Hey look, it’s me! How often does that happen? — photo credit: Nicoletta Muscas
I have this piece I started with full gusto about a month ago, and I have not touched it in the past two weeks. True, I have been busy, moving, setting up a new studio, reaching out to potential clients in a new city … but those are just excuses. The real block is I am scared I am not a good enough painter to finish it. Stepping away from the illustrative style I have developed over the past couple of years, branching out and trying something my inner art critic calls ‘more sophisticated,’ I am outside of my comfort zone and am feeling a definite lack of confidence in my abilities.
Perhaps you have seen it, this painting I am talking about? I have posted a few images on my Instagram feed. This one:
Everyone who has come by the studio has commented on it, they love it. I love it so far: the colours; the way I have captured the fishes skin; their shape and movement. I saw a photo shared on Instagram by @sea_legacy, an image originally captured by a photographer I love and follow – @cristinamittermeier. I just knew I had to try to paint it. I was pushing myself, had little expectations of the endeavour when I started sketching then adding paint. But now I am stuck. I am worried I am going to ruin it.
As I stare at this work in progress I am reminded of how lowly I felt about my abilities when I first started this blog. Thinking I had overcome this problem, I now wonder how many more times I will have to battle with myself to prove I am truly capable. Building confidence in oneself as an independent artist is difficult but essential to success. Perhaps it is a good time to remind myself of how I have addressed this issue in the past.
Here is what works for me:
1. Create ➣ non stop, everyday, all day, fill sketchbooks with awful stuff never meant for sale, in fact dedicate one sketchbook, lump of clay, hour of violin practice to crap. Create using unfamiliar methods & materials. No line drawn, colour mixed, shape sculpted, note played is wasted. A little while later you will flip through those efforts and notice a progression, seeing/hearing/feeling that evidence will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
2. Get the stuff online ➣ free blog platform or fancy personal website, facebook, instagram, etsy, pinterest … it does not matter. Maybe only 1/1000 people will appreciate your work enough to open their wallets, but it is definitely much easier to get your work in front of those potential patrons using the internet than knocking on one door at a time. My online following is slowly growing, and sometimes that in itself can be a source of despair, but it is growing. And those people who do follow are incredibly supportive. On those bleaker days I often read through the lovely comments made about my work, a fantastic mood booster!
3. Do not listen to family … too much ➣ I know, I know, controversial, but – unless the family members are artists trying to make a living as such – take what they say with a grain of salt. If Mom or Pop is a university professor in fine arts with several exhibitions under their belts and a couple of pieces displayed in a national museum, ok, maybe pick up a few pointers.
4. Make a daily to-do list ➣ and do it! Soon you will learn what a realistic workload looks like, the lists will probably become shorter, but at the end of the day every item on that list will be checked off and a visual representation of accomplishments feels marvelous.
5. Listen to uplifting music ➣ seriously, it works. I created a playlist on Spotify titled ‘Upbeat‘ just for this reason.
6. Exercise every day ➣ walk away from the studio at least once a day and do some stretching, leave the building and go for a wander, download a yoga app (I use Downdog – they have a great free version). When I worked long hours in visual effects I started participating in ‘push up o’clock’. Every hour I would do a set of pushups and stretches with my colleagues who shared the same office space. It helped to clear my head, and my posture was never better.
7. Change the inner dialogue ➣ stop the downward spiralling loop of ‘What the %&@$ am I doing? Who do I think I am, Van Gogh? No one is ever going to want to pay me for this crap!’ when it starts. STOP! and say this instead, ‘I am working hard, I am improving my art everyday. Hang in there, things will get better.’ Every. Single. Time. Until it becomes natural. Because getting down on yourself and wallowing around in your PJs on the couch in front of the TV is definitely NOT going to find you more patrons/clients.
8. Join a group of artists ➣ if one is not around, start one, and listen to their feedback. This can be a lonely profession, hours, days, weeks alone in the studio are not conducive to positive thinking. Urban sketch crawls, life drawing sessions, dance classes, check out what the local community centre has going on. Instagram communities like Candace Rose Rardon’s monthly #momentcatchers project are a great way to connect.
9. Take a class ➣ maybe an advanced class in a medium you are already familiar with, or something entirely new. Never stop learning. Along with improving a technique or picking up a new one, you may meet new friends in the field, and teachers are a great source of positive feedback.
10. Finish! ➣ stick with a piece, resist the urge to procrastinate or multitask, and finish it. Repeat. Finishing means pushing past that disabling feeling of ‘I’m not good enough, this is too challenging.’ Finish over and over again and that feeling will start to fade as you prove to yourself that you are a capable artist.
So, I am stuck on that last one, finish. My way of addressing it, other than sticking my head in the sand and hoping the issue will go away? I am working on smaller pieces like this one:
It started out a bit rough, I was not entirely sure there was going to be anything appealing on the page at the end, but I told myself it did not matter. Small, quick, great excuse to get outside, out of the studio, and wander into a forest on a beautiful day. In the end this exercise proved I can pull it off, there is no need to worry. Now it is time to get back to my fish and finish.
Thank you for being part of my online community. You mean more to me than you may know.