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Building Confidence With Action

by Lori Woodward on 9/15/2010 9:21:16 AM

Today's Post  is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik.  Find out how you can be a guest author. 

Why do we lack confidence to forge ahead? We don't know where to start and feel overwhelmed. Too much information doesn't help us clear our minds and seek the next action step.
I know what my goals are, but attaining those goals requires action... daily action. The process is slow. Some days I have trouble getting started and if I ask myself what's holding me up, it could be any number of things. My husband and I have been using Scrum - a management system developed for software engineers. I'm finding Scrum useful for prioritizing and accomplishing my everyday tasks. Each evening, we review 3 questions: What I did today, what I plan to do tomorrow, and what's holding me up - what got in the way of my progress?  There's no analyzing, self flagellation -- just stating the facts.

So... how does reviewing daily action relate to building self-confidence? What I've discovered is that building self-confidence has more to do with my ability to solve everyday problems than with how I was raised (which by the way was to think poorly of myself). I was repeatedly told that I'd never succeed at anything.  Although those voices of the past still plague me, I "show them" with positive daily actions. It's amazing how insignificant, repetitive daily action increases my confidence over time.

Working on a daily action plan eliminates all the fuss surrounding who we think we are and what we might accomplish. It also takes lofty dreams and organizes their implementation into do-able (but less exciting) steps. While dreaming and planning are fine and have their place, it's the day in, day-out DOING that what will change the world.

Want to change the world - at least your world? Make a list. This kind of list is not as exciting as listing big goals, like where do you want to be in five years.  This list deals with "right now". Where are you, right now, in your career? What have you accomplished so far? What have you got going for you? What can you do today, tomorrow, this week to eliminate your current roadblock?

What's in your way of getting today's work done?

All the talking, planning and dreaming in the world will not help me get today's work done - only action will. It's disconcerting that as soon as I begin to take action, I hit another roadblock.Sometimes it's technical, sometimes it's because I don't have the right supplies on hand.

So now I ask you, my fellow artistic travelers... are you ready to take action, day by day, working through the issues, problems and "dips" in order to reach your version of expertise? I promise you it will be sometimes tedious, even boring, but the rewards of daily, focused work will lead you to the success you dream of. There are no shortcuts - it takes daily concerted action The good part is that ultimately, hard work results in joy. Remember, if being a remarkable artist were easy, original art wouldn't be worth much.

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Topics: FineArtViews | inspiration 

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Carol Schmauder
Thank you for the article Lori. It is a reminder to me to take DAILY action. It is very easy to let life's obstacles get in the way of being consistent in painting on a daily basis and losing focus on what needs to be accomplished to have a successful career with my art. Your statement "All the talking, planning and dreaming in the world will not help me get today's work done - only action will." really struck a chord with now on to taking action.

Judy Palermo
Wise words,Lori- disciplined, daily action is tough to do, but the only way to improve.

Helen Horn Musser
Hi Lori, more words of wisdom to help us get our heads out of the clouds and just get the work done. Thank you for another great post

Phyllis O'Shields
Very relevant post, my biggest challenge as an artist is to make the priority list for daily, weekly,monthly,yearly goals, then stick to it daily.
I still use the Franklin Covey after many years, tried to update myself using it on line, but alas I go back to the pages in my day planner every time. Something about writing it down and checking it off daily - visually works best for me.It also allows me to monitor the long term projects, not fun always but necessary for staying on a goal time line.... thanks Phyllis O'Shields Fine Art

Mark Kohler
Lori - Thanks for the validation. The "right now" list has been a great asset for me. Being a professional means using our time wisely and the list does just that for me.

Filomena Booth
I'm a chronic list maker from way back! I find that it keeps my priorities in order. Crossing accomplished tasks off the list is rewarding in itself and helps clear my schedule to do the things I want to do. Thanks for a great article!

Carol Lee Beckx
So often the day's plan is filled with too many things that are not a priority. It's very easy to get sidetracked by irrelevant tasks.
I need to remember to start with the important stuff.The best solution for me is to paint first and leave everything else until I need a break.

Katarzyna Lappin
Thank you Lori for your wonderful article :)

I find your blogs very inspiring and helpful. I believe that we can not build a self confidence without work and discipline to achieve goal. I like the word disciple to express who I consider myself. We always have to learn, to excel, to stay humble to learn not to take outcomes too personally , to be honest with ourselves and to be ready to take the next challenge. This is such an exciting but also difficult journey.
I have over 20 years of art experience but I am in my first year of managing my art like a profession even though a have full family with two kids in elementary school. This means a tough schedule and a lot of setbacks.
What I learned and what helps is to constantly write down the ideas, to write down every single thing I did in art area. Every month I am making something what I call Monthly Report.
I list every event, sale, connection I made, every new painting I did, show I was in - every fact which happened in my art job. This is a good way to help to be aware how much is done. It is so easy for me to forget many things and to fall into a self critical attitude basing on what is not done. So I am helping myself with fact sheets.
When I am inspired I paint when I don't feel like it I use my left brain and take care of my marketing, search for opportunities, study art magazines, learn from experience of other artists. This is a also a great fuel for me to get going. I try not let the day slip through without something done.

George De Chiara
I'm a big list person too Lori. Sometimes they can be overwhelming when you see all of things you need to do, but I like the clear road map they provide for what you need to get done. After a while somethings just get ingrained in you, like go the studio and work! Others tasks take more reminders :)

Esther J. Williams
Lori, I can identify with your plight and the "I`ll show them" attitude. Early on I had plenty of confidence, it was after college and into raising a family that I lost it. Maybe it was because I was a mother and felt guilty if I dedicated more time to the art. We can often get into our own way with our head trips. But action does speak louder than words and I can`t hold myself back from art. Like you said, it can be a slow climb to success. We can visualize, dream, plan, procrastinate til the cows come home. That does not build a castle. Putting one stone in place at a time does and securing it with mortar. With that said, I need to get into some constructive work.

Lori Woodward
Katarzyna, you are WAY MORE organized than I am, but you have a great way of keeping track of your business details.

Last year, I photographed all the things I need to do around the house, studio and otherwise using the smallest resolution on my camera (I have a resolution for thumbnail printouts).

Then I renamed the pictures with numbers according to priority and stored them in a new file folder on my computer. I printed the file out in a catalog with 9 photos per page. Because my brain responds faster to pictures than words, I'd glance at the printout and was immediately reminded of what I need to get done.

The cool thing about it was I actually remembered all the images on my printout and knew exactly what was on there without looking. I never remember word lists that way.

I'll try it out again soon. When I do, I'll post a sample of it on my own blog.

Lori Woodward
Esther, I like your castle building metaphor. Thanks!

George, YES, I think life is just getting increasingly complicated. Unfortunately, for me, being online for too many hours complicates things because I feel confused with too much input. Ha! I enjoy making the list more than doing the things on the list - I confess.

But you're right George, some things that become daily habits don't need to go on the list... it's a given that they're going to take priority. Thanks for your comment.

George De Chiara
Ha! Do you ever put things that you've already done on the list just so you can cross them off? I do sometimes just for the satisfaction of it.

Carol Simmons
Thanks Lori. This is timely advice.

Debra LePage
George, I absolutely do put things already accomplished on the list then cross them off! Might just as well get credit!
Thanks for another great article, Lori.

Stephanie Bridges-Bledsoe
Wow... what perfect timing. We just moved two months ago and I decided that, instead of rushing right back out and getting another job, it was a perfect time to go full time with art! What a shock to learn how difficult that transition was. I have found myself almost completely blocked. I haven't been entirely non-productive, just a 1, say, on a 10 scale. Thanks for these words of encouragement and some great questions for beginning to dig out of this hole into which i seem to have fallen.

Joanne Benson
Hi Lori, So true, everything you have said. I especially like your closing remark about being a remarkable artist! Very inspiring.

Barb Stachow
Sometimes taking action just doesn't come easy, then we must get some motivation too. Find a contest to enter, plan a gift, then there's always just plan "go do it!

stede barber
Great article about bridging from here to our dreams!

I have learned a couple additional things that is to imagine your dream so clearly that you can feel, sense, smell, touch it as if it's is already happening. See your work hung in a beautiful show, the thrill of being at your opening meeting clients who are responding wonderfully to your work, see the red dots going up...etc. WHatever your dream is, know it in your imagination like it's already present. That seems to help bring opportunities forward to create the bridge.

Another key for me is the prioritizing that you mentioned, Lori. Have you heard the concept that 10 percent of what you do brings 90 percent of your results? And of the story of, given a pile of sand, pebbles, stones, and a few large rocks, a pitcher of water, and a large glass container...what do you put in first in order to fit the most into the jar, and when is the jar truly "full?" A story about priorities in order to get the big things done first...

