How important is confidence to an artist? Why can’t an artist just do what they’re gonna do? Is self-esteem a factor? Are we really gonna talk about feelings?
Being an artist, or any creative professional, requires a level of confidence to produce your best work. Constructive criticism is beneficial and necessary to develop your skills. But, the smallest of slights aimed at your talent, even those imagined or unintended, can erode your confidence. Before you know it, this has manifested into an inability to create.
It’s happened to the best of us. You know exactly what I’m talking about: your second grade teacher chose someone’s project over yours to hang in the hallway, you spent weeks working on your project and still didn’t place in your high school art competition, you weren’t accepted into a juried show as an adult, or the client isn’t thrilled about the logo you created. None of these possibilities reflect on your talent, yet these common situations leave us feeling humiliated.
Even though we know being embarrassed is illogical, or even if we barely remember that brief insignificant rejection from the second grade, these types of things can leave a mark. How much of your self-confidence has dwindled over the years? Whatever it was that sent your creativity into a tizzy, let’s repair these small but powerful dings on your inner creative soul.
This sounds a bit scary. Actually, it’s one of the easiest things you can do. Chose someone you’re comfortable with, someone who has been at this longer than you. We all know people we admire who have experience and wisdom to share. Most creatives, in any field, will be happy to give feedback when it’s genuinely wanted. Ask for suggestions and comments on areas that could use improvement. You can expect some priceless guidance from a creative veteran. Taking their advice will not only help, but it will give you a sense of solidity and foundation that I promise will build confidence. You’re not looking for compliments or admiration so don’t expect anyone to tell you you’re brilliant and your work is perfect. If they do, you’ve asked the wrong person.
It was Steven King who said: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” That’s 100% true! Anyone who claims they can’t create without inspiration has never worked in a creative profession. You have to produce on command. (so to speak) For most professionals that’s not a problem. the problems unfold when we rush the process. Sometimes deadlines are tight but never, ever, EVER wait until the last minute. Procrastination will almost guarantee you’re not happy with the result. Allow as much time as needed so you’ll feel confident that you’ve done a good job. You can expect changes in direction, plenty of rough drafts, and even starting over. If you haven’t allowed yourself the time you need to adjust and adapt, you will know on a deeper level you’re not producing your best work.
Earning a degree or certification isn’t enough. Techniques and processes evolve over time. What you learned in school may not be relevant anymore. The elements and principles of design will always apply – your fundamentals are priceless. But creative activities aren’t like riding a bicycle. It’s a use it or lose it talent. If you want to stay in demand be a life long learner. Use your skills consistently to develop your talent. Stagnation inhibits growth. Your talent should continue to develop over the entire course of your lifetime. You’re never done.
We all get lost in the creative process. Sometimes you forget where you were headed and land somewhere unexpected. Keep an idea diary and a sketch journal to track your creative process and progress. You’ll be able to backtrack and re-approach. It’s also important to look back at projects you completed years ago – nothing gives you a sense of how far you’ve come than looking back. You’ll gain confidence if you know you’re headed in the right direction.
Experimenting is terrifying. But overcoming challenges is a great way to build your confidence. Don’t expect perfection, but be satisfied with progress. This might mean trying a new medium or working in a different scale. Whatever the case, dive head first into new things and your discomfort will subside. You’ll surprise yourself at the things you’re willing to try in the name of your craft.
Comparisons are never a good idea. Often ‘different from’ is translated in our psyche as ‘not as good as’. You’re an individual. You have different strengths, style, and experience. You bring your own qualities to the mix. If you were just like every other artist, we’d all be looking at the same work all the time. Think of the artists you’ve met in your time. Teachers, other artists, motion artists- each different from the other, each valuable in their own right. If you can appreciate their uniqueness, appreciate yours as well.
It sounds hoki- but it really is about the journey and not the destination. How you create is as critical as what you create. In this case, creative friends serve well. Have long conversations with them about their process and how you approach your own work. Like minded individuals will validate your processes and build your confidence. Learning from each others mistakes and accomplishments is invaluable. These relationships are beneficial towards helping every member of the group consider new perspectives.
Expect to have doubts. Take a second to consider the greatest artists and designers in history. All of them had doubts about their work, talent, career – even the ever confident Dali had doubts. With the work they left behind, those of us working today, have some pretty big shoes to fill. Silence your nagging inner voice – tell it to shut up if need be. Trust yourself, your talent, your skills, and your passions. Your ability to see with creative perspective is second nature – don’t stifle your artist eyes. Believe in yourself and you’ll start to feel more like this guy:
Photo credit: geralt