Saturday, 2 February 2008

Confidence and the part time artist - 7 tips

Two weeks ago I was promoted at work (day job). It was completely unexpected. I had applied for the job as ‘experience’ and seriously had so little confidence in my own abilities that I didn’t think I’d even get shortlisted.

But I did…

And after the interview I came out thinking, “Man, I wouldn’t hire me , I sucked!”.

But obviously I said something right and got put on the candidates list.

A week later I got offered the job.

I thought there had been some mistake. Why would anyone want to put me in that role? Surely there were better, more qualified people than me. I accepted the offer, still feeling like a fraud.

As an artist, I still have days where I look at my own work and wonder why people pay me to paint. Why would someone buy one of my prints? Why would someone ask me for advice? Don’t they know I’m not that great an artist? Surely there are other artists out there far better than me!

The reality is, as humans we are often our own worst enemies. We often perceive our own abilities differently to how the world sees us. Sure, I’m far from being a brilliant artist! I know that I’ve still got loads to learn, that I make mistakes, that I paint pictures that are not masterpieces.

But, that’s ok. Really it is!

Some days it’s easier to be ten foot tall and bullet proof than other days. Here are a few tips that I’ve tried, in my everyday life, and as an artist to help give me a confidence boost.

1. Mimic confident people. That is, take a look at the way they act and try and emulate them. Confident people take calculated risks, they try new things, they brush themselves off after failure and get back up again. It may take them a little while to get back on the horse, but they eventually will. Talk to them, get involved in forums where talented people hang out (make sure it’s somewhere you feel comfortable).

2. Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen? For example, you want to try oils, but you’ve never painted one before. What’s the worst that could happen? You waste a few weekends, you create a piece of work that’s only fit for lining the bin or painting over, you realize that you will never be Rembrandt because oils just aren’t your ‘thing’. But… you may find that you are brilliant at them! You won’t find out unless you have a little faith and try.

3. Tell that critical, self-important internal dialogue to shut up and say something useful. Some people suggest that you imagine the voice has a volume switch that you can turn down, or giving it a really stupid voice, like someone who’s inhaled helium.
4. Sit up straight. Quite often when you feel down or are scared, you hunch, trying to make yourself invisible. So counteract this! Sit or stand up straight, puff your chest out a little and your shoulders back, lift your chin, relax your face (maybe try to smile J), make eye contact with others (not so much that you creep them out!), and breathe deeply. You may not feel more confident, but you will look it!

5. If you’re feeling a little ‘fragile’ about something, don’t put yourself in a position (if you can avoid it) where you’re going to be criticized or pounded. For example, don’t look at art critiques on your own work if you’re feeling like all of your art is bad. You’re not in the right headspace to receive them properly and you’ll either get defensive, or depressed. You probably will see the ‘critique’ as criticism.

If you’ve got a performance evaluation or someone is trying to give you negative feedback, ask to do it at another time when you’re better able to cope. Tell them, ‘This really isn’t a good time, could you give me five minutes’, or ‘Could we reschedule this?’ Often just putting yourself in control of the situation is enough to regain a little confidence.

Sometimes you can’t do this, and in this case focus on what is being said and ask yourself, or them, what achievable things you can do to improve.

6. Dress for confidence. The old adage about dressing the part works. In an office environment, managers wear suits, all neatly pressed, matching colours, the works. As an artist, you have to feel comfortable when you paint. If you’re feeling down, put on a bright coloured shirt, wear your favourite piece of jewellery, for girls, put on some makeup or a splash of perfume. It’s not about impressing other people, it’s about making yourself feel good, and therefore changing how you present yourself to the world.

7. Practice Gratitude. Try to focus on at least one good thing about your life. Write a list on a good day. Start it with something like, ‘As an artist I am grateful…’

Things might include

· Having access to a really cool art shop

· Knowing other talented artists

· Being able to get loads of useful artistic advice through forums

· Knowing that you can paint when you’re feeling better

Confidence can be learnt, it just takes time, and practice. There are loads of tips and exercise online, have a look around, try a few things! It can't hurt too much!


Anonymous said...

This is really good info you're giving, thank you for putting some good advice out here!