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One of the hardest things I have to overcome in my art classes is not the talent level of my students, nor the painting techniques and application of artist materials … no, my biggest hurdle is the self-esteem of the person I’m working with. It’s a tough one, for all the talent in the world won’t offset an artist whose view of himself is below par.
We’ve all been through things in our lives that have wounded us. Many traumatic events of our lives tag along well into adulthood. These events have a huge part in shaping us into the people we are today. Art has long been a place where people could go to purge themselves of pain, and to help illustrate a world that they would prefer.
Personally, art has been my savior. I’ve lost myself in its embrace more times than I can remember. It’s my safe place and my escape. It has done wonders for me over the years, through relationship pain, to serious illness, to just flat out being down in the dumps. That’s why it’s so hard for me to see people in my studio struggling with their art when times are tough for them. I want them to find a respite in it instead, like I have.
Being the author of a motivational book titled REACH that’s currently in the works, I immediately want to help people who are hurting. Over the years, I’ve learned and researched methods for improving our life experience. There are key things to focus on in your mind. Everything is thought-based. Knowing what we should reach for to cope and to change our outlook is crucial. I’ve come to find that how we think is what creates our life, our relationships and the people we become. And as artists, how we think directly affects our artwork.
Study some of the artwork created by artists from years gone by, and you will see how their moods and thinking affected their work. Their pain is poured out on a canvas; their anguish dripping off of each stroke of the brush. I’m no different. I find that my art–especially my subject matter–will differ according to what is playing out in my life. When things are less than perfect, or I’m feeling sick, I tend to lean toward bright colors, and do a lot of flower drawing. It’s a process of self-soothing. When things are going great, I lean more toward portraiture and drawing people I love. Creating a likeness requires intense concentration, which is a level of mentality that’s hard to pull off when you don’t feel good physically or mentally.
As you can see, I’ve learned to understand myself and to navigate my own psyche. I simply alter my work accordingly, and REACH for the art that fits my mood. It spares me the anguish of screwing something up, just because I’m “off” and not at the top of my game.
There are those students who can’t quite seem to love their artwork. They’re never satisfied. They find all the faults in it, and put themselves down for not being perfect. They may not realize it (but I do!) that their insecurity has little to do with their art. It has everything to do with their thoughts.
Here are some helpful hints to overcome the artist insecurity we all have from time to time, and instead build your self-esteem as an artist.
1. Never compare your work to others. There’s no reason to do that! Yes, you can admire another style, and try to achieve something similar someday, but don’t let it diminish what you’re already creating. I try to never compare myself with other artists, for there’ll always be someone who is better than me. That’s just the way it works. One trip to the art museum makes me realize how far I have yet to go. But go, I will. I use comparison not as a punishment, but as an inspiration. It makes me determined. For some though, it makes them quit!
2. Watch your “self speak.” Be mindful of the words you reach for. I commonly hear things from my students like, “I’m just no good at this!,” or, “I’ll never be as good as you!,” or “Maybe I should just quit trying.” Everything you say as you work, your soul is listening to. Say these negative things about yourself long enough, and yep, you guessed it, you’ll fully believe it. Replace your negative chatter with words of praise for yourself! You deserve it! Instead, how about saying, “I may have a long way to go, but I’m having a blast along the way!” or, “This sure didn’t come out like I wanted, but I’ll get better with every one I do!” This kind of conversation with yourself will be encouraging, even when it’s frustrating. You can do this! Just tell yourself you can!
3. Surround yourself with and reach out to people who will support you. (Like me!) But remember to be mindful of your self-speak, because even the most positive of mentors will burn out from constant negativity and complaining. Learn to be quiet, and just be with fun people. Learn from them, and emulate their positive approach. In time, the complaining part of you will pipe down, and the creativity will ramp up.
4. Take a break and reach for something else if you get frustrated. We aren’t running a race with our art. There’s no finish line! Enjoy each moment of learning and just doing. I’m still learning, and it is awesome! Come back to it when you’ve upgraded your thinking and your mood. You’ll make up for lost time with a high level of inspiration.
Art is a very psychological thing. It is mood driven and soul produced. It can bring you up, and it can tear you down if you let it. But don’t! Reach for your pencil or your paint brush with joy. Every new piece, every new doodle, is worth a lot! What you gain sometimes cannot be seen, but it can be felt.
Be the unique, wonderful being that already are, and create your unique and wonderful creations to match!
REACH for the stars!
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond