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Confidence Part 2

by Keith Bond on 11/28/2011 10:17:11 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



My thoughts on the topic of confidence were too lengthy to fit it into last week’s article.  So, I am continuing a few more thoughts today.


First, I would like to follow up on one idea that I briefly touched on last week.  It prompted a comment from one of you that caused me to ponder on it a bit. 


I said that I know artists who have tremendous ability and create beautiful work, but lack confidence.  A comment was made that during the creation process, such artists probably have confidence in their abilities, but lack confidence after the fact.  I do believe that there are certainly some who fit that description.  But people are too complex, try as we might to lump everyone together.



Drive vs. Confidence


My mind kept coming back to Van Gogh.  Admittedly, I am no expert on Van Gogh.  But I think it is common knowledge that he had a lack of self confidence.  It is also believed that he was a manic depressive or bipolar.  He suffered from alternating episodes of extreme enthusiasm for art and depression.  As he developed as an artist, his works became more and more impassioned. 


With more expressively bold brushwork and intense color; and if his mental state weren’t known; his work would give the appearance that he had confidence in his art. 


As I mentioned, I am no expert on him.  Nor am I an expert in psychiatry.  But it seems to me that his drive to create does not equate with confidence.  Despite his lack of confidence he needed to express himself the only way he knew how.  That was through his art.  His dedication to his art resulted in masterful works.  But I personally don’t think he ever had much confidence in his art.  Perhaps there were a few moments when he had some.  But he certainly did not have the type of confidence that would sustain him.  Rather, I think his lack of confidence, but desire to express himself is the reason that he strove so diligently to improve his art.


Van Gogh was extreme, for sure.  But his example illustrates that there is a difference between confidence and drive.  The need to create is deep down within many people.  The confidence in one’s ability is another matter all together.



Confidence despite Rejection


Now let’s look at the early impressionists.  Their work was rejected by the salons of Paris.  Yet, they followed their own voice and we laud their work today.  Their drive, coupled with their confidence, enabled them to persevere and ultimately gain a following.  Their confidence was not dependent upon their acceptance by the salons.  Yes, I just lumped these artists together.  Certainly, they were not all at the same level of confidence.  But my point is that some artists have so much confidence in their work that they can persevere even in the face of rejection.


That brings me to the next idea:



Cautionary Word about Seeking Confidence


Be careful not to rely too heavily on the acceptance of others.  True confidence comes from within.  Recognition from others can be good (sales or critical acclaim).  These things can confirm or strengthen your faith in yourself.  But too heavy a dependence on them can also crush you when you get rejected from a show or when you have periods of slower sales. 


Confidence based upon outside forces is fleeting and volatile.  Inner confidence endures despite the ups and downs.  But, not without work.



Confidence Needs Nurturing


Just like muscles need exercise – just like you need to constantly practice your craft – your confidence also needs exercise.  Last week, I shared a few ideas to develop your confidence.  Many of you added great advice in the comments.  There are many more ideas, I’m sure. Some find it useful to hang reminders of their accomplishments on a bulletin board to sustain them in times of doubt.  Others keep examples of their early work to compare with recent work.  What other ideas do you use for nurturing your confidence?


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond


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Topics: advice for artists | art criticism | art marketing | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond 

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Sharon Weaver
I am always striving to be better so looking back at paintings I did even a few years ago helps me see the progress I have made. It gives me the confidence to continue and the view that next year I will improve even more. Setting goals to achieve every year is another great way to keep up your confidence. Of course you want to achieve the goals you set so that is contingent on the determination of each individual artist.

Phillip fain
We may never know the true Van Gogh, the real story I think has not been told yet. I suspect because it evolves a women doing what the men coulden't. ""sell art" the true credit has yet to be granted. The suicide was a buildup story so was the ear. Somehow these story's were circulated at the time and were believed in to be the truth. The promotion of the art story has never been told. The truth is just now coming out, I believe Van Gogh had an art addiction and basically was not a nice person.90 per cent of art is perception and there are no guarantee's your art well ever be seen. That dosen't make it worthless, if the art is your best, then that's all you can do, selling that's a whole story in itself.

Tom Weinkle
Great follow-up. I could not agree more. I generally do a few things to develop my confidence:
1. Read about anyone who achieved greatness...and generally find they struggled with confidence; 2. Examine why I have confidence in areas such as public speaking and try to use that as a parallel to build in areas where it is more difficult such as painting; 3. Celebrate but not dwell on even the smallest victories; 4. Try not to depend on the good words of others for satisfaction; 5. Know that fame and popularity is fleeting no matter who you are; 6. Enjoy the feeling of fear, knowing it makes me human; 7. See positive in everything, even if there is a negative too.


Tuva Stephens
I nurture my confidence by writing in a journal. I set yearly goals of which competitions to enter and my successes. I try to build on each success and plan what's next. I enjoy critiquing sessions with a masterful artist/teacher and a group of professional artists in which we show new work.

