It is easy to give theoretical advice in a theoretical ideal world. We know all how unfair the world is. The theory of the elites or the best fit is not nice, at least for me. I believe that all the people have a soul and I also believe that all people must have the right to happiness in this world. And I personally don’t make a big difference between a homeless and a big billionaire…

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  4. Ken Burg

    Great article! Except “For all intensive purposes” should be “For all intents and purposes”

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Apologies, this phrasing error has been reported to our team. I’m in China, having issues logging in and fixing myself. Should be taken care of shortly. Thanks for the comment Ken Burg

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  5. Nicholas Mejia

    Shivani Reddy tag you’re it!

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  6. Shivani Reddy

    Pye Jirsa you should quit…. So I can take over! 

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  8. Lenzy Ruffin

    This goes to show that giving up on a dream has an impact on the world and not just the individual dreamer. There is a massive community of people around the world who became empowered to pursue their dreams through this educational platform that you and the Lins have built. Photography 101 turned my camera from a black box of mystery into a tool that I knew how to use to create exactly what I wanted.

    Receiving a disempowering message like you were given and turning it around in the manner and to the extent that you have is something we should all aspire to emulate. You’re like a real live X-Man with the power to turn crushing words into infinite empowerment for others. Imagine how the world would look if we could all do a little of this. Just keep doing what you’re doing, man.

    Also, the phrase is “for all intents and purposes” not “for all intensive purposes.”

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Thanks for the catch on that phrasing error Lenzy Ruffin! I think all of us have the ability to turn those messages into something to work towards, or even just ignore them all together as we push forward in our goals. It does take one having a single experience of going against the grain and achieving success in order to know that it’s possible though. Appreciate your thoughts! 

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  9. Ram Karan

    Thank you Pye, for giving us a insight about your life. I’m always inspired by your work. Great article, I can really relate to what you have said.

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  10. Jeffrey House

    Interesting article! I have had a lot of people throughout life dismiss my desires/dreams. Looking back, I think most of the people did so out of jealousy. I believe the majority of people are too scared to take a chance – to take a risk – so they try to bring those that do have the guts down to their level – It’s easier than trying to raise ourselves higher.

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    • Pye Jirsa

      Jeffrey House you are absolutely right. It’s generally done out of a kind of love and based on their own fears and thoughts for what you are doing. It’s something that I will talk about in my next article. 

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  11. Ralph Hightower

    Good for you! Although photography is not my vocation, it is a creative outlet for me. Although I bought my first SLR, a Canon A-1, in 1980 that I still use today, I got interested in photography in high school using my parents’ Polaroid Land Camera. Today, I own two film cameras and one DSLR.

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