Does fear of failure and criticism constantly stop you from producing or sharing your art? Have you ever tried to create a specific art piece only to become increasingly frustrated with yourself after failing multiple times? Have you ever just wanted to give up creating art at all?
I am going to start out by saying that I am by no means the most confident person in the world. I struggle with bouts of insecurity as much as the next person. However, I vehemently believe that consistent hard work and dedication produces results. Thus, ANYBODY can be or achieve ANYTHING they set their hearts and minds to, whether it's becoming an artist, building a house or losing thirty pounds.
While I agree that it is necessary to be realistic in life and that a particular person's life situation might lead him or her to faster recognition or results, I 100% believe that consistent steps in the right direction, no matter how small, will eventually get you to where you want to be. Nothing truly rewarding in life comes easy, but keep in mind that the more difficult the climb, the more one grows along the way, and the greater the victory. Even if you aren't beaming with confidence 24/7 (which is completely normal), if you know what you want, are willing to prioritize your goals over everything else you have going on in life, and put in the consistent hard work, you'll get there. Period. You have to believe this in your bones.
This post is mostly for those who have found that art is their one true calling, wish it to ultimately be their way of making a living, and have been working at improving their skill for a considerable amount of time. If this is you, and you are seeking to pursue art professionally, you do have to acknowledge that it's not only going to be hard work to get there, but to keep creating consistently once you do. Artists need to have a natural curiosity and desire to challenge themselves, to be willing to make mistakes, and to constantly analyze their work in order to set new goals. We are also, many times, completely in charge of getting our names out there effectively in order to get clients and/or sell our work. All of this means believing in ourselves and what we have to offer. On top of everything else, we need to be able to take criticism constructively and not let it demotivate us.
For me, being an artist means to be inherently courageous. We need to be courageous to choose the artistic path in life while everyone around us tells us this isn't the “safe" route. We need to have the courage to believe in ourselves and our work in a sea of amazing and talented artists. We need to be brave enough to share our work and thought processes with the world which, in most cases, was created by us and us alone. We need to be brave enough to price on our work and take criticism. The list goes on and on. If you have already decided that you are going to be an artist and have been working at improving your skills for a while, it already means you are brave enough to have taken a challenging path.
Keep in mind that we are all human and it's normal to struggle with phases of insecurity and frustration every now and then. If you have come to know yourself well through whatever experiences life has put you through, and you have 100% concluded that NOTHING in the world brings you as much happiness as creating art (high five!), you need to find a way to manage the negative thoughts and feelings that may arise and find a way to keep going. Next, I will share a few strategies that help me stay happy and productive.
Key Ideas to Stay Happy & Productive as an Artist
1. Don't rush your process
Creating an amazing artwork takes time! The creative process can (and should) involve a phase of study and preparation before even starting a final piece. Do whatever practice you feel you need before starting with the final artwork! Resist going straight to the canvas, paper or whatever it may be. Enjoy the process of studying subjects and exploring supplies (sketchbooks are AMAZING for this!). Remember it's about the road and not the destination. For example, when I am preparing to paint a portrait, I first practice drawing (or even painting) individual facial elements that I know are difficult for me. I also make sure to sketch faces in the angle I am going for several times before actually starting my final painting. Something else that you can do is plan and prepare your color palette. Many things can be done to ensure an overall better outcome.
I have found, at times, I tend to get a bit anxious to finish my work after already having spent a considerable amount of time on it. This anxiety makes me do things too fast without actually thinking of what I am doing and many times I end up ruining a piece or simply not doing as best as I could because I tried to rush it. I need to remind myself that great work requires concentration and patience.
2. Work on Art Fundamentals and take classes
Being a professional artist requires becoming an expert on the Fundamentals of Art (Form, Color, Perspective, Composition, Value/Lighting, and even Anatomy). The more knowledgable and experienced you become in these basic topics, the more confident you will become overall. No matter what your subject or technique of choice is, keep making time to study and practice Art Fundamentals throughout your artistic journey. By doing this, you will feel more capable of taking on different subjects and compositions.
Look up resources online, buy books, invest in classes or workshops in your city! Being able to talk with professors and getting feedback from others is very useful. I also highly recommend continuing to develop your observational skills by using references and drawing from life. This will REALLY improve your work! I personally believe that, no matter how skilled an artist has become, he/she should always make time to study the basics.
3. Know when and who to share your work with
To be perfectly honest, I think beginner artists should wait a bit to start sharing work online. I think if someone is just starting out, he/she should first try getting feedback from people he/she knows at a personal level, perhaps family and friends. Afterwards, seek feedback from art or design professors or people more knowledgable in art that can actually critique your work. Start getting a feel for people's reactions to your art and how to deal with other peoples' criticism in positive ways so that you can actually grow from it. Following this natural process will ensure that your abilities are already at a specific level by the time you start putting yourself out there for the world to see, and you'll have developed a bit of confidence in yourself. I feel like the online world can be quite harsh and can be potentially discouraging to someone just starting out.
Once you feel more confident and have gained some knowledge about Art basics, by all means, start sharing! All kinds of art, whether its visual arts, music, literature, acting, etc., is meant to be appreciated by others. We create so that ultimately, our work can be seen. We create for an audience. Due to this, if we ever want to pursue an artistic career, the sooner we are able to put ourselves out there and open ourselves up to constructive criticism, the faster we will grow.
4. Learn how to take criticism constructively
As artists, we simply have learn to take criticism. This can be very hard because art is so personal and it takes a lot of energy to create. Harsh criticism can be hurtful and/or discouraging, no matter what point an artist is at. It is, therefore, imperative to develop a somewhat thick skin and/or positive coping mechanisms in order to move forward.
