We creative souls are a fragile bunch, you only have look through history to see that it doesn’t take a lot to make us snap. On a serious note though it’s not difficult too see that creative souls are often tortured souls, with anxiety, depression and other mental illness quite commonplace amongst us, with our art and self worth tightly bound together. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone though right?
Here’s 10 tips I’ve learnt to live by in my years as a professional creative…
1. Accept compliments.
As a creative person you will get compliments about your work. Embrace them! Absorb them and pat yourself on the back! Don’t be humble or ashamed to accept a compliment, don’t think that ‘people are just being kind’, don’t push the compliments to one side and focus on all the negative bits that you (and probably, only you) can see in your work. You’re a creative person, you rock!
2. Make creative friends
No one understands the woes of being creative as much as other creative people. Some of my best friends are dressmakers, crafters, graphic designers, dancers, computer game coders and graphic designers. Chew the fat together, bitch and moan, you’ll feel a whole lot better. And what about when you’re feeling really low? Well they’ll understand and they’ll lift you up because that’s what you do when they feel low, because you know that their dresses and games and greeting cards are the greatest on earth!
3. Keep playing
Feeling stale is the kiss of death to creativity. Experimenting with your art, playing and remembering why you love it is what keeps us going. Buy a new set of colouring pencils or dig out some old ones you haven’t touched in years, get a new pad of paper, a new art book, pick up some vintage postcards, draw on your own arm, make some paint from mud and brushes from sticks, break the rules and have fun!
4. Accept you’ll never be the best
‘Better’ is all in the eye of the beholder and accepting that their will always be somebody out there that you perceive to be ‘better’ than you is essential to stop you killing your creativity with self doubt.
You’ve just found an amazing artist online, their work is incredible! It’s a lot like yours in theme or style, only it’s way more sophisticated, their technique is flawless, their anatomy is spot on. You’re in awe and admiration but completely and utterly destroyed. ‘How can my work ever be that good? I might as well give up!’
There is nothing more demoralising than this inner conversation, it’s easy to let feelings of worthlessness destroy your creativity. Whoever this artist is, they are NOT you, YOU ARE UNIQUE and so is your work! There is no doubt in my mind that this ‘amazing’ artist has had the exact same feelings about their own work. Be the best version of yourself that you can be and stop comparing yourself to others!
5. Skill isn’t everything.
So your anatomy is a bit squiffy and your painting technique is a bit splodgy. Well you and me both mate! We get better the more we practice but sometimes that squiffyness & splodgyness is what makes our work unique, it gives it charm and a unique style. Some of my best selling work is work that I now cringe at when I see it’s flaws, yet that’s the work I’ve sold hundred of prints of, that adorns multiple people’s bodies as tattoos…
6. Remember it’s a journey.
There is no destination, just a creative path we stroll and dance and stumble and keep falling over and grazing our knees on!
Many of my students are worried that they don’t have a ‘style’ yet, I always say ‘give it time, it will come’. Over time our work evolves as he we evolve as people and often we’re the last people to notice that our work has a unique look and recurring themes. I tell my students to list the subject matter and artistic techniques that they keep getting drawn to, often they don’t realise that there’s already a pattern forming.
7. Keep doing what you love.
To make ends meet we often take on work that we don’t love, do a day job in a supermarket , draw pet portraits, pull pints, it’s easy to let this grind you down and kill your creative spark. Give yourself reasons to do what you love, book a craft fair so that you’re forced to make 10 new card designs by the end of the month (or have an empty stall), book an exhibition so you have to take 20 new photographs to display (or have a room full of empty walls). This is what I ALWAYS do, without those deadlines and pressure I’d never make the time to make new work.
8. Rejection isn’t personal.
If you get rejected from an exhibition or a gallery for example, remember it isn’t a personal insult, it’s not even an insult against your work.
I used to work in a gallery, we used to choose art for exhibitions. We chose work that would sell well in our gallery. A beautiful and perfectly executed figurative portrait, in spite of its loveliness, was very unlikely to sell to our customers. A cityscape or London or Nottingham on the other hand, regardless of its artistic merit, would fly off the wall! So the skilled portrait artist might find themselves with a polite rejection letter. We may have loved their work but it just wasn’t right for our gallery.
Do you see what I’m getting at? The same goes for designing for clients, sending work to magazines and when we send our digikits proposals to Create & Craft!
9. Sack your bad clients
Client work is very trying but very rewarding. If you have a particularly awful, toxic client you are allowed to sack them! (Try it, it’s liberating!) Their money isn’t worth your misery. The time they will free up in your schedule (let’s face it they’re probably 10 times more time consuming than all you’re other clients!) will allow someone or something lovely to take their place.
10. Remember to live!
If you shut yourself away toiling at your art day and night your creativity and your brain will dry up! Inspire yourself with life experiences. Laugh with friends and family. Enjoy beautiful places. Eat good food. Drink good coffee (and hundreds of cups of tea) Have good sexy times. Sing and dance and flail your arms about like and idiot. Wear stupid things in public. Read a book. Watch daft movies with ‘the Rock’ in them..or zombies…or Disney princesses. Play with your kids and/or fur babies. Take a loooong bath. Listen to music so loudly that you go a bit deaf…..
As Ferris Bueller says
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
and then what would you make artwork about!?
With thanks to Natalie J Weddings for the beautiful photography in this post.