It strikes me on an almost daily basis, how so many artists and makers have very low self-esteem or anxiety issues. What is it about a creative person that makes them doubt themselves so much? Why is it, when their audience sees beauty and wonder, the artist sees flaws and imperfection?
After visiting two fantastic creative venues this week; Plymouth college of Art and Exeter Phoenix, I was taken back to my days of an art student. When life was simpler and your whole purpose was self-discovery and growth as an artist. Where you questioned and explored. Where you could experiment with different mediums and have the space and time to try out new things.
Throughout your years as an art student, doubting yourself is part of the growth. Questioning what you are doing helps you develop as an artist. It is more accepted to be anxious as this helps your creativity. Maybe there is more arrogance too, as you are enclosed in this bubble where you can indulge your creative urges, and you are encouraged to go wild. You also have access to so many facilities - those of your wildest dreams, and being surrounded by like minded others helps dull your fears.
Fast forward then, to creating a business out of your art – whatever your medium, and this is where so many of you hit the wall. Self doubt, worry, no confidence, fear of failure, lack of belief. It is par for the course as a creative – the cliché of the tortured artist. Partly imposter syndrome as we have previously spoken about, but there is also evidence to show that creativity and mental illness are connected.
Why is this? What is an artist’s role, and why are they so tormented? I have always seen artists as brave, fearless. Creating their work regardless of what society tells them otherwise. Not conforming to the nine to five, but doing what they love, doing what they need, to do. How strange then, that so many of my creative friends think otherwise.
Creatives that we work with - I tell them they are brave, but they shake their heads as if to say ‘oh, anyone can do this’. They don’t believe that the decision they are making is brave, because they have so much fear surrounding it.
So now I talk directly to you, the artist. Step back from your fears for a moment.
Think about what you have achieved.
Think about the things that people say about your work.
Think about the people that choose to spend money on what you have created.
Think about the development you have made.
Think about who you have inspired, and are continuing to do so.
Think about those who crave to have your creativity.
Think about those who yearn to be able to make what you do but can't.
Don’t focus on what you could have done, focus on what you have done.
The role of an artist is a unique privilege – don’t waste it, or de-value it.
You are playing an important role in so many peoples lives, and you are fortunate enough to be able to create, when so many can’t.
You have a skill, whether you are confident enough or not to be able to promote it, you have got to accept it. By not doing so makes others see themselves less than they are because they want to be more like you.
Whilst writing this post I asked Google, ‘what is the role of an artist’, as I wondered what had already been written about this ‘job’. I’ve picked out a few things that really jumped out to me. Please take time to read all of the thoughts on the links below as they are brilliant.
“Artists ask the questions that everyone eventually tries to answer. Said another way, the role or job of any artist is to be brave enough to ask the questions whether or not you get paid, whether or not you get validation, and whether or not it's popular.”
“Good artists translate reality or imagination in previously unexpressed ways. Whether purposely or not, art helps society move forward. Many inventors pay attention to artists for inspiration.”
“The artist brings color and light to society. A dull and dreary day can be brightened up with a visit to an art gallery. Art in the home or office can totally transform a place, it becomes a focus point. A little ray of sunshine.”
“The artist provides society with emotions, colour, and texture. Scientists think up of ways to make life easier, builders and technicians turn those scientific ideas into tangible objects. These things help us - they blend our foods, put roofs over our heads, make mowing the lawn easier - but they never add real emotion. Artists come in to play on our emotions and subconscious thoughts. Amazingly, artists know how to elicit these strong feelings by creating images on canvas and clay.”
This is what the public feel when they think of you, the artist. You have a responsibility to your audience, so embrace it.
So, next time I tell you how brave you are, instead of giving me a dismissive shake of the head, stand tall with your head held high and say 'thank you'.
Helen @ The CBN Team x
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