The Worst Mistake I’ve Ever Made

I should really title this post, The Worst Mistake I am MAKING, because it’s really a constant battle that I think we are all making in our everyday lives. I’m talking about comparing ourselves to other people. This is especially relevant for artists. I find myself struggling with this on the daily. Especially because our lives are flooded with constant imagery on social media in 2020. The non-stop outpouring of content and seemingly perfectly created instagram accounts is utterly nauseating. Now that I have been running 19 Rivoli for 7/8ish years (I’m not really sure exactly) I can definitely look back at some of my mistakes in the early years. 

At the beginning of my photography career I looked at other photographers for inspiration. Mainly photographers based in Southern California but also photographers working in Paris. There was a general aesthetic that was (is?) really popular. Dreamy over exposed images were the hot thing in portrait photography. Sometimes I look at my older images and thing, “Oh god, it looks like a poor wannabe image of such-and-such photographer”. Sometimes the images turned out fine, because honestly it’s also a great thing to be inspired by other photographers. 

I also looked at other photographers and their business strategies and I wanted to do the same thing. I felt “less than” because I wasn’t giving workshops and I didn’t package my prints with frilly ribbons.

The truth was, and still is, that I am not those other photographers and the more I try to be like them, the less I am tapping into what makes me unique. This isn’t applicable only to photographers, but to everyone in every aspect of their lives. The more time I spent looking at others the less time I spent drawing, painting, and creating… doing the things that bring me real joy. Because none of those other photographers were painting or illustrating I thought that I looked confused and messy. Today, I realize that’s what actually makes me special. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I was really worried that people wouldn’t take me serious as a photographer or as an artist if I spread myself across multiple disciplines. 

The take away message is this. Watch out for that little voice in your head that is whispering doubtful messages to you.  Be careful about who you are comparing yourself to on social media. Really do what brings you joy, not what you think you need to be doing to make other people happy or to achieve some external goal. Doing what brings you joy sounds easy but what REALLY REALLY REALLY brings you joy, what comes from some deep down great place of bliss actually takes a lot of silence and meditation, to strip yourself free of what society, your family, and your friends want and expect of you. It means shutting off instagram and marching to the beat of your own drum. 

Today, I’m happy to be doing my thing. I don’t spend too much time worrying anymore if my instagram looks cohesive or is sending the right message. All of that is exhausting to think about. I’m just going to do my thing and hope I attract the kind of people that feel my vibe. 

Also, if you want to read about my painting journey that blog post is here

Also, here are some illustrations that I did recently, if you’re interested in my drawings and paintings I post regular process videos on my TikTok @jamespouliot

Lately, I have been drawing a lot in my spare time between paintings.

I find that drawing gives me a great sense of relaxation, especially in between painting

These simple line drawings emphasize the importance of proportions and line structure.

I hope you enjoyed these drawings.

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