To our dreams coming in true in ways that lift us all...warmly, Stede

Nancy Lloyd
I think this article is applicable not only to me and my art but also to daily life beyond painting and/or whatever career one is pursuing! I sent the article to my adult children.
Thanks again for sharing your insight!
Nancy Lloyd

Lori Woodward
Thanks for your comments and additions to this post. I gain from your insights too.

Nancy, when someone says that my blog can relate to others besides artists, that is the icing on the cake! Thanks for letting me know.

I'm off to the studio today to practice what I preach ;-) What was holding me up was using a canvas type that doesn't work for my technique. It was a 2 day struggle. So... I need to resolve that problem in order to move on - I plan to experiment by putting a new coat of oil primer on it and also trying out a few other linens that I have in stock to see which ones I like best.

I had been using $100/yard canvas - which I truly love, but am seeking a less expensive alternative that works "almost" as well.

Hope everyone has a productive day - even if you only get one issue resolved.

Esther J. Williams
What Stede says about visualizing your dreams is so true. I have been using visualizations for years and I am positive that it gives great results. But you have to believe in them and go through the actions to make them a reality. When the opportunities arise, take action and grab hold of them. I like to trust my instincts when an opportunity comes my way. Some are worth pursuing, others not. We need to trust our gut feelings, but also use reason in our mind. Am I good enough for a gallery or submitting to a juried show? Do I need more instruction or practice? Should I study the masters more? Am I a master artist or can I aspire to be one someday? I think the worst drain on us as artists can be our own self criticizing of our work and saying it`s not worth going after because we just can`t get it right or get rejected in a show. There are so many critics out there that we meet also. Those are stepping stones towards our goals. The more positive approach to ourselves is to say, "What is good about myself as an artist?" Write those points down and you will get out of the depressing, lack of confidence state of mind in minutes. It is the power of suggestion, believe me, the mind is a powerful thing not to underestimate. Next thing you know, you will be excited to practice your artistic abilities and feel self worth again. Time is on your side, just remember that.

Lori Woodward
Esther, thanks for that comment - all great points. It is hard to accurately evaluate my own work.

I do my best and put it out there. If it gets a lot of positive comments or sells right away, I just assume I did a good job.

Yeah, most of the "critics" are other artist peers who have no business giving us unsolicited advice. I believe that every one of our efforts has something positive going for it no matter what stage in the game we're in.

Thanks again... got me thinking in the right direction as I struggle with a painting today. :-)

Esther J. Williams
Lori, I went through a year or two period of experimenting with the lesser cost of raw linens that I coated with 3-4 layers of gesso. I tried all kinds of them and painted some lovely landscapes and seascapes. The portraits just bombed, too many nubs in the linen. One other thing was setting me back, the oil painting would look very dull after it dried, no sheen, so I had to coat it with retouch varnish. I finally gave it up and have been using the Fredrix linen panels or stretched linen and have been extremely content since. I will try Raymar`s next. I think what you are doing with an oil primer is smart, the oil will keep it`s sheen. I may try to stretch my own linen someday again because I have some odd size antique frames I want to create paintings for. Plus, I have a 7 foot long antique church window frame I want to use someday. Good luck, I think you will succeed.

Lori Woodward
Esther, the canvas panels that I'm struggling with are Raymar panels. They are oil primed linen and work for most artists, but for my thinner style of oil painting, they're a bit rough... medium tooth.

the canvas I work best on is double lead primed portrait linen. It's what Richard Schmid, Nancy Guzik, Kathy Anderson, and Kyle Stuckey use - and when I do, I'm a much better painter. I'm just wanting to use some of what I've already invested money in before ordering another $400 of canvas.

I like to stretch my own or glue the canvas to panels. I just tape it to a board first and then only stretch or mount it if I'm pleased.

I also have some acrylic primed linen because I sometimes paint with acrylic, so I've got a lot of material to "play" with.

It's been fun chatting. I'm done with my break and back to experiment with canvas surfaces.
PS I ordered the Raymar panels so I could participate in the competition, and then never entered. Oh well...

Oh, I'm also going up to Maine to study with Stapleton Kearns for 3 days, and need to get all my supplies ready for that. He paints thickly, so it'll get my out of my rut and introduce some new techniques to my arsenal.

Have a good one.