Accept that anyone who is willing to put him/herself out there is going to get criticized at one point or another. Not everyone will like you or what you do, nor is it your job to make everyone like you. The sooner you realize that it isn't your job to please everyone, the better. It is important to keep in mind who the comments are coming from. If you are being harshly criticized by someone who has absolutely no experience in what you are doing, take those comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes people are mean just to be mean and their actions/words say more about them than they do about your work. All this said, PLEASE learn to accept peoples' praise. Be proud of how far you've come and thank them for admiring your work!
5. Use other artists' work as inspiration but never compare yourself
As I mentioned before, every one of us is different. We all have different levels of expertise depending on the amount of time we've been at it, different likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and have lived/are living totally different life situations. No matter how much you try, your artwork will never look 100% like somebody else's. And you SHOULDN'T WANT it to look like somebody else's! The only thing you should be focusing on is on developing your own skill and style.
Don't get me wrong, admiring and getting inspiration from viewing other artists' work is perfectly fine as long as we are in a good headspace, but thinking you'll never be able to get to that level is damaging and unnecessary. Study other artists' work to start realizing what kind of styles you are drawn to and get specific ideas from them to apply in your own work. Don't try to copy unless it's for specific studies you will be keeping to yourself.
Never compare apples to oranges!
5. Kill the perfectionist inside you and turn into a curious explorer
In my blog post titled How I Killed My Perfectionist Demon and Why Perfectionism is the Worst I talk about the dangers of perfectionism. As with any other aspect of life, we should be striving for progress and not perfection in our work. Perfectionism and fear of failure are two of the greatest enemies of any creative being and can attack at any moment in the creative process, even when one is a skilled artist. Sometimes fear of failure attacks before even starting a piece, as we stand in front of an empty canvas or paper, totally intimidated by the blankness. Or maybe we begin an artwork happy and confident only to grow more and more frustrated with ourselves after making a few mistakes. Or it can even happen after we're done! Sometimes we finish our work and are perfectly happy with its outcome, only to come back to it a few days later to find that you don't like it very much anymore. All of these experiences are very normal. The point is not to let any of this stop you from keeping at it!
Realize nothing is EVER going to be perfect and there is ALWAYS going to be more progress to do. And even if you succeed at creating what you think is perfect NOW, I assure you, in a year from now you'll look back at it and notice all the ways that you could have done better. Your standards are going to keep moving higher and higher, which is great and means that you are holding yourself accountable and are moving forward. Keep exploring and producing large amounts of work. Never, EVER let fear paralyze you!
6. Prioritize your mental and physical health
As artists, we are generally passionate people and we love what we do, so it's common to be a bit obsessive when it comes to our work. At times, it's easy to forget about taking care of our minds and bodies. Some of us may even suffer from anxiety disorders or high levels of sensitivity, which make it even MORE important to check in with ourselves and be mindful of our well-being. It is imperative for us to assess whether our work rhythm is allowing us the time we need to rest and recalibrate. If it isn't, put serious consideration into how long you'll be able to keep this up. Going through super busy phases that have you working long hours is normal at times, but if you find this is always the case for you, you need to make necessary adjustments.
It is a priority of mine to make time for my own mental and physical health EVERY SINGLE DAY. The daily actions I take make me a happier and more productive person which, in turn, leads me to create better work. I want to continue making art until I am very, very old, and I hope this is a goal for you as well! Let's take care of ourselves!
7. Set feasible goals for yourself
It is important to constantly set goals for yourself. SMALL, SPECIFIC, and FEASIBLE goals. I personally have a tendency to want to to it all and get overwhelmed because my focus is completely scattered and end up doing only a portion of everything I wanted to do. I am working on being more realistic when setting my goals and on choosing specific subjects or techniques to practice in a particular amount of time. Be honest about your life situation and be kind to yourself when you are setting your goals. Make your plans and focus on achieving one thing at a time once they are set. With every success you'll become more experienced and confident in your skills and you'll be able to progress much faster. Don't forget to praise yourself for your achievements! Read about my methods for setting goals and planning my days in this post.
Remember that there will ALWAYS be to more learn, no matter how skilled you become as an artist. In a year from now you'll look back at your work and be able to tell how much you have improved. Then you'll set new standards for yourself and these will continue shifting throughout time.
8. Remember to always, ALWAYS stay positive
This is very important in all aspects of life. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL to face any type of challenge with an “I can do this" attitude. When you start something believing you will fail, you're probably going to fail. If you try to do something and don't succeed, try again tomorrow! If you ever feel a sense of frustration bubbling up inside of you, take a break and remember that every action causes a reaction, which means that if you are trying you are getting a little bit better each time, even if it doesn't seem like it. You have to know, deep within yourself, that you can do anything if you keep trying. Embrace failure and shift your mindset so that you start viewing mistakes as discoveries and milestones that you are moving past in order to become a talented artist.
I want to end this post by reminding you that everyone around you is scared and nervous to a certain degree. We're human and life is unpredictable and challenging. The fact that you have already put in the work of self-discovery to realize that art is this important to you sets you apart in a very positive way as is. Most people keep moving forward without ever giving thought to what it is they truly want in life and settle for what is easier and more practical. You didn't! This, to me, means you are already very courageous! Whatever fear or anxiety comes your way, channel it into positive actions that will help move you forward and don't ever give up.
Thanks for reading and have a great one!
“Creativity takes courage."
“Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented
as a consolation prize."
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing,
doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Do you have any personal strategies that help you deal with negative feelings that pop up when you are working? Have you ever given up on creating art for a long period of time? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.
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