Try Something New

You Never Know Where It Might Lead You

. . .

“Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.”
– Salvador Dalí


There is a heavily researched and highly regarded rule of thumb that 10,000 hours is all it takes to be really good at whatever you choose to do. It’s the idea that you do not have to be outstanding now at what you do, to be successful in the future.

Obviously, this takes a lot of time and if you were to become an expert in 10 years, that is 2.74 hours of practice a day for the next 3,650 days.

I’ll be honest with you – I did have to read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (the book that 10,000 hour theory comes from) my junior year of high school and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

One thing that stuck with me was the 10,000 hour rule. Not because I was inspired to try it myself, it was the exact opposite. I gave up on spending 10,000 hours on a single art form. In doing so I might limit any perfection I could have reached – but I think it only expands my opportunities.

As a 17-year-old, I can say with certainty that I am not an expert at anything. However, the progression of my art did come from a lot of practice and, along the way, valuable experiences.

I’ve learned how to find inspiration, deal with inevitable change, and take most opportunities that come my way. I’m still figuring things out but for now, here are some choices I’ve had to consider recently as I take my first steps as an aspiring artist.

Libby Lewis sharing her work at the Dalí Museum’s Fashion Design program for teen creatives


Willing To Try


Usually, my inspiration comes from seeing others’ art and saying, “I want to make that,” or “something similar to that” (… for legal reasons, of course).

Knowing that a human being created art that I find so amazing inspires me to do the same for other aspiring artists. That spark of inspiration an artist finds within herself sets off this chain reaction for me to get moving and create the unexpected.

When I find it, I need to act fast because that feeling could change after a period of time and dissipate into just an idea instead of physical creation.

“2010 Grand Canyon Celebration of Art 178” by Grand Canyon NPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I can act fast and use those sparks to create, but I am sometimes left with a feeling of knowing I can do more when I complete a work of visual art. In that case I try new materials to get there and force myself to grow.

It can be uncomfortable, and I’ll never know how people will respond but I have learned that experimentation can lead to two things. One, a work of art that looks terrible and is kind of embarrassing to share.

Or, two, an amazing discovery of new media which allows me to create something I’m proud of. So if there is a possibility of discovery, why would I ever pass it up?

In eighth grade I completed a piece called American Dream for the Student Surrealist Art Exhibit at the Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg. It was brainstormed, sketched, colored and completed within three days using only Crayola colored pencils and a white-out pen from my art class at school.

Looking back on it, I can see that it lacks artistic complexity and skill. But I was so thrilled with the idea behind it and my ability to finish on time for the deadline, that I considered it a really successful work of art. I was proud.

American Dream by Libby Lewis, 2021 Dalí Museum Student Surrealist Art Exhibit

Three years later, after I put effort and time into developing a new skill (in this case sewing and fashion design), I won a Winsor & Newton watercolor pallet that I then learned to use in order to add to and reimagine past art.

Now, American Delicacy has won two honorable mentions from Scholastic Art and Writing and Calyx Schenecker Art exhibit at HCC.

By being willing to try something new, I expanded my original ideas into something more complex. It was still the same idea, but this time I was using skills I developed after much experimentation and techniques learned in class.

In three years’ time I will probably catch some things that I want to further expand upon and recreate it again because my artist eye will evolve and catch aspects I want to change.

It is not a terrible thing to stick to one art form, especially if an artist finds joy in it, but I wonder if it limits where I can go.

While devoting all my hours to a single skill could result in extraordinary success  – right now, I don’t find excitement in doing one thing. Repetition is key, or so I’m told. But, where’s the fun in that?

Design by Libby Lewis for the 2023-2024 Fashion Design at the Dalí program’s runway show and online exhibit

Finding Confidence


When I was an incoming freshman in high school, I was told I should enter as many art contests as possible. And I did just that. Applying for programs like Fashion Design at the Dalí opened my world up to new and exciting opportunities I wasn’t receiving from anywhere else.

Designing and sewing fashion at the Dalí was one of the first times I felt like my work was being received by more than just my family. Prior to the program I had never designed an outfit in my life, nor had I sewn one. My mom taught me how to sew zippers and pandemic face masks on the machine and that was the extent of my sewing lessons.

Three years later, I have won six awards for fashion, one of them best overall design from the Dalí fashion program and another a Gold Key for the Scholastic Art and Writing contest. It has also led me to become an American Visions nominee.

Unexpectedly, fashion has brought me so much recognition and confidence, but I’ve learned that focusing only on fashion design would limit my creativity in other areas.

