Although I have relatively little confidence in quite a few other areas, one of the things that I’m most confident about is probably my art. I’m quite proud to call myself an artist and see creating art as one of my greatest strengths (whereas, a couple of years ago, I’d be more likely to see myself as a “writer” than an “artist”).
The interesting thing is that, for quite a while, this has always been the case with me. Even when I wasn’t really serious about making art and I only made the occasional little sketch every once in a while (rather than making art every day), I still had some level of confidence.
Yes, I didn’t call myself an “artist” back then, but I didn’t really think of myself as “terrible” – art was just something I made when I was bored or when I needed to visualise a character I was writing about. Because I didn’t see art as my main “thing” back then, I didn’t really define myself by how well I could draw.
Plus, I was also one of the few people I knew when I was a teenager who really created anything even resembling art (and, until a few months ago, my foolish cynicism about painting and realistic drawing stopped me from feeling inadequate when I compared myself to painters and actual art students), so I felt like I was still more of an artist than most people I knew and more of an “authentic” artist than the real artists I saw back then.
And, surprisingly, when I decided to focus on creating art a couple of years ago, this old confidence just kind of carried across into my work. Or, to put it another way, I still thought of myself as a serious “undiscovered” (I’m still not sure by who) artist even back when I was creating art that looked like this:
Of course, my art has got better since then and hopefully it’ll gradually keep getting better. But, in the meantime, I thought that I’d offer you a few tips to help you build up your own artistic confidence if you’re just starting out.
1) Practice and regularity: If you want to become confident in your art and artistic skills, then you need to practise as regularly as you can. One of the great side-effects of my decision to create some kind of art every day is that, two years later, creating art just seems like an ordinary and mundane part of my life. It’s just something I do and I can’t really imagine doing anything else.
Although practising regularly might seem like an intimidating thing when you’re starting out, it’ll get easier. Seriously, I can still remember the days in early-mid 2012 when the idea of making one small A6-sized drawing every day felt like some kind of unsustainable and Herculean task. These days, a day would probably feel slightly incomplete if I didn’t make at least one A4-sized painting in it.
Not only that, creating lots of art also – as I said earlier – turns art into a slightly more mundane thing for you. Yes, you should value what you create, but at the same time if you see art as this special, magical thing that has to be perfect – then you’ll probably end up feeling too intimidated to create anything. Plus, if you make a mistake when you’re practicing regularly, then it won’t be a big deal, because you can just move on to your next drawing or painting fairly soon afterwards.
Plus, practising regularly also forces you to come up with all kinds of clever and inventive ways to deal with creative blocks and times when you’re not feeling inspired (eg: like redrawings, copying old paintings etc…). If you’re not that confident in your art, then you’ll probably stop making art for quite a while whenever you feel uninspired. But, if you’re confident, then a block might slow you down for a few hours, but it won’t stop you.
Not only that, there is nothing better for your artistic confidence than learning (or working out) how to do new things every once in a while and then trying them out and showing off to yourself.
2) “I Can Do Better Than That!”: This is a slightly evil way to build up your confidence, but it works.
However inexperienced you are at creating art, there will always be artists who are better at it than you are and, more importantly, there will always be artists who are worse at it than you. Unconfident artists only compare themselves to the first one of these two groups, confident artists compare themselves to both groups.
Confident artists look at the work of better artists as examples of what their own artwork will eventually look like with enough practice. But they also look at the work of even less experienced artists, either for schadenfreude and/or just to remind themselves how far they’ve come since they started out.
So, don’t be afraid to look online for art that isn’t as good as yours. Don’t leave rude comments below it (if you can genuinely say something that can help the other artist, then leave polite constructive criticism and be sure to compliment the good aspects of their art too – remember, they’re just starting out too). But don’t be afraid to think things like “I can make something better than that!”
And then make something better!
Plus, if you usually draw or paint, then an extremely cynical way to feel more confident is to look at some avant-garde “readymade” conceptual art or some very minimalist abstract art (like paintings that consist of nothing but a couple of geometric shapes on a blank canvas).
Yes, it may be “frightfully uncultured” to say or think things like this, but don’t be afraid to think “That’s art!? I could make something better than that when I was five!” If it helps you to feel more confident as an artist and produce better art, then do it.
3) Redrawings: I’ve mentioned this quite a few times before, but sometimes it can be a good idea to go back to one of your older pieces of art and try to produce a new version of it from scratch. Use every new technique you’ve learnt since you made the original piece of art that you can.
When you’ve done this, then compare the two pictures and you’ll quickly be able to see exactly how much you’ve improved as an artist. This will help you to increase your artistic confidence. Not only that, it’ll probably also make you wonder how much you will have improved by the time that you do your next redrawing or repainting.
4) Know when to show off and when not to: This is a bit complicated and difficult to explain, but if you’re new to art – then don’t show all of your art to other people in person (the internet is a bit different, as I’ll explain later).
Just stick to showing off what you feel are the best pieces – since, one of the best ways of building confidence when you’re just starting out is to hear good comments about your work. To hear that people value your work and feel that it’s worthwhile can be a real boost for a new artist.
Yes, you should learn how to deal with people who criticise your work and you shouldn’t react badly to genuine constructive criticism (although if you’re criticising something constructively in person, then “sandwich” your criticisms between compliments). But, when it comes to showing off your art in person when you’re just starting out, then it can be a good idea to avoid critics (as long as you remain self-critical about your own work and constantly strive to improve what you produce).
Not only that, you need to be selective about who you show your art to when you’re starting out. If you know someone who loves your art or who is a good friend, then show more of your art to them than to someone who is indifferent to you or your art. Wait until you’ve really had a lot of practice before you show these people any of your art.
5) Use The Internet: If you’re starting out and you’ve got a camera and/or a scanner, then don’t be afraid to put as much of your art online as you want to (eg: on your blog or on DeviantART or wherever). Yes, there are risks associated with this – someone might make a copy of your art or leave a rude comment below it. But the benefits of doing this, in terms of artistic confidence, will outweigh any problems.
If someone copies your art, then this usually means that they like it enough to want to put it on their own website or incorporate it into their own work. People imitating your work may be annoying, but – as the old saying goes – it’s also the sincerest form of flattery. If you want to encourage people to share your art, then don’t be afraid to release your work under a Creative Commons licence (and, with these, you can choose what you do and don’t allow people to do with your art).
If someone leaves a negative comment below your art, then either ignore it or remember that (like in the second point on this list) they’re just trying to feel better about their own artistic abilities – but they’re doing it in a very clumsy and rude way. Plus, most of the time, if people genuinely don’t like a piece of art – then they’ll probably just ignore it and move on to something else. So, if your art has provoked enough of a reaction for someone to leave a negative comment, then this is also a compliment of sorts.
But, enough about the downsides of putting your art online, there are good things which can come out of this too. For example, there is nothing better for your artistic confidence than receiving your first “favourite” on DeviantART or your first “Like” on WordPress, Facebook etc…
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