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Believing in yourself

 

Sandra Pearce doing an artist talk next to a collaborative work

Does making art overwhelm you with uncertainty and angst?

 

I’ve been running art workshops for over 13 years now with hundreds of happy students. However, lurking amongst my students, I often come across the proverbial ‘Elephant in the Room’ – a lack of confidence.

Lacking confidence means not believing in yourself. Its a paralysing fear that stops you trying new things or freely experimenting. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself destroys the spontaneity and enjoyment of the art process.

Do you compare yourself to others and say to yourself “I’m not good enough”?  How often have you found yourself in a workshop looking at the artwork of the person next to you and thinking to yourself “I really like hers, mine is rubbish”?

So, how do you get yourself out of this rut and get more comfortable ‘in your own art skin’? How can you get more confident and embrace your individual style and abilities?

Building confidence is a gradual process. But you need to start doing things differently to move forward. Here are some tips from my personal experience:

Just do it: Practice. Make. Just get in and do it. Put aside the excuses and the negative self-talk. Consistent practice helps you hone your skills and see improvement over time, which can boost your confidence. You’ve got this!

Embrace Mistakes: Part of ‘just doing it’ is making mistakes, hitting dead ends, and making duds. Don’t fear mistakes; you have to accept that they are a natural part of the artistic process. Instead, view them as opportunities to learn and grow. Often, the best artistic breakthroughs come from unexpected places.

An example from my own artistic journey – I have a box full of failed prints, artist proofs, and some really ordinary prints that will never be worthy of being framed and exhibited.  This box is my go-to when I’m creating artist books, installations, gifts, cards or when I need source paper for papermaking.  Nothing is wasted – in fact, I believe that all my mistakes are useful, but not for their original purpose.

A Mischief of Magpies artist book by Sandra Pearce

This book is made up of failed and unwanted prints “A Mischief of Magpies” – waterfall artist book (Detail)

Resilience and Persistence: The hallmark of a successful artist is the ability to keep going amid setbacks and challenges. If you give up at the first hurdle, you’ll never finish the ‘race’. Art practice is not easy, but for most of us it’s something we need to do. Feed your love of art by persisting when things don’t quite go to plan and embrace the ‘what ifs’ to continue on your art journey.

Document Your Progress: Write it down! Make notes about your process – what steps did you take? Record your emotions and feelings at the time. Reflect on your mistakes – what didn’t work and why? Writing is a powerful tool. When you see how far you’ve come, it can boost your confidence.

Monoprint Monotype of a Pineapple

This is one of my early monoprints. I improved my process by documenting as I printed – writing notes about the steps I took and ink colours used. Being able to refer back to these notes led to new discoveries and refinement of my techniques.

 

Set Realistic Goals: Start small in bite-sized pieces, and make your goals very specific. Like, “this morning I’m going to sit down and draw this bird from this photograph”. Allocate a time frame to it.

Maybe your goal could be doing the next step of a specific project (like adding a layer to a painting), or participating in an online art challenge. Meeting realistic goals can provide a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Stop focussing on Outcomes: Many students at workshops place too much emphasis on producing perfect art. They come in with a vision of what it will look like finished, and are constrained by trying to fulfil that, ultimately leading to disappointment and losing confidence in their abilities. Remember, it’s the process of art making that brings the pleasure – slow down and enjoy it. Stay flexible and open to what might happen.  If you don’t like the end result, reflect on it – what about it don’t you like? Be specific and write it down. This will help guide you in the future.

Attend Workshops and Social Art Events: Connecting with others and fast tracking your learning can help you get ‘out of your head’ and bring new ideas and experiences to your art processes. Going to a face-to-face workshop or social art event gives you fresh perspectives on what others are doing in their own art practices and avoids the ‘hype’ of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook which can skew our view of what is really going on in the art world.

And lastly, one of the most important things you need to remember…

Be Kind to yourself: Self-care when you lack confidence is essential.  Talk to yourself as you would to a friend.  Acknowledge and celebrate small wins.  Give yourself time and space.

Artistic development takes time.  Everyone starts at the same point, and how your art practice develops depends on how much time and effort you dedicate to it. There are no shortcuts.  When you see an artist showing off their stunning artwork, acknowledge that it has taken them years of practice, perseverance and mistakes to get to that point.  You need to be on that same journey.

Artist Book with drawing and painting

Artworks like these that look effortless are a result of many years focussing on particular techniques and making lots and lots of very ordinary artworks.

 

And remember that it’s normal to have moments of self-doubt.  Don’t give up.

If you need someone to talk to, I offer mentoring services to help you on your art journey, click HERE for more information. Session options include online, over the phone or face-to-face.  A few sessions could be just the boost you need to build your confidence and move in the right direction.

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