*Excerpt from 2001 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, written by Cindy Duesing.
You’ve done your homework. You’ve studied to perfect your craft and researched different outlets where you can showcase your art. You’ve poured your soul into your work and sent it on its way, a tender ambassador of your inner self, out to make an impact. And now you wait, hoping for the phone call that will let you know it was all worthwhile, that someone else finds value in your work, too. This is the scary part, the leg of the journey where even the bravest adventurer can lose heart. This is when a little encouragement would come in handy to quiet those nagging voices of insecurity.
By its very nature, the work of making art is a solitary pursuit. It is also intensely personal and unique to the individual. Throwing your work out into the world can be a frightening proposition. For new artists, the concern is about finding acceptance and validation. For established artists, it’s about blocked energies caused by negative feedback, a lack of stimulation, fatigue, and so on. How can you be mindful about nurturing the creative spirit and fostering an environment where ideas and self-confidence can flourish?
Artist/author Peggy Hadden understands what it’s like to be working outside the 9-5 corporate mainstream, struggling for inspiration and ways to keep motivated. In her book, The Artist’s Quest For Inspiration, published by Allworth Press, she offers tips and exercises designed to keep the ideas flowing and avoid burnout. One method she advocates is to practice affirmations.
Affirmations are short, positive statements spoken aloud or to oneself that are meant to counteract and ultimately override the negative “self-talk” most people subject themselves to daily. Artists, in particular, are especially susceptible to this kind of personal sabotage, due to their heightened sensitivity to the world around them. Affirmations can be about anything you want them to be, worded in a way that is meaningful to you. But their main purpose is to build self-esteem and move your forward consciously toward a desired goal. If practiced often enough, affirmations should become automatic in response to stressful situations, including rejection letters, tight deadlines and the intimidating spectra of a blank canvas when you’re fresh out of ideas.
Hadden advises artists to get into the affirmation habit by making a short list of positive remarks about yourself and how your feel about making artwork. Keep these sayings nearby (or maybe in plain view) where you can look at them often and strengthen your own positive feelings, self-confidence, and belief in finding inspiration. This can give you a better sense of who you want to be and what you can successfully accomplish. Says Hadden, “Build up your confidence the way you build up your muscles.”
Here are some affirmations from her book which you might find helpful:
1. I am an artist, and I have chosen a life that will give me pleasure in all of the things I make. I owe others and myself for my good fortune in coming to this life, and I will try to show my thanks in my work.
Be beginning with a thankful attitude, you’ll escape any embarrassment that might occur because you are concentrating this exercise on yourself.
2. If there are techniques with which I am unfamiliar, I can learn them. I’ll find the very best teacher and give myself a quality education. I’m worth it.
By offering the learn more and perfect yourself, you promise, as well, to nurture yourself.
3. I will study my work critically and learn from my mistakes. As my strengths grow, I will sense the character of my work, which will help me in building a vision.
By weeding out both the good and unnecessary elements, you will strengthen the body of your work and help yourself feel more in control of your art.
4. I will conscientiously schedule visits to museums and galleries regularly.
Trips such as these will feed you new ideas, even if the art work was done long ago. By observing how your artistic predecessors have solved certain logistical problems, your store of knowledge will grow.
5. I will keep growing. My life as an artist is connected to the growth that occurs in all other arts, as well as my own.
This includes dance, theater, music, poetry, and other visual arts. By filling your world with changes in all of these fields, you offer yourself more exposure to what others see as new. Don’t just watch reruns.
6. I will honor the art of the past. I can learn from it, and I am always able to absorb more insights about accomplishments in my field.
As you become more knowledgeable about art history, you will be more confident about discussing all art, including where your own art fits.
7. I will conscientiously try to seek out support among my peers and foster a sense of community with other artists. I recognize my reluctance to do this, but will acknowledge that I am healthier when I pursue dialogues with others.
We learn from each other, and the realization that other artists share our anxieties and doubts should give us strength to reach out.
8. I will actively encourage the comments of others about my work. At the same time, I will acknowledge my own point of view and question both sides of every issue.
Hearing what others say about your work can help you gauge how believable or unbelievable your imagery is. From these comments, you may learn where your technical skill may be lacking. However, you should counter any negative comments with your own artistic intentions.
9. I will study my past work in order to find my voice and look for positive ways to strengthen it.
Your best teacher will be your last work before a new one is begun.
10. I won’t let my failures drag my spirits down. By always working on several projects at the same time, I will never find myself without a plan for creating artworks.
Artists who tell me that they’ve never had an art block also say that they have so many choices that there are just too many things to make!
11. I am a creative person and have been blessed with a special gift. I will remember to use my gift in projects that benefit others as well as myself.
Contributing your artwork or your time to community projects may lead to greater exposure of your work and even to future sales. Don’t rule out making contributions like this to groups who need your help – within reason.
12. Change is difficult to adjust to, but basically good. I won’t be afraid to change.
New developments in supplies, as well as changing artistic techniques, should never be a threat to you. Look, listen, and learn!
13. I will strive to leave elitism out of my artwork, because I realize that elitist art is difficult for people in the general public to understand. Likewise, I won’t pander to sentimentality.
Art that is too easy will bore those who look at it. Strive to make artwork that will continually offer something fresh and new.
14. I won’t avoid new tools; I will always try to add new elements to my work and will not fear them.
Keep abreast of what’s new in your supplies – it will help you accomplish new works!
15. I will seek out new work and look for it wherever it is being shown. I will encourage new art and new artists. I know how hard it is to begin.
New art is often in poorer parts of town because new artists have little to spend on fancy and expensive neighborhoods where more established art gets shown. Find a pal and brave this new world together. The new art will challenge you, and you’ll see it first.
16. I will realize that there are times when the work is slow, and I will not let it depress me. I will remember that work takes its own time and sometimes I am not ready for what my unconscious mind wants me to know. I will learn patience.
The important element here is to keep working and honing your craft so that you’re ready when a good idea comes!
17. I will stay focused on my work. I will rule out anything that distracts me (television, radio, family arguments, political causes, hobbies, telephone calls, and so on) or that makes my attention wander.
Many artists used causes like those mention above, as reason for not making art. Be sure you limit time spent on things shorten your creative time.