Ask the Art Prof: How Does a Visual Artist Gain Confidence in Their Artwork?

Final Crit

“I was wondering if you have any tips on gaining confidence in your artwork, your ability to make artwork, and your general practice.  I am in a position where I should be feeling pretty good about my art and such, but I don’t, and I know that that’s something that I want to and need to improve on. ” 

I’ve found in my experience that confidence is one of those attributes that comes and goes for many artists. My confidence can swing back and forth quite dramatically, and I never quite know when I sit down to work how I’ll be feeling. I have days where I feel very strong, like I’m capable of accomplishing anything. Then I have days when I feel like an insignificant speck of dust in the universe, and that I’ll never ever be good enough to satisfy myself. Being an artist is a wild ride of emotions that one can never predict.

A large part of gaining a basic sense of confidence as an artist is simply time and experience.  I know, not the answer that most people want to hear, but it’s true. The more seasoned you are as an artist, the more crap you’ve gone through, the more likely you are to build confidence in yourself and your abilities. I know that when I was in high school that I did not have remotely the kind of confidence that I have in my work now. So much of that is simply the years of hard work and effort that I’ve invested in my artwork since then.  Every single experience that you have as an artist, whether good or bad, informs and adds to your confidence.

Portrait Drawing

In the short term, there are small strategies that you can use to boost your confidence.  Many artists think that they need wait around for moments of success to boost their confidence, whether it’s a positive comment from someone on their artwork, professional validation through a job, a grant, etc. Sure, that’s great when it happens, but you can’t count on these events to occur regularly.

Actually, I think that I feel most empowered when I’ve taken the self-initiative to challenge myself with a difficult task, and have followed through on completing that task. By doing this, I know that I’ve taken full responsibility for my own success and progress. Artists have to be very proactive, and have to learn to take control of the situation. You can’t be passive and wait around for positive experiences to come to you, you have to create those positive experiences for yourself. Fabricate your own challenges and opportunities, and then make them happen.

Another strategy is to make sure that you have good mentors who you can talk to in person. I know that I find tremendous comfort in my mentors. When I feel low about my abilities, I talk to my mentors and remind myself that someone who I respect and admire believes in me.  This is a very simple but powerful thought that pumps me up and keeps me going.

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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.

Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.

Related articles
“Am I actually an artist?”
“How can one regain lost satisfaction with their work?”
“Do professional artists doubt their abilities?”

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