In today’s art podcast we are talking about how to be a more confident artist. Is your lack of self-confidence holding you back?
I don’t think it matters how experienced we become as artists, we all have this feeling at some point. But it can become a real problem when artist self-doubt just doesn’t go away because if we don’t learn how to get past it, it can stunt our progression as artists.
And I do speak from experience because I used to be very unsure of my place in the art world, even as I did become more experienced, and it was only through forcing myself to be brave that I overcame that problem. But, we’ll talk more about that later!
Anyway, we thought we’d start by looking at what might be causing your lack of self-confidence.
Does your lack of self-confidence come from early on?
The lack of confidence might not be just about your art. It might come from something much deeper that came from much earlier on.
I think some of how confident we feel can come from when we were kids and we carry that into adulthood
I remember listening to the hypnotist Paul Mc Kenna talk about him and one of his friends and how their different upbringings made a difference to their confidence. His wealthy friend was told that he could do anything and received a lot of encouragement. If he wanted to learn something his parents could find and pay someone to teach him. Having other people with such belief in you will probably rub off.
Did you lose confidence in your art from a comment years ago?
You could, subconsciously or otherwise, be reacting to a comment someone said about your art years ago, whether that was a teacher, a friend, or even a parent.
And it’s surprising how long a negative comment can stick with you. And I do think that the younger you are, the deeper the cut, because when we’re young, particularly as a teenager, we are already going through a confidence crisis, and every negative comment seems amplified.
But even comments which were meant to help us learn and not actually meant in a negative way, can still come across that way. So you have to ask yourself, was the comment meant in the way you took it, was it even valid and is it still valid now?
Remember that all art is different and there isn’t an artist anywhere who creates art that everyone loves. What one person likes, another won’t so ultimately it’s all down to someone’s opinion, and does that one person’s opinion really matter?
You may have made a decision that your art is bad
When I was at college I was terrible at typography, part of the reason was that we had to hand-draw it as there were hardly any computers and I was bad at it. The only project I had real problems in passing was one where I had to hand-draw the lettering on a logo. I kept having to redo it as it got rejected by the lecturers. I decided I must be terrible at typography. Years later I went to a graphic design interview, they asked me what my design strengths were. I said my ideas and my illustration. They said Oh, I really like your typography, I was gobsmacked.
You might not be confident in your art for many reasons
It could be a lack of encouragement from friends and family
For example, my parents were really underwhelmed that we got asked to be speakers on Adobe Max. Sandra’s thought she was a movie star. It’s not that they aren’t supportive, I just don’t think they realised how big it was for me.
I have heard of other artists who paint in acrylics and their parents don’t think it is “proper art” as they should be using oils.
If you are not getting the encouragement you feel you need, it might be better to seek that elsewhere. For example, see if you can find a local art group near you. Meet-up and Facebook are good places to start your search. Alternatively, you might want to join a Facebook Group like our Kick in the Creatives One or an alternative group that wants to cheer you on.
Lack of confidence because you are a beginner artist
So your lack of confidence in your art might be valid, simply because you’re a beginner and so you have a lack of experience. In that case of course you’re not going to be confident in your art.
But, just because you’re not producing art you love, that doesn’t mean that you should question if you have a place in the art world. I’ve said this before, that there is absolutely a place for beginners in the art world, because that’s where all artists start.
You just have to overcome that fear of being bad, because if you can’t accept the art that doesn’t work, you’ll never be able to learn from them and improve.
Feeling inadequate you didn’t go to art college
You might feel like you’re not a real artist because you didn’t go to art college. Remember, good art can come from anywhere. You don’t have to have had formal training. In fact, you may be more experienced if you have had to learn the hard way.
But If you really feel that your lack of training is a problem don’t let that hold you back, There are plenty of places that you can learn nowadays. For example, on Ep 93 we spoke with Carrie Brummer on the Podcast and she teaches an online art fundamentals course, And on episode 73 we spoke to Kevin Murphy from Evolve who teaches artists from beginners to paint to a professional level in oils.
See his blog post for more places to learn how to draw
Of course, there’s also loads of free content on Youtube if you don’t mind hunting around a bit.
Afraid of what other people think of your art
It might be that you’re afraid of what others might say or think of your art. But going back to what I’ve said before, no matter how good you get, not everyone is going to like it.
Also, you have to question the motivation of the person who openly airs their negative opinion to you. Are they even knowledgeable enough to have one?
Are they trying to discourage you, because maybe they are lacking in self-confidence themselves? Right or wrong, some people will do that.
But of course, there are some people who will air their opinion because they want to help you improve, and we need those people. It’s knowing who to listen to and how to take comments as they were meant. It’s easy to be offended by something when actually, it’s the very thing you needed to hear to help you get better.
But ultimately, does it really matter what most people think anyway? Probably not.
Your Inner critic – those little voices in our heads
Everyone has an inner critic, but some people are just better at pushing past it. Instead of looking at all of the things you don’t like about your art, look instead at the things you do like. See how you can build on that.
A bad day working on your art has knocked your confidence
You might simply have had a bad day at the office (and of course by that, I mean in the art studio). In other words, your last piece of art didn’t work out well, so it knocked your confidence for the next. And that’s a danger zone, because If you go into something already thinking that you can’t do it, then the results will reflect that and then you find yourself on this merry go round which can be really hard to get off.
