Saturday, January 23, 2021

Can We Tune Our Level of Satisfaction?

A question came about my recent YouTube video which talked about the mindset that I try to cultivate while painting.

M C  asks: "How do you go from a high level of dissatisfaction to a level of satisfaction when you’re finished?? I find that I’m never satisfied with my work and therefore cannot enjoy it when I’m done."

My answer: MC, I think both of those feelings are vital for success throughout the process. We need the dissatisfaction to push ourselves to improve, but we need the satisfaction to motivate us to keep going.

Paintings don't always turn out well enough to satisfy my inner critic. Even if I do all the steps that I know will help guarantee a good result, I can never be sure it will work out. But sometimes it does, and what that happens, hooray! Either way, I try to trust the process.

Can we harness those twin horses of satisfaction and dissatisfaction? Can foster the emotions we need for success? Yes! 

According to neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, emotions don't just happen to us; we create them. In her book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, she explains where emotions come from and how we can influence our own emotional life. 

In the case of the satisfaction that we get while engaged in a task-oriented activity like drawing or painting, a lot of it has to do with the production of neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, is part of our reward system when we're engaged in a cognitive task.
YouTube video: Painting Mindset
Book: How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain


Jim Douglas said...

MC, I suggest you keep your artwork and revisit it later with fresh eyes. I often find my satisfaction with my artwork increases with time and perspective. I see more of my accomplishments and less of my failures. And if I'm working from life, I worry less about all the details I couldn't successfully capture, and I focus more on the beautiful ones I was able to achieve. And if you revisit artwork from much earlier in your learning curve, you'll see all your small steps of incremental progress condensed into quantum leaps that may give you the needed boost of pride and accomplishment. Give yourself credit!
P.S. And don't compare your artwork to paintings by John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Joaquin Sorolla, or Cecilia Beaux. Or you'll never be satisfied! :)

Michaelangelo Reina said...

This is a great topic, one that I can relate to, and I think most artists can. Thank you so much for the book reference, I am very much a book learner, so sources like that, are very useful to me.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Great question, and answer. I ordered the book Thank you

Richard said...

I often feel the dissatisfaction on my work. Especially now since I went from digital to traditional. But you just have to take it into perspective.
1. Did I do a better job than my prior work? Compare the whole body of work, where did you start. where are you now?
2. What do I like about this work, even if it's something as simple as paint brush strokes or color combinations. Having something you like about it is a reason to like about it
3. Find all the things that you don't like about it, and then do small studies to fix it.
4. Try again, I often do a piece of work and then with a year or two later I redo it.

LivinTheDream said...

Definitely save early work and definitely don't be hasty and throw things out. You'll find in revisiting that you were too harsh on yourself