What keeps you going throughout the day? Is it the small pleasures? That morning cup of coffee, the anticipation of your lunch, the excitement of the next episode in your current binge-watching series, or the comforting thought of your cozy bed awaiting you at night?
Certainly, these daily comforts bring joy, but it's our interactions with others that truly sustain us. It might be the warm hug from your children as they head off to school, the engaging conversation with your colleagues during lunch, the interactions with your Facebook friends, a heartfelt visit or phone call with a friend, or the warmth of a family gathering.
As a public school art teacher for elementary and middle school students for more than 35 years, I had the privilege of connecting with hundreds of remarkable souls each day. After retiring, I knew I would miss it, so I occasionally substituted until the pandemic struck. Then, we relocated to another state! The move was to be close to our grandchildren, who bring more joy to our lives than I can put into words. Totally worth the move to be able to have them in our lives and watch them grow.
While I remained grateful for a stronger bond with them and for the family and friends I stayed in touch with, I found myself in a new state, during a pandemic, wondering how to fill the void of connection with others.
I made the decision to join a pastel society and began meeting some incredible people. I eventually became the president, and although it came with significant responsibilities, it opened the floodgates of connection. I also joined several local art associations and for the first time in my life, I was making friends who were fellow artists. We spoke the same artistic language! Then I began showing my work and I forged wonderful new relationships from those events as well. My hubby and I are enjoying getting to know many new people in the area!
Not only have I formed new connections, but I've also rekindled many old ones. I've had former schoolmates reaching out for commissions, and there was even a woman I met at a late 90's show who contacted me. She asked if I still had a painting I created from photos she had invited me to take at her home back then. It turns out she regretted not buying the piece earlier, and last year she got in touch to purchase the painting so she could have a memory of her former home.
I started taking and teaching pastel workshops, getting to know more and more artists. Recently, I was a part of the faculty for PASTEL LIVE, an international online art convention organized by Eric Rhoades and Streamline Publishing. Initiated during the pandemic , its success is rooted in the power of human connections. People seek to share their excitement about art and want to forge relationships with the artists they admire.
I understand this concept isn't new to anyone and we all recognize the need for relationships outside of the family. Yet, reflecting on the idea of connection has made me realize that everything revolves around it, including my need to create. The art world embodies this concept in so many ways. Through art, we connect with the beauty in the world, with our higher selves during the act of creation, and with others through the sharing of our work.
Have you ever seen a piece of art that took your breath away or one that stirred a cherished memory? You were touched by what that artist shared of themselves. The cliché holds true: artists invest their hearts and souls into their art, and when they believe their expression is ready for the world, they release it with the hope of touching someone. While likes and compliments feel great, and getting into juried art shows is great validation and serves to get us known and respected in the art world, it's the genuine connection with a viewer who feels something that we aspire to achieve. We aim to touch hearts, provoke thoughts, elicit emotions, and incite reactions. Without viewers, art becomes a more introspective pursuit. Many artists, musicians, and writers may create solely for their personal growth or healing, but for me, there is also healing and growth that emerges from the relationships I have cultivated within the artist and art collector community.
Art has the extraordinary ability to unite us. Whether it's a concert, a dance recital, or an art reception, art initiates conversations or leads us inward to tap into our own memories. It fosters a sense of appreciation for the things we may have started to take for granted or reinforces an existing appreciation for moments of beauty, capturing them for us to revisit.
In the years since my retirement, as I transitioned to a career as an artist, I've connected with numerous wonderful individuals. Some are adult students (as I still enjoy teaching and nurturing others' growth), some are fellow artists who guide and inspire me, and some are simply people I share a unique connection with on some level. They all bring joy to my life.
So when I share my work on social media, bring work to my gallery, or enter an exhibit, it’s not just about making a sale. I love knowing that someone, whether I have met them or not, has a small piece of my heart on their wall, and hopefully that brings them a little joy every day. It feels great knowing my creation has meaning to them.
When I create art, it's because I yearn to connect with beauty, and when I share my art, it's because I cherish the beauty of connection.
For so many years I had “Imposter Syndrome”. I doubted myself and my abilities and always felt like I was faking it. I felt like this when I was teaching middle school art; like I had been “pulling the wool” over the eyes of everyone. It didn’t matter how many accolades I received in the field. As an artist, the feeling was even more intense- enough to keep me away from my work for months at a time. I was so afraid to put myself out there; afraid of being judged; afraid of not being good enough.
Belief in one’s creativity and skill is essential, but until you take the chance to create something, you won’t have a chance to start building that belief. And a belief is just a thought you keep thinking. So if you are not making, not being creative, not taking that risk, there is no chance for that belief to grow.
Here are some ways to sweep that self-doubt aside:
1. MENTOR A NEW ARTIST. It was always eye-opening to me how much I knew about teaching when I would impart my wisdom to a student-teacher. As a working artist, sharing what I know with students or other artists has been a great way for me to see that I have what it takes to believe in myself as a creative. Imparting advice or wisdom gives you that chance to articulate all the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years. Even if you are just starting out, there is always a younger artist who would be excited to know what you know.
2. SIGN UP FOR A CLASS OR JOIN AN ARTIST PATREON. Patreon is a great way to stay creative and learn new tips and skills. Most well-known artists’ Patreon sites have different tiers of instruction and many include monthly critiques at the top tier. Critiques not only help you address areas you need to improve, but they will help you see where your strengths are as well.
3. TAKE AN ART WORKSHOP. So much fun! I only had the chance to take one workshop live before the pandemic hit, but the ZOOM workshops are great too. I have learned new techniques and connected with fellow artists. Just be careful to keep your own style, putting your own spin on the processes the workshop instructor shares. Some art workshops encourage this type of exploration. Oftentimes it’s better to take a workshop from an artist who has a completely different style than your own.
4. DAILY STUDIO TIME. Making art a habit is essential. I remember back in art school they required you to have a sketchbook. Some of the best artists throughout history and today sketch daily. I am still terrible about working in a sketchbook and I need to change that. However, I started painting from life just about every day and that is making a huge difference in my skill level. Some artists I know will paint first thing in the morning before they go to work, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Getting better is really all about the “easel time” so they say. If you can’t get yourself to paint something, just get in your creative space and do something- clean, rearrange, set up a still life, framework, etc.
5. POST YOUR WORK! Yes, I know it is super scary to put yourself out there, but you will get such a boost from the positive feedback you get! Start off posting where you know there are people who love your work, then ease into posting on other art groups. There are some I still hesitate to post on, knowing my work isn’t in the same league. However, after doing a litmus test so to speak on my personal page, I sometimes find the courage to post on the “Big Dog” sites. You never know when a “rock star” in the art world will comment on yours or an art manufacturer shares your work. When that happens it’s enough to shake off all that imposter dust!
It felt so good to come out of that pile of self doubt and get creative again! Remember, we have been given a gift ~ and what good is a gift if we never enjoy it?
So no matter what your artistic endeavors are, take some time each day to take those risks to become the creator you have always dreamed you’d be.
What are your go-tos for boosting your self confidence in your creative pursuits?
Leave a comment below to help out a fellow creator in their journey to self-worth.