Have you been suffering a several-year long struggle, having no confidence in your art?
It's easy to assume it's 'part of being an artist'. It's the artists struggle, the never-ending cycle of personal critique that ultimately improves your artwork. Right?
But what happens when you stop making your art? How long do you stop for? How many of your exciting projects got left on the shelf, or in a drawer, or in some dusty corner of your room?
Box of canvases for an unfinished project.
Mine are in my parents loft, or in my old room that is currently used as storage space for my excessive number of unfinished projects. I went to University for art. Why don't I have more finished artworks? I should be able to send them off to galleries. I should enter competitions/calls to artists to which my family, friends, classmates and old teachers are constantly sending me links for.
What people say you should be feeling and doing, is rarely a reality for anybody.
I often sketch during lunch breaks at my temporary jobs, and people are impressed and like my work. Colleagues have asked to commission me, saying they'll pay me for the drawings, but I feel like I can't ask for any amount of money. It's not that I don't know different formulas or methods for pricing artwork, but I feel like I've not progressed enough as an artist. I don't have enough artworks finished to justify my price. Then, I assume that when I commit to a price list, it won't be within anyone's budget, and if it's too low, I'll have spent 40 hours on a drawing that I'll get paid a fiver for.
A sketch of a movie still from Pride and
Prejudice that I never finished.
Well, I believe there is a way out of this struggle. Creating more art is, of course, always a positive step. However, it's difficult to push yourself into creating when your heart isn't in it. But that's ok. Nobody should tell you it isn't ok. I found that reading about successful artists struggles with this very same problem, helped me feel like it was normal. And that I could do something about it.
One such artist is Tara Leaver. I'd love to share her blog with you (below). Her blog is one of the most encouraging I've ever read. Not in the superficial "you do you, and you'll be alright" way, but in a tangible way. She offers real advice and helps people alter their mindsets.
I recommend looking through her blog, especially her post about how to stop procrastinating.
Reading about her struggles with art, and her advice for tackling them, encouraged me to think more positively about my own struggles. I now know that it's perfectly normal to feel like a fraud sometimes, but I have every faith that I'm a legitimate artist, just as you are a legitimate artist.
Be honest with yourself about what your abilities are, and don't feel guilty or apologise for it. Start recording how long your pictures take, so when someone asks you, you can answer it. There is nothing wrong with an outsider or customer discovering the amount of time and effort it takes to complete something. Equally, if you find you complete works much faster than other artists, that is also a strength.
Every artist is on their own journey. It's hard not to compare yourself to others in how they create works and progress their skill sets. This can make you feel very alone on your journey. Therefore, try to increase your communications with other artists. You'll be surprised at how much they will understand you, and share similar struggles. You have more to offer than you think.
In fact, I have begun writing this blog as a way to engage in and process my experience as an artist, in it's good moments, and it's bad moments. I enjoy reading artists blogs, and engaging with artist streaming live on Twitch. I have set myself smaller, more achievable targets for artworks. I'm more honest about the time taken to actually finish a drawing commission, without being ashamed of how long that is.
Beginnings of a new commission - Pencil on paper
(3.5 hours into drawing)
Being commissioned no longer puts pressure on me to finish fast and be perfect. It's a chance to enjoy the work and draw something I have never drawn before. It's hard to remember that with every artwork, you learn just a little more about what you can do, and how to do it better next time.
Stay safe and have faith,
P.S. I wanted to fill this blog post with images of unfinished art. All of us have unfinished pieces in our lives. Whether they stay unfinished for days or years, they're nothing to be ashamed of. They are a piece of your journey. Artists websites and blog pieces often show beautifully crafted final pieces, or pieces as they're being worked on. They rarely show the artworks that have been left behind, or the ones that are at that "difficult" point.