As an art student who is still exploring, I want to create as much as I can before I decide exactly what I want to do in life.

It’s hard to remind myself sometimes that art is not a job right now. With the expectations and opinions of others, it can feel like one at times. But I remember that if I can never reach perfection, why stress so much about it?


Finding Lasting Passion


Although people may not respond in a positive way to change, an artist has to be willing to ignore people’s opinions sometimes in order to get where they believe they should be.

I worry that artists constricting themselves to what they’re good at and what people praise them for will drain their ability to transform inspiration into art to the point where they aren’t willing to try new mediums or new forms

My art is going to evolve, it’s unavoidable. As long as the artist changes, so will the art.

Sometimes change goes against what people like, and their support starts to recede. I try to not let others’ opinions deter me from creating the art I like because most of it is just experimentation. And who knows, it could lead to something bigger in the future.

From the Dalí’s 2022 exhibit, “Picasso and the Allure of the South” – Le Déjeuner l’herbe d’après Manet (Luncheon on the Grass, after Manet) by Pablo Picasso. Mougins, 13 July 1961, Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm, on loan from the Musée national Picasso-Paris, Acceptance in lieu Pablo Picasso, 1979. MP217. © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Someone who has been a cause for a lot of change in my art is my Nana. She loves to write poems that are inspired by Monet’s and Picasso’s work. She writes endless poems that mirror what is found in paintings and the writing she creates is so beautiful.

Her passion is so contagious that now I find myself writing them, too.

I have a painting called Rediscovering Strength that I wrote a poem for. I was trying to work out some strong emotions I was feeling.

Most of the time painting or drawing helps with that but I discovered that writing poems fills that desire to really express how I feel so that others can understand and feel a sense of connection to my art.

Rediscovering Strength, by Libby Lewis – painted in the 9th grade

Rediscovering Strength


Head up, shoulders back, wear the smile that covers up
The crumbling soul inside this human
Act smart, be kind, and everything will turn out fine
For you have nothing to fear in this world
That is slowly tearing itself apart

Carry on like nothing happened
Prove to them you have something to give
Ignore that past because it has already taken place
Show the people that you are okay
And win the race because you will be better off

Snap of a twig, howl of the wind, triggers such awareness
Which only multiplies the sound of alarm
So much so that adrenaline is always pumping
Like a startled rabbit who cannot seem to find haven
From the ever-growing storm of shadows

Into the darkness she goes, never looking back
Accepting the past, but
Finding the muscle that can guide her to the light
Rediscovering her strength so that she can march on
Straight into the night


That poem was written over two years ago. Since then I have continued to work on other media and forms of art.

It wasn’t until this month I got the urge to write a follow-up poem of sorts to share how I am feeling now. Although I do not have a work of art to go with this new poem I hope to create one in the near future.


Just Hold On


Time heals everything
Or so I’m told
And experiencing life as a human
I can attest to its truth
And tell you to keep holding on

The rain was pouring once upon a time
Creating storms and floods
Of emotions like grief, anger, fear
But now there is only a drizzle
Every once and a while

The pattern continues
And maybe that’s okay
Because I barely see the startled rabbit
And I’ve grown my muscle
To keep holding on

You have to remove yourself
From a place that gives you suffering
To create a life you feel safe in
But that takes time
And causes growing pains

But I promise you darling
You won’t find comfort in the shadows
And it won’t be pouring all the time
The sun has to eventually rise
And so will you

Making it through
Holding on


I try to focus on never letting the lack of confidence I feel when making art through new media prevent me from creating. Because although I may not receive as much recognition for it as I do for fashion, it has led me to true fulfillment that is lasting. I feel that I have to step away from comfort and success sometimes to find true happiness with my art.

I still submit for contests like Student Surrealist Art Exhibit at the Dalí museum and HCC and I still get rejected. But if my experience has taught me anything, it is to keep trying.

10,000 hours is a lot of time. I know that using multiple art forms limits the amount of time I can spend on each but it has also brought me so much room to grow as a teen artist. And the fear of being perfect comes from others’ expectations so sometimes you need to throw those aside to figure out how you want to grow.

This mindset has given me opportunities to succeed in ways I initially wouldn’t have viewed as success three years ago.

For anyone struggling to find inspiration or improve as an artist, just try something new. You never know where it will lead you.

But hey, if that doesn’t work, there is always the 10,000 hour rule.

Teen designers share their work at the Dalí – photo by Alyssa Rhodes


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