Recently we were asked to bring in a work we considered a failure. The work I brought in won Best of Show in the next show in which I entered. My husband is also a great critic and proves to be helpful in building my confidence when I doubt the direction of my work.

Kristen Danelle
Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was living, never lowering his prices. I believe this displayed some type of confidence in his work.

Many great artist have suffered from some type of mania and/or depression. One can actually be more confident when in a "manic state", quicker to attain goals. Often times, the brisance of a "depressed state" can result in a masterpiece.

Although the artist may not wish to revisit this state, the confidence often lies in the final product.

"Painting is a faith, and it imposes the duty to disregard public opinion." -Vincent Van Gogh

Esther J. Williams
Keith, have you read "Lust For Life" the book about Van Gogh`s life? It is almost gut wrenching to read about his struggles in his personal life. I think because his personal life was such a failure that he lacked confidence. But his strength was in his ability to create incredible art. I do not think he could differentiate between the two or decipher why he was a failure on one end and successful creating masterful art, therefore he suffered and tormented himself continually. He wasn`t accepted back then and I think that killed him because he was so sensitive. One thing I noticed is great artists are also very sensitive, emotional beings.

I do one thing like Sharon W. mentioned above, I go through all my image folders where all art is chronologically set into categories. Right now I am re-organizing my website so I have taken a hard look at the many works done in the past year alone. I am taking each artwork image and replacing it after I examine it on my new monitor. Some I will delete as they just do not represent where I am skill-wise now. I see growth with each painting, but it doesn`t come by just doing one painting after another. Inner growth comes to me by actually being critical of myself, reading art educational books and viewing past and present artist`s works. Also showing my art to a gallery director or a master artist and getting input. Then trying smarter the next time I paint. It also comes by entering art shows and receiving awards and sales. With growth and discovery comes more confidence as it is implemented into successive works. It also comes from not being so hard on myself afterall, I accept my failures as a stepping stone to success the next time. To feel confident is to be of a belief that we are successful or great or a master. I can play a mind game with myself each day and think I really hit the big time. It works for the short dreaming and visualization and then I wake up from the day dream. Only to see how I am not and get to feeling that lack again. Life is a climb upwards and that takes effort and not giving up. We are complicated human beings as artists, the fact is that life is not a bowl of cherries and there are many times we feel underrated. As I get older, I accept that and feel that times like those low moments will pass. Time is on our side and inspiration is just around the corner with a new discovery and breakthrough that we accomplish. Life can be grand at times! Keep learning and reaching.

Jim Springett
Hi Keith,

Good begets good, and so as I paint the process all unto itself is the gift, and when my art sells the gift continues down life's path. Not all artists are so unsecure or lack confidence even when working with other artists, just the act of communication may be the basis for collaborating and that is not dependence. I love to paint in all 3 mediums, oil, watercolors, and acrylics, each serves a unique part in my development and they equally have been successful in terms of later sales and why not work in all 3.Thanks for the follow up story, good to keep painting, and enjoy the process without putting limits on it's merit or value, if the painting process is the main focus the rest will follow.

Jim Springett-wildlife painter

Marian Fortunati
Loved reading Tom's response... It so mirrors how I often feel and think... As I imagine others feel and think as well.

Debra Snyder Heard
I have always been involved in the art field one way or another since the early 1970's. Between raising kids, working, cooking, and cleaning I tried to do as much drawing as I could in between. My goal was always to be a better artist, never had the confidence to put myself up publically. It wasn't until I reached my 50 my goals changed. I think getting older made me realize that I don't care what people think, it is what is important to me that counts. I just wish I had this confidence when I was younger.
I teach art once a week at a Senior Center, and it involves mostly older women (all who are very sweet and a pleasure), who have discovered art in their late years, or use to dabble in it a little when they were younger.
A couple of my student's art work is so bad (needs to be thrown in the trash and burned, not put up in art show), and they have huge ego's. Several are very good, and they are the ones that are very critical of themselves.
I think most women have a harder time with confidence because they have put everybody's needs first in their lives and themselves second.

Donna Robillard
One thing that gives me confidence is when I am asked to paint something and I think," How in the world do I do that?!?" But I dig in, and it turns out pretty good. My biggest confidence builder is my husband, who tells me, "Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do something." He has a good critical eye, also, which really helps.

Jo Allebach
Confidence in the marketing aspect is lacking for me. I am working on it. I am also a art addict. As I am improving it gives me the confidence to meet more and more challenges.
Thanks for all the thoughts

In this case, perhaps confidence in ability was not really the main issue, but a more general lack of confidence in oneself as a whole.

If so, then I doubt that any level of mastery would have increased his confidence, as there was clearly a deeper issue within himself that needed addressing.

Sometimes you need to consider whether your confidence issue is really down to a lack of skill, or if there is some other underlying issue.


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