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 go there just yet. Not that I was sitting and waiting around passively. 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 young 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 sooner you abandon waiting to “become confident” 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 will get there and I will be calm and always love what I do.
I will know what I am doing at all times.
When someone criticizes me I will be able to nonchalantly say “Thank you for your opinion, I might consider it” and (this is very important!) I won’t ever be upset.
I will trust my opinion because I now have CONFIDENCE.
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. Quality of my line changed. It wasn’t so rushed and nervous, I didn’t have to fake a confident stroke. My hand was confident not because it knew without a doubt she wouldn’t make a mistake but because she knew if it did, she would find its way back.
I could then break down form. I was able to search for different expressions. I could play.
And most importantly as I had trust, I could fuck up and live! ( super important skill, I will talk more about this soon) whereas before, every mistake I made was an affirmation of what I already knew, of how much I sucked.
Bonus that comes with trust
This surprised me a lot (although not sure why), but with trust I started to compare myself with other artists I admire a lot less. This was my number 1 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. Now, I still admire their work, but I can use it as a learning aid instead of like a stick that proves my unworthiness.
So I would say this: a magical confident moment when you just know you are a great artist does not exist. Never did never will! What you ought to aim for instead is this:
Work 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 fact you trust yourself is what makes you able to create and discover great art.