The Art of Artistic Confidence

The Art of Artistic Confidence

the Art of Artistic confidence for visual artists

No Stress Zone!

Sometimes when I start creating a piece of art I approach it knowing full well what is about to happen. I know precisely how the finished piece will look and I absolutely know that someone somewhere will like it enough that they want to hang it on their wall. 

Oh, hang on. No it never happens like that. I occasionally think I am the least confident artist in the history of ever at times, and at other times I just get on with creating art because it makes me happy and I rarely ponder the word confidence at all. Most of the time I have an idea that absolutely just has to go down on canvas but over the years I have learned that if a painting doesn’t sell quickly, it doesn’t mean it will never sell at all.  

There have been times over my many years of producing art when my confidence has hit rock bottom. The feeling of despondency that follows after dedicating a chunk of your life to creating something which might never see the light of day in another home.

I remember about five or six years ago when it hit an all-time low and I was literally having a battle with myself to produce anything. I was in an artistic dry-spot where I would find excuses not to create art at all. I was too busy doing this or that and most of the time I found myself finding other things to do, but none of them filled the gap that remained from not creating art.

It was like I was fighting with myself to create something better than I had ever created before and the pressure was stacking up at times. Here I was with more than a few years of professionally creating art under my belt and I was having a battle with myself to produce something, anything, just so long as it was better than everything I had produced before. 

I started to find excuses to not do anything artistic at all for around six, maybe seven months. I would focus on everything and anything other than creating art and I couldn’t even contemplate picking up a pencil. The artist’s enemy called self-doubt had really kicked in and gained a foothold.  

There was even a period of time when I had almost convinced myself that this whole art thing wasn’t for me. I wanted to give up and I started to look for the out. Any excuse would have sufficed, if anyone had told me to give up back then I would have left my art behind. I just wanted validation that leaving the art scene was the right thing to do, but it never came.

Something was pushing me to carry on. I visited more galleries then I had ever visited before. Possibly in the hope of finding inspiration or more likely that I needed a continuous fix of art. Art has always been my comfort blanket.

Beechhouse Media find beauty in the small things

Everything became a reason for avoiding my own creative output. If a piece of work didn’t sell or if I spotted some amazing art by another artist, I would withdraw from my own creative process even more. Looking back those reasons should have been the most obvious reasons to jump right in and continue creating. 

Two things were happening, self-doubt and a feeling that I would be found out and my creative dream would be over anyway. It is almost a rite of passage for any artist, a feeling of being an imposter. Some call it imposter syndrome but the reality of what it is, is very different.

For artists and other creative types this isn’t a new feeling at all. Over the years so much research around this has been conducted by all sorts of organisations and the outcome each time is that it is something that can be overcome. 

In 1978, clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes discovered that many of the professional women they had studied, believed that they were living a lie. They thought that they owed their success to luck, and often encountered feelings of inadequacy, hypocrisy, and self-doubt. Ever since we know that it affects as many men as it does women and it is a common core of insecurity native to humanity. It’s not a psychological condition and it happens to almost everyone. 

It was though never described by Clance and Imes as being a syndrome. Their study called it a phenomenon and that sets it widely apart from being a syndrome. The important difference between the two is that a phenomenon is something that happens whereas a syndrome is a disease. 

As I said, many studies have been carried out over the years finding that it affects both men and women equally, but it has a tendency to affect overachievers whose problem is that often they are self-critical a little more than anyone else. 

In studies it has been found that one particular demographic seems to be totally unaffected by imposter phenomenon or imposter syndrome at all, and that demographic is as you would expect, those who really are imposters. 

Of course none of this research matters when you are in the middle of an art project and the whole thing falls apart not because you didn’t use the right craft glue, but because you were struck down with these feelings of believing that you or you art aren’t worthy. You start making comparisons of your work against the work of others and then you start to get feelings of inadequacy.  

Thinking back, that is exactly what happened to me all those years ago. I was searching for something to inspire me and I felt that what I was creating probably wasn’t good enough, hence the feelings of I must do better. 

What I could have used back then more than anything was a pep talk and someone telling me not to compare successes to past failures. If a work doesn’t sell that doesn’t necessarily mean that no one likes it, yet that’s one of the first conclusions artists often arrive at. There are many reasons why art doesn’t sell, not always because it is bad. 

I have produced works that sell multiple times over as prints and other works that have yet to see a sale at all. When I do get a sale of course I see this as a success but success as an artist is about so much more than sales. Of course we need sales to pay the bills and buy new supplies, but knowing that your work is loved should also mean something too.

So whenever you get the feeling that someone will find you out, or that you have constant self-doubt, don’t let it niggle away at you, jump back in and start to push your own boundaries even further. This is the only way that you will start to feel like you are accomplishing anything at all. Once those previous boundaries have been pushed you will begin to feel confident once more. 

the Art of Confidence for Visual Artists

Not just self-doubt…

Most of the problems that we artists seem to come across can all be linked to feelings of self-doubt. Sometimes we don’t even recognise our own abilities at all. I can’t draw is a term that many artists still say despite their obvious talents for being able to do just that. 

Sometimes we just need validation. That could be a Facebook like and a positive comment or the most powerful validation of a sale, but occasionally we have to validate ourselves. Stand back and take a look at what we have accomplished to date and focus on our success. 

This is why maintaining a portfolio is such a great idea. Whether you are a visual artist who paints or a fine art photographer you should be able to recognise how far you have come when you look through your portfolio.

Having patience with yourself is a key skill which is required when you become a professional artist. You need to be patient when refining and building upon your own skills and you also have to be patient with the industry as a whole itself. The market for your work has to find you, and equally you have to do your bit to find them too. The old adage of build it and they will come doesn’t transition to paint it and they will buy it, well at least it doesn’t until you become the next great master but there’s a heap of work involved in getting to that point. 

