So you’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram at the beginning of your day, maybe you’re sipping your tea or eating your breakfast, and the first thing you see are just a bunch of posts where artists are showing off their sold commissions or paintings from their shops. Their posts are flawless. Even though they don’t have a ton of followers, for some reason the engagement on their posts are ridiculous. They seem to be so good at what they do, but you start to compare yourself to them and wonder what the big difference is between you and them – why didn’t you sell that piece you wanted to sell, or why haven’t you landed at least one commission this week, this month, or maybe even this year despite all of the hard work you’ve done?! Here are some points to keep you focused on your own business and creative output:
❤That artist is not you. You don’t know them, their business, or what their finances really look like. Their customers are not your customers.
❤Most of the artists that are crushing it in their art businesses have likely been in it for a bit longer than you and probably started in a similar place you did. Perhaps you can connect with that person – send them an email or a DM and ask for advice in the area/s you’re struggling with, or learn from them just by following them closely on social media.
❤Stop worrying so much! It doesn’t matter how much that person is making or that they seem to have a higher level of engagement with their social media posts – your work and journey are your own!
Real Artists’ Thoughts on This Topic
“On the pros and cons of comparing myself to other artists… On the one hand, a lot may be learned from studying the careers of people we admire in our industry. We can read their bios and CVs, see where they went school, their exhibition history, etc. This can give us ideas of what we can do to improve our own careers. On the other hand, there is the potential to compare ourselves to them. Doubt will creep in… How did they get a solo show five months out of school? This person has over a hundred thousand followers and they never smile in their photos, should I stop smiling? This artist is selling out all their shows and every painting has blue in it; should I only paint with blue? As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s crucial to remember to stay in your lane, run your race, have faith, trust the process, and keep moving forward.”
You can buy or commission work from Chloé on her website and follow her on Instagram.
“These days it seems like social media is the key to being a successful artist, and it does help me connect with potential clients and see what other artists are doing out there. But then it becomes far too easy to compare myself to these amazing, established artists! I’m constantly comparing my amount of followers and likes to theirs, and some days it makes me wonder why I do art at all.
But then I have to remember that I did not choose an easy career. All of these artists that I look up to had beginnings just like me, and as long as I’m putting everything I have into my pieces, then I will be successful. Between my painting and embroidery, I get to work on something I love everyday. And honestly, the massive student loan debt is a great reminder to keep going and stay focused—can’t waste that degree!”
“Here are a few things I have learned on those days when I feel overwhelmed, unfocused, and just plain stuck (which for me happen fairly often since I juggle running my small business with working as a part time substitute teacher and being a single mom to my 3 and 5 year old!). I have to constantly remind myself that baby steps really do add up and big things happen because of small steps over time. The second thing is lists, lists, lists! They help me stay focused and crossing stuff off gives me a sense of accomplishment. Lastly, on days when I feel too tired or uninspired I give myself small rewards as I get things done. For example, monthly bookkeeping done, time for my favorite snack, website and store update done, relax and read a chapter of whatever book I’m reading. The main thing to remember is that it happens to all of us and to just keep going!”
You can buy or commission work from Danielle on her website and follow her on Instagram.
I pursue my art in the hours when I’m not at my day job as a marketer/graphic designer, so staying focused and motivated is key! With my background in graphic design, I am used to working with clients and really enjoy it. In a way, clients can be a great motivator. I want to make my client happy so I strive to meet deadlines and communicate clearly. This has really translated well for me when working on custom pieces. However, a lot of the art related to my business is not client focused so I like to imagine myself as a client. I try to set goals and deadlines for myself and constantly keep a list of future painting ideas to help keep myself on task. When I decided to go all in and get my business license, I also wanted to share my work online to hold myself accountable and push myself to keep creating. A huge positive about sharing my work is that I’ve found that people from all over are really supportive and I love getting feedback and messages that keep me motivated every day.
I really enjoy following the work of other artists – it helps me break out of my bubble or leads to me trying new techniques. I really try to adapt anything that inspires me to keep my own stamp on whatever it is. I think everyone suffers from maybe feeling like you’re not moving or advancing fast enough and it appears like everyone else is doing more…for me I mainly struggle with time. Since I do this in my “free time” I have tried to go easy on myself but still make creating a priority a few times a week.
Setting aside small windows to paint at least means I’m moving forward even if it’s little by little. If I really feel unfocused it’s helpful for me to get outside and go for a run or a hike – I almost always come back with new inspiration. I like to take random photos of the sky or anything I find interesting outdoors so a shuffle through my phone’s photo gallery sometimes helps too. I also try to mix up my subject matter and go back and forth from a more formal piece to my sketchbook. Sometimes being uninspired – or even the odd feeling of anxiousness after of not painting for a certain stretch of time – is an invisible hurdle I imagine in my head and usually I can push through the “stuck” feeling once I start putting brush to paper.
You can buy or commission work from Octavia in her Etsy shop, Octavia Spriggs Studio, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Personally I think comparing yourself to other artists can be really daunting but at the same time I love seeing what other artists create and as soon as I start getting upset (the cons) I turn it all around by switching off the “self-judging” me and switching on the “how beautiful this work is!” me and then I want to start creating more.
So, to draw the line:
Cons: Doubts about how good you are or how talented you are.
Pros: Get inspired and motivated to create more and better! It’s a challenge that makes you work harder, gradually bringing your art to another level. And that’s what we need!
When I feel that I’m not getting anywhere or I just feel low and unfocused I always try to listen to my body and, perhaps, at that moment it just needs something else – so you need to do some other activity, e.g. clean the house, go for a walk, read a book or simply cook and listen to some music.
Sometimes our brain just needs to be unfocused so that it can take a break. It’s sort of a scream-for-mediation act.
In this case I get myself out of the this “I can’t get anything done!” box and stop torturing myself by focusing on other activities. Amazingly, my body and brain get their refreshment and then I sit down and create something in one go!
Sometimes it happens during longer periods, like several days or even a week, then I scream for help – but as my friend put it – just let it go. If you can’t focus on this work, don’t force it. Distract yourself and do whatever you want and then you are going to be back in shape when you just don’t expect it! So – let it go and listen to your body 🙂
You can buy or commission work from Natasha in her Etsy shop, The Art of Nata, and follow her on Instagram.
Do you have any tips for keeping a healthy mindset when it comes to your art business? If so, let us know in the comments!
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