Not Good Enough Mentality
Five Tips on How to Get Over the Fear of Showing Your Work
Almost every artist I know has gone through bouts of insecurity. The ‘I’m not good enough mentality’. It can be a crippling fear, an insidious monster that burrows deep within the psyche. I know I’ve certainly gone through it and still do more times than I’d care to admit. But how does one get past the ‘not good enough’ stage? Do we ever? An actor with stage fright who refuses to get on stage doesn’t get very much work. Likewise the artist who is afraid to show his work doesn’t either. Here are five tips to get your work out there as painlessly as possible.
- Use social media. Thankfully, we live in an age where sharing couldn’t be easier. The internet, social media in particular, provides the perfect forum for artists to share their work. Hidden behind the relative safety of your computer screen, you can post your work to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat to name a few. Snapchat is perfect for sending a five second pic of your latest work to friends for feedback. The other social media forums, depending on how many of your friends lists are true friends will work just as well in regards to a providing safe place to share something as personal as your work (assuming you have nice friends who will tell you something constructive [even if it’s critical], rather than just tell you that you suck).
If you prefer, be completely anonymous. Create new accounts under a different name. Consider it an alias or a pseudonym, like writers who choose to write under a name other than their true name. When you post, make sure your hashtags are ones that people are searching for. #drawing #artists #art #painting are examples that have particularly high search numbers. Instagram is great for providing the popularity of each hashtag as you’re typing them.
Also, become an active participant in other social media artists’ pages. Like and comment away! You want the same feedback for your own work. Spread the love by doing the same. Also, it brings you to the attention of your peers. When they see your name popping up repeatedly, they’ll start noticing the things you post.
- Artists’ websites. Most of these sites are free for basic membership. My absolute favorite is DeviantArt. Its members range from extreme novice to super professional. It claims to be the biggest online community for artists. You can create your own portfolio, browse around at what others are posting, get feedback, leave feedback, or even sell your work. It also has painting, drawing, graphic arts, and just about every genre. There are also other online community/portfolio sites like ArtWanted, DrawCrowd, ArtStation, WetCanvas, Behance, PixIV, Carbonmade, MattePainting, and CGChannel. They each have a slightly different feel towards them and some are geared towards different things. MattePainting and CGChannel for example, is geared towards graphic artists and DrawCrowd is more for anime style artists.…
- Blogging. It’s a great way to publish your work to the internet and document your progress, difficulties, triumphs, etc. at the same time. Think of it as an online journal. It’s quite likely that you won’t gather many followers, unless you do the work to draw attention to your blog. But for those of you who are really timid about showing your work, this is a real baby step. You’re publishing to cyber space, but remaining under everyone’s radar until you really start pushing advertising your site, paying attention to SEO, email lists, etc.
In the beginning at least, you can use your anonymity to just get in the habit of posting your work. Once you are comfortable hitting the Post or Publish button, you can take the next step and invite friends and family to subscribe. After you’re comfortable with that small audience, you can open it up to their friends and family by asking them to share the link to your site. And then, you can go for broke and start promoting your site and paying attention to all the stuff necessary to seriously promote your blog.
- Your own website. There are a lot of free or inexpensive options out there. WordPress and Wix are two of the leading sites that provide free templates for you to build your site. I think Wix is a little more user friendly. And many templates have a portfolio page and blog setup in the same theme. The advantage of this is you can have your portfolio page where you put up all of your work and you can have a blog where you can go into more information about specific pieces, your process, your trouble spots, etc. Again, like the blog, you can remain kind of hidden for a long time unless you actively start promoting your site. And while this is a small step for now, whenever you get to the point that people are interested in your work, your site will already be set up with a good body of work.
- Ask for feedback. I know this part is scary. It can be really scary. But realize that without feedback, we don’t learn and we don’t grow. We can often become too close to our own work to see it objectively. With other pairs of eyes looking at it, they can sometimes point out things we missed because we are too close to it. Still too scary? Try approaching it this way… Put your work out there and pose a question to your followers. “This is something I’m working on at the moment. I’m not sure, but I feel like something’s off a bit. Can you guys take a look and tell me what you think?” I’m willing to bet that people will either comment favorably or offer you some really decent opinions and suggestions.
Now all that being said, you as the artist, must be prepared. Yes, these tips will get your work out there. Yes, there is a certain amount of vulnerability involved. We did create something, after all. Our work is like our babies. We care for them. We nurtured them. We are proud of them (maybe secretly). We don’t want anyone to bully them, discredit them, be mean to them, or tear them down in any way. But here’s the thing…there isn’t a single one of us that was born perfect. And neither is our art perfect. We can strive for perfection, but it’s something that can never be attained. We can only ever be better than we were yesterday.
So keeping that in mind, yes, there will be those who criticize. Put on that thick skin. And after you settle your ruffled feathers and calm down a bit, step back from your work and try to see objectively. Can you improve whatever it was that they mentioned? Generally, there is always room for improvement. And if you approach your posts with the attitude (and you can even say so on your sites) that you are a student of the arts (self-taught included) and constantly learning, most people are respectful of that.
Also, don’t take all criticism to heart. You should automatically discount the ones that just say ‘you suck’. They are of no value whatsoever. First of all, their opinion is none of your business. What someone else thinks about me is none of my business, whether it’s right or wrong. People are entitled to their opinions, no matter how erroneous. And generally when someone says something about our work, it’s about our work, not us as individuals. But when someone simply says, “That sucks” and offers no reason why, then the comment is obviously a knee-jerk opinion without any knowledge or expertise in art backing it up. Seriously a complete waste of your time and energy to get hung up on comments like that.
However you should pay attention to the ones that have other things to say. Are they telling you something kindly? Is it constructive criticism? If so, see it through their eyes, if you can. This feedback can be invaluable to you. In cases like this where the one viewing your work offers constructive criticism or suggestions, they can potentially become your teachers for the moment. Consider what they say carefully and objectively. This requires detaching yourself from your work and looking at it with a critical eye. Does the viewer making the comment have a valid point? What if you made the adjustments as they suggested? Would it improve the piece? If so, then fix the work if possible, and if not, humbly take note of that for the future. Always make sure to thank those who offer such advice and let them know you appreciate them taking the time. They obviously cared enough to give you more than a “That sucks” comment.
And I’ll close by saying this one last thing…be patient with yourself. Nobody was born an expert. If you’re a student enrolled in an art program, keep at it. Take advantage of class critiques to help you get past the “stage fright”. You and your classmates are in the same boat, after all. If you’re self-taught, never give up! Artists must learn a lot of things, but first and foremost, is how to see (which I’ll go into in the next post). Don’t try to navigate any shortcuts. Go through each step, including showing your work, and pay your dues. Hopefully these six tips will help you through at least one of them!