Art is a process…

Art is a process. It’s too clichéd to call it a journey but essentially it is of sorts. It differs slightly because there is no single destination, think of it in a way that each new work should take you somewhere different. If you always end up at the same destination because you never vary the route, then there’s little motivation for you to keep on moving. It becomes mundane and the norm and that reflects in your work. Neither mundane or the norm sell art.

Whilst many artists say that they like to break the rules the reality is that mostly they don’t. The rules of mixing colour, the rules of making sure that photography is never hazy or blurred, we constantly seek perfection but sometimes having fun with creativity can produce results that you wouldn’t expect. The best rule is that you should always strive to make your next work better and dare to push the boundaries of both yourself and your art each time you pick up a brush or point a camera. You don’t always have to create a technically perfect piece of work, if it moves someone who sees it, then it is perfect.


It’s easy to make comparisons but there are better ways to spend your time. Comparing your work to another artists work is something that every artist does. Comparing your work is a really great way to find new techniques. One artist might have a particular style that you want to test out in your own work, but there is a darker side to making comparisons for the wrong reasons.

If you are comparing work only to seek out or confirm any negative aspects of your own work, making comparisons can lead to envy. Using other artists work as a measuring stick in the wrong way will always mean that you will perceive your art to be lesser than someone else’s. 

In reality those other artists might be making comparisons between their work and your work. Artists are the harshest of self-critics, if you were to place one of the world’s most prolific art critics in front of your work they would go easier on you than you do. 

So if you do make comparisons make them for the right reasons. Learn from other artists by all means but remember that your art should be individual to you. Finding your own style and being different to everyone else is the best way to stand out. The only valid comparison that you should be regularly making is the comparison between past you and you now.  

Never be afraid to learn new things…

While we are on the subject of learning new techniques one of the best things I ever did was to set aside just a couple of hours each week to learn something new and practice. 

Even the most experienced artists should be doing this. Some of my best creations have come about as a result of practising new techniques and creating art for myself rather than with the intention of making it available for sale. In fact a good 60% of my artistic output never gets released at all.

Even years after finishing art classes I still believe that it’s a great idea to continue with them in whatever way you can. It might be that you watch a series of YouTube videos or attend a physical class, or just attend a local arts group. The social aspect of the latter means that you can talk through ideas with other artists and share new ideas and critique each other’s work. 

Partnering up with another artist and mentoring each other in areas that each of you specialise in is another good way to keep your skills up to date. It means that you no longer have to work in a silo which is something that most artists tend to do. It also means that you have someone to talk things through with when you start to feel as if you are heading towards the black hole of self-doubt. Just having someone close who has been through the same thing can really help. 

beechhouse Media the Art of Confidence

Don’t give up…

I have known artists who have created art for even longer than I have and there are still times when they think about giving up. Giving up is final, it means that you will stop right here, right now and you will never get to where you really want to go. 

There are so many websites that will give you so many reasons why you should never give up on your dream of being an artist and they all say the same thing, just hang on in there. They will say that you need a positive mental attitude and they will offer inspirational quotes that are supposed to uplift you and put you in a state of well-being and happiness. 

Whilst many of them make a noble attempt at trying to convince you to never give up, we’ve heard it all before and we still feel like our artistic life is a train-wreck. Just like me when I went through the self-doubt phase, you will be looking for validation that you shouldn’t give up or you will be trying to find an excuse to give up. If you are at this point then the reality is that you don’t want to give up at all, that’s why you are reading websites that encourage you to give it another shot. You have answered the question for yourself, so don’t give up. 

You might have abandoned your latest work out of frustration or self-doubt because it was easier to leave it than to tackle the root cause, and that root cause was that you stumbled into a problem. 

Art is a series of problems that need to be solved. The more experience and knowledge that you have to solve those problems the easier they will become, and even then you will reach a point where you will face new problems, and it continues exponentially no matter how much experience you have. There’s always a new problem and problems are not reasons to give up.  

If I go on a hike and my path suddenly ends at a cliff edge, do I blame myself for the cliff-edge being there or do I find a way to cross the ravine? The fact that you made it as far as the cliff-edge should be considered a success, it is a landmark. The cliff-edge was there for every hiker who took the same path before me and it will remain there for every hiker who follows. 

There are three answers to this problem, you either find a new route to take you to the other side, or you build a bridge to walk over the ravine, or you turn around and go back. If you go back your journey is over, unless there is a better creative path somewhere else. More often than not there are more solutions to get over an obstacle than there are ways to give up. Don’t blame yourself for the ravine because it wasn’t your fault that it was there and never be afraid to travel the same path again because next time you will know how to cross it.  

Art is a lifetime of study. Its fine to step away but there is a difference between stepping away and giving up, so never get the two confused. What you need is to quit quitting, keep moving forward, learn how to solve the problem, and believe in yourself.

Coming Soon!

Last weekend I finally managed to nail down a new article I have been working on for almost three months, Avoiding Art Scams! Timely as this week alone my spam folder received more than a thousand emails and a majority of them were the usual scams we see every week, but there were a few new ones too. 

They’re starting to appear to be targeting visual artists more and more so last weekend I finally sat down and finished the article off. Hopefully I will get it published before Christmas, but do keep checking back or follow me on Facebook where I’ll post some more information. 

About Mark…

Mark is an artist and blogger who has been creating art professionally for more than 30-years. His work is sold around the world and he specialises in landscapes, abstracts, and often receives commissions to produce book covers. 

His work is available in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada, including Framing and Art Centre, The Great Frame Up, and Deck the Walls. You can see Mark’s latest works here, and you can follow Mark on Facebook here


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