Here are some thoughts I have had about my art in the last few years:
Do I REALLY want to do what I am doing? Maybe I should try my hand at illustrations. Or maybe digital work. Or pastels. Or gouache. Maybe I will be a better artist then.
Why am I not getting MUCH better, MUCH quicker? Everyone else seems to be doing so many things and here I am, not even close to where I want to be.
Is my art even good enough? I should just stop pretending to be an artist.
Do you relate to any of these thoughts? I suspect that many of you reading this might. I have seen so many artists talking about this; there’s even a reddit thread on why so many artists have such low self-esteem.
I don’t know why that is the case, but I do know from personal experience how damaging low self-esteem can be. I have sold work for pennies, have accepted projects that would barely pay for a decent meal, and have never been able to boldly put my work out there (which is so important as a freelance artist!) - all because I thought that was all that my art was worth.
But in the last year or so, I have noticed a change in my thoughts. I am starting to get more confident about my art. I am taking more initiatives, more risks. I feel good about my art, sometimes even proud of it. I see the fails, of course, but they don’t get me down quite as bad as they used to. I am able to take rejections and criticisms in my stride, maybe even learn from them.
So, what changed?
First, I learnt to step away from my art when I felt that it was bringing me down. Earlier, I used to force myself to crank out something, even when I wasn’t in the headspace for creative work. I have now learnt to turn to my other passions (reading, writing) when creating art feels too hard.
Started reading non-fiction graphic novels recently and enjoying them tremendously!
Art-wise, I have had some things I have wanted to do for the past 2-3 years. And it just made me feel like such a loser that I didn’t do them, when others around me seemed to have both more courage and more talent to accomplish all those things. So, I took small steps. I made a website. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step forward. That list of things I wanted to do? It’s getting smaller and I feel better about myself.
Instead of feeling envious of other artists’ success, I tried to focus on what I needed to do to improve my art. It feels hard in the beginning but the more I did it, the less I was bothered by all the things other people were doing.
I used my free time during the COVID lockdowns to take some art courses (I must acknowledge my privilege here). If you’re not able to judge your art objectively, it pays to invest in a course with tutor feedback. For me, the two such courses I took were a huge boost to my self-esteem (because they pointed out all the areas I was good at) and also gave my work direction (by showing me where I needed to improve). Highly highly recommended.
Madagascar Periwinkle drawing for a botanical course assignment
And finally, I also keep a list of all the little wonderful things that I’ve accomplished that year. Every time I start to feel crappy about my art or about myself as an artist, I read through the list and 9 times out of 10, it makes me feel so much better!
These are just some of things that have made me feel more confident as an artist and the list would most likely be different for you. What are some of the things/routines/activities that help you? Share with us in the comments?
If you’d like to read more about how to be more confident as an artist, here’s an essay by Christine Nishiyama I highly recommend.