Gaining Confidence as you Emerge in the Arts....

In 2009 I worked for and indie arts magazine in public relations, and also as a contributing writer. I wrote an article called "Finding your own Success Story" (located here on Issuu, pg 5) about thinking positive as one pursues a dream of being an artist, continuing a passion for arts, or struggling down a creative path in general.  Two years later, this information holds true for me, that each step we take toward a goal in any endeavor is a step toward the achievement and thus reaching personal success.  Often it is easy to observe the successes of others, but not always ourselves, and it is easy to become distracted and pick up the green-eyed monster of occupational jealousy, or even just bask in admiring someone else's work while we neglect our own souls. Through looking inward new artists can keep from missing a few landmarks that will help build the confidence necessary to tackle a daunting industry that always has one questioning identity, motives, styles, and goals.
First Fridays on the Paseo- Oklahoma City - a great place for showing, viewing, and talking about art!

Milestones are many. Artists are not creatures of time clocks, raises, or promotions, unless you feel the need to structure yourself this way (best-selling author Tom Clancy writes on a Mon-Fri 8-5 schedule according to some interviews). So we need some way of self-evaluation when there is no professor or gallerist looking over our shoulder to tell us how wonderful we are, or how much we suck.  A milestone can be a finished piece, a first sale, an international sale, or acceptance into a show or booking. It can be a new contract if you are a freelancer. While it can be a little excessive to pat yourself on the back like crazy all day (you can do that when you get paid!), the acceptance that someone is interested in your work is a big hurdle to jump in getting over the fear of success (it really does exist).  Really all you need to do is take some time and notice that it happened. Quit worrying about being busy, and note that achievement- it's not a blessing because you earned it!

adding details to "Traversing Tangiers" in the studio, 2011
What did you do this year? What have you done so far? This is like instant prozac for me when I have the career blues. Funny, it takes my guy to ask me these questions, so maybe if someone else points it out it will make you think... Did you have one solo show this year? Four? How many more is it than last year? Some artists keep this information handy all the time as they document which works have shown where, and also to keep resumes always up-to-date, but it is a great way to take stock of where you are on your path. If you doubled your events and didn't know it until the sales started rolling in months later after web traffic and referrals creep in, would you keep positive until then? Realizing the improvements keeps me going!  *Don't forget to keep track of commissions or special things- if you were included in a publication or a juried group show that is definitely notable!
pictured on the left- Amber Sharples (Oklahoma Arts Council) holding my Dear Mary or Jari project artwork - photo courtesy of the Journal Record 9/28/10
Do something special just for your art. My most deliciously favorite thing to do when I have a big sale or big achievement that affords the luxury is get an important tool for my studio. When I had my first international sale (2 paintings to Germany) I celebrated with a proper professional easel for large canvasses and panels, and retired my student one to plein air work/backup. I love it and it is a beautiful treasure for me now. It brings me joy to see a photographer I know get a new toy or a printmaker cheer that their new press has arrived. We have passion for what we do, putting our money back into our business should be the most visible and easily noticeable sign of what we are doing. I can look at the tools I have purchased with sale money and know they were earned.

By the time you have considered all the things that have given you warm fuzzies about the art you make,  the busy times will sing with production, and the cares of the non-art world will be abandoned while you work. Passion can outshine timid, and when you are ready to speak about what you do you will have an inner feeling of success that will push along your statements.
Dreaming of Success? What keeps you going as you create?


Julia Kirt said…
Right on Amanda. You have to define your own success and occasionally let yourself celebrate! I find that artists are pretty rough bosses-- never giving themselves a break or cheering the good.