Esther J. Williams
Lori, thanks for the tip on the Raymar panels. I would like to order them to enter the competition, but I look at the entries and say, not now, I am not ready. See, even I do the nay-saying. The tooth on the panels may not be good for my portraits either. I paint a little thicker mostly. Sometimes I like to do an oil wash portrait though and I would get frustrated too with a strong tooth or the little nubs. It is true that the most expensive smooth portrait linen really makes a quality statement. Everytime I sell an original painting, I invest back into my materials by choosing the highest quality, it just soaks a lot of my profits up. When the dollars get low, I am digging through my cast off panels pile to see what I can paint over, then a painting sells again, so I get to order new canvas or linen. That is not how it was a few years ago in the bad economy, I was using every scrap of linen or panels I had and buying the least expensive linen. Things are turning around for the better now. It is a good feeling. Enjoy your painting sessions!

Tuva Stephens
Thanks, Lori, for always speaking from your heart. That is why you touch so many artists with your words. So many of us seem to connect with what you write. For me it is a daily journey "to get to paint" after making a list of priorities. On days that I can not paint it makes me just keep reaching to challenge myself. This is is a sweet time for me after paying my dues so to speak. I look forward everyday to creating more "air castles" as my mother use to refer to them. Dream on everyone...

Stephanie Bridges-Bledsoe
Thanks Esther, you've hit several homeruns in this one! I'll print it out and post where I can see every day.

Donna Robillard
It is amazing how it does build confidence to cross those things off the list once they are accomplished.!

max hulse

Your suggestion to make a list has been very
important part of my life. I have operated with
my yellow tablet most of my adult life.

The second idea of action is critical. I worked
for IBM when their slogan was "Do It Now"! I
have kept that habit. Got a tremendous amount
of items marked off my list today after church
with my do it now approach.

Good stuff!

Max Hulse

Lori Woodward
Hi all... just logged on after a great weekend. Tuva, your comment touched my heart! Wow, I'll re-read that when I'm feeling down or insecure.

Max, I worked for DEC for 10 years. Managed a group of quality assurance testers. That was a long time ago, and when my husband and I relocated out west, I decided to pursue art again.

BTW: I have no plans on stopping writing for FAVS, but am ramping up my own blog and am writing up free "lessons" with my email newsletter. Things I've learned from Schmid and my other mentors.

This will force me to spend more time in the studio because I'll need drawn and painted examples to illustrate everything I write. I'm exited to be doing more painting.

Tuva, congrats on paying your dues. It's a long road, but it's so worth it, eh?

Tuva Stephens
I am just excited about my progress within a year! It is as if I have been "chomping at the bits" so to speak to get out of the stall! I really mean it, Alyson Stanfield and you have been such an inspiration and motivation to make things happen. Now I am trying to motivate the TnWS (Tennessee Watercolor Society) to embrace technology and take control of their careers. I am just so optimistic and excited. I just can't do enough. I better enjoy it while I can...right!

Lori Woodward
Congrats Tuva, and thanks for taking the time to help others. Alyson's work in helping artists market their work is amazing!

Thanks for the compliment. I guess I'll keep on writing then... I feel blessed to be in a position to share with other artists.

Your artwork is amazing too, Tuva. Not many can make watercolors do what you make them do.

Lori Woodward
It's been a lot of fun chatting today and getting to know you all out there better. I know that someday, some of us will meet in person.

However... it's a beautiful autumn day here - going for a walk and then paint, paint, paint. Guess I have to make good at practicing what I preach.

Oh, don't forget, we can help each other by asking and answering questions on Canvoo's forum, but AFTER you get some artwork done, eh? have a good day everyone.

Tuva Stephens
Thank you so much. I consider that high praise from you because of your vast experience in seeing so much art. One other thing that is nice to do is record what others say about your work at competitions,judges comments, etc. It is encouraging to read those comments in my journal! It is strange how we forget all the great things people say to us about our work. At one time I was posting those comments on my website! I need to add your comment ASAP! So much to little time!

Esther J. Williams
Over the weekend I was looking at about six lists I had made with itemized products, supplies, trips, bills, IOUs, etc... I have some crossed off, but just reviewing the lists inspired me to get to painting today. In order to cross off some of those entries, I need to paint, then sell.
I am going into action....

Lori Woodward
Esther, glad you're making time to paint!

I was going to do an array of things today, including painting - and then... I started feeling sick. Eventually gave in and went to sleep for several hours.

Fortunately, it's not "the last minute" for any deadlines, and I could take the day off. This reminds me that I need to get things done in enough time so that I can get sick every once in a while and not freak out.

Lori, too much stress, get in that bed and stay there for the rest of day and night.


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