And I’ve been guilty of this myself. If something doesn’t work, it really throws me and I start asking myself if I’ve just been fluking all along! And there was a time when it would stop me from making art at all, sometimes for weeks. But the difference now is that I know that not everything can be a success. You just have to pick up your pencil and do another.
Fear of trying something new in case it’s bad
You might not feel confident because you are afraid to try something new because it’s not what people “know you for” ie maybe you really want to paint abstracts but are afraid to try because you are good at painting landscapes and that’s what people expect you to do.
Sometimes we get locked into doing something we feel we should do rather than want to for lack of confidence
Shyness or fear of appearing big-headed
Another problem can be shyness, or fear of blowing your own trumpet, in case someone thinks you’re big-headed. But what is art for if it’s not to share?
When we are kids we grow up, quite rightly being told that we mustn’t show off, but we shouldn’t mistake feeling good about what we create, with showing off. That is not the same thing.
And I used to feel like that when I started out. But over time, you realise that if this is going to be a big part of your life, then, of course, you’ll want to share it. And if you want to take your art seriously, then you have to share it. How will people see it otherwise?
That kind of feeling can stop you from promoting your website or sharing your blog, or sharing your art… which of course you want to sell!
If you think about it, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at someone if they were selling their services online if it was what people consider as an ordinary job. Maybe a cleaner, or a dog grooming service, something like that. But because you are having to share a skill, then suddenly, it feels uncomfortable to say, look at what I made. It’s for sale here.
But it’s the same thing!
Lack of confidence in your art can hold you back from opportunities
Lack of confidence can make you afraid to approach Galleries, in case they say no. If they do, it might not even be because they don’t like your work, it might just be a bad fit for them. I must admit I have approached galleries in the past and I hate it, it’s not so much that I am scared of showing the art, it’s more not feeling like I am good at selling and will get rejected
Lack of confidence can also stop you from entering competitions in case your art gets rejected. The thing to consider here is that everyone has to start somewhere and choosing a winner is about different tastes as much as anything else. There have been a couple of winners of Portrait Artist of the Year who I haven’t thought were very good at all.
A lack of confidence can also lead to a fear of saying yes
And that’s one thing I’ve tried not to do. And thank goodness, because if I had said no to Youngman Brown, when he invited me to be a guest on his podcast, then Tara, we would never have met, Kick in the Creative’s wouldn’t exist and you, probably still wouldn’t be drawing by hand again.
And I remember being terrified at the time, worried I might stumble on my words, or worse still, go completely blank mid-sentence! But with a bit of encouragement from Paul, I did say yes, and that was the start of a whole new chapter in my art journey. So since then I’ve made a point, never to say no out of fear.
Mentioned in the podcast
Ways of building our art self-confidence
Let’s look now at some ways we can help us to feel motivated and to build our self-confidence.
Listen or watch motivating things
- motivational speakers Ted talks, Google Talks, 99u and podcasts.I used to listen to Tony Robbins a lot.
- Read positive books
- Also mentioned – Mel Robbins 5 second rule (sorry I thought it was 2)
Find positive, encouraging people to hang out with
One of the best things you can do, is to find other, positive, encouraging people to hang out with – whether that’s in person, or online. Finding your kind of people helps you realise that you do have a place and you do fit in.
Creative people think differently to other people I think, and not finding your tribe, can make you feel out of place in the world, even if you don’t realise why.
I remember when we interviewed Andy J Pizza, and one thing that stuck with me is when he said that, at school he felt like a penguin amongst a flock of Seagulls. They were all flying, but he found himself only able to waddle around. But when he discovered art and creativity, suddenly, he found water and whilst the seagulls could only paddle around on the surface, he was able to fly underneath, something the Seagulls couldn’t do.
And I really related to that story. It’s about finding where you belong, and part of that is by finding other people who get who you are and love you for it.
And by the way, if anyone wants to go back and listen to that episode with Andy J Pizza, it’s episode 66.
Keep positive clippings and comments about your art
Keep positive clippings of things people have said about you and your work, put them somewhere you can see them. As I have mentioned before I have some of the lovely comments we have had about KITC pinned on the noticeboard above my computer. Every now and then I will read some of them to give me a boost.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Something else that’s useful, is to think, what’s the worst that can happen if you do that thing. Generally, if you make mistakes, the people who matter, won’t think badly of you in any way at all… And the people who do, just don’t matter anyway.
Take small steps and build-up
We could talk about how a year ago if I had suggested to you that we try an Instagram Live you would have said No way and now you say – Ooo yes I like that idea a lot. Confidence builds over time
Above all, just keep doing it! Don’t let your lack of confidence in your art stop you from doing what you love.
Practice your art., the more you do something, the more confident you’ll feel in time.
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This week’s creative question
Q. What is your greatest accomplishment in your art journey to date?
The best answers will be read out on a future podcast.
You can Tweet us your answers @KickCreatives or let us know in the Facebook Group, which by the way if you haven’t already joined, I highly recommend that you do! We will put the question up there and also on the Facebook page… and of course, on our Instagram page @kickinthecreatives.
If you have any suggestions for the podcast or our challenges please feel free to get in touch.