How to be confident in your art

For most of my life, I was waiting for a magical day I will wake up and have complete and utter confidence in my work. I was probably waiting for it in general terms as well, but let’s not get into that yet. I wasn’t just sitting and waiting around passively off course. I WORKED! Baby, I worked hard. I read and I tried and I practiced and meditated and talked and Youtubed. 

You name it, I did it! 

To anyone who knows anything about psychology, all that you will read in this post will be super indicative of my mental state. I might be oversharing slightly. Still, I know that a lot of artists, especially younger ones will be in the same place I was in and I want to help you skip at least part of your waiting period. Because the sooner you abandon waiting to “become confident” the sooner you will be able to become a happy, productive, and more interesting artist.

So let me tell you where I went wrong: 

I believed that all that hard work will take me to this place where I will once and for all love and appreciate everything I make. 

I believed I will get there and I will be calm and always love what I do. 

I believed I will know what I am doing at all times. 

I believed that I will be able to nonchalantly say “Thank you for your opinion, I might consider it” and never be upset when someone criticizes me. 

I believed that once I become good I will automatically be confident. 

I believed once I get validation from major institutions that I will basically have no choice but to be confident ( after all if Taschen says I’m good, who am I to disagree?). 

Surely when I get big clients I will be confident!?!? Surely!?!

But all those things came and went and my magical confident day never came. Fleeting bursts of joy and feeling accomplished? Yes! Feeling grateful too. For a moment feeling validated and appreciated and proud? Absolutely! All those feelings were there but long-term unbreakable magical confidence was nowhere to be found.

What happened instead?

I worked and succeeded and failed and succeeded and failed and as I stuck with it and grew my actual drawing skills, I started developing trust. Once I learned how to really construct a face and draw it easily from most perspectives, I started trusting myself and my hand to let go and experiment. The quality of my line changed. It wasn’t so rushed and nervous, I didn’t have to fake a confident stroke. My hand is confident not because it knew without a doubt she won’t make a mistake but because she knew when it did, she would find its way back. 

I could then break down the form. I was able to search for different expressions. I could play.

And most importantly as I now have trust, I can fuck up and live! ( super important skill)  whereas before, every mistake I made was an affirmation of what I already knew… of how much I sucked.

Do you know what’s another bonus that comes with trust?

This surprised me a lot (although not sure why), but with trust, I stopped comparing myself with other artists I admire. This was my number one self-flagellation method before and a reliable go-to whenever I wanted to make myself feel bad.

I mean the brain is a motherfucker and will go there and I have to steer it back every once in a while, but so so much less than before. I still admire their work, but I can use it as a learning aid instead of a slap in the face that proves my unworthiness.

So I will wrap up with this: a magical confident moment when you just know you are a great artist will never happen. Never did never will! Instead, try working on your skills until you can recreate something with largely predictable results and you will start trusting yourself. Once you do, you will know, deep inside, that your skills are really secondary and that the mere fact you trust yourself is what makes you able to create and discover great art.

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