get over it.

antony micallef

Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to get to know a lot of artists.  Some of the artists have a  degree in art, some have training in college, workshops or private instruction, and some are self-taught.  But one thing that is consistent with pretty much everyone I’ve met is that we’re all a bit insecure.  And we make a lot of excuses.

Some of the most common excuses I hear for would-be artists not participating in the ‘art world’ are  things like not having enough work, not having a studio that was ‘good enough,’ or, better yet, not feeling like they’re a ‘real’ artist.

Real artist?  What is a real artist?Graffiti Grandma

I read a quote yesterday that “The only thing that makes one an artist is making art.” (David Rakoff)  If that is true, then what is our excuse?  We should have the easiest job in the world, right?  I mean, does giving someone medicine make you a doctor?  Does filing our taxes make us a CPA?  Nope.  But if all we have to do is create something to be an artist, then what’s holding us back?


We are all to some degree afraid.  Afraid of rejection, of being criticized, of being compared.  Of making a complete fool of ourselves.  Of making people mad.  Afraid of letting the world in on our private thoughts and feelings and points of view.

But what’s the payoff for not making art?  Frustration.  Unhappiness.  Regret.

I view my journey as an artist as just that – a journey,  a process, an adventure.  I started out as a young woman with a dream, but had absolutely no idea how to make it happen.  I went to college, got a degree in art, worked in a bank, then worked in a school, but I still didn’t know how to be a ‘real’ artist.  I took one step at a time, and eventually started figuring a few things out.  I joined the local art league.  I learned (the hard way) that I need to put wire on the back of my painting before submitting it to a show.  Through volunteering, I eventually learned how to plan and execute an art show on my own.  I learned how to network.   I learned that I loved to show my work.  Showing my work made me a better teacher.  Showing my work made me a better artist.  Showing my work made me a happier person.

I got to travel a little bit, and realized that there are a lot of people showing their work all over the world.  Many were a lot better than me.  And, to be honest, there were some that weren’t.  Haven’t we all known an artist (or two, or three…) who seems to being doing great in the art world, but we really think that their work wasn’t all that great?  We know that we could do better than that.  We criticize and judge in our hearts, but deep down we’re really just jealous.  Jealous that he or she had more guts than us to go after something they wanted.

Being an artist doesn’t mean that you have to make art 24/7, or even every day.  It doesn’t mean that it has to be your full-time job.  (Thank goodness!)  It means simply that you make art.   Say the things you need to say in a language that only you can create.

We can’t control how others view it.  We can’t control if people buy it.  We can’t control if they understand it or even like it.  All we can do is make it.

Andy Warhol

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”  – Andy Warhol

My hope is that some of you that read this will use this as a catalyst to make art.  Get rid of your fear – at least enough to make more art and show it often.  And, hopefully, some of you will decide that this time next year, you will be a part of the studio tour.  And if a studio tour isn’t right for you, then find another goal, one that challenges you a little bit.   Write down your goals, and post it somewhere that you can see it every day.

What can you do this week that challenges you as an artist?  Sign up for a class?  Submit work into a show?  Simply set up your easel or work area and make something?

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce


2 thoughts on “get over it.

  1. Nice article, you really captured the anxiety some artists have about showing their work. It is true as an artist you need to develop a thick skin. I don’t believe criticism is the most daunting factor – it’s indifference and apathy. Artists like feed back good or bad. Nothing stings more than your countless hours of work being dismissed with a passing glance, but for every dozen or so of people who walk past, one will stop – and that makes it all worth it.

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