Art career mistakes I’ve made so far


I’m still new to the Art World (though not new to making art!) – I still have no idea what I’m doing a lot of the time. I know I have a burning passion to create and to share those creations with others, but beyond that, everything from marketing to confidence has been full of stumbling blocks. I thought I’d share the mistakes I’ve made so far over the years when it comes to art and design!

Thinking an art career could never happen because I didn’t go to art school

Yes, when I say it it seems obvious, but it’s really not. The perception from outside is that either you are an artist already and so therefore allowed to have a career in art, or you “can’t draw” and so therefore there’s no hope for you. I have been drawing all my life, but it never occurred to me that I don’t need art credentials to do art. There have been a lot of posts from various people (much smarter and more talented than I!) with lots of completely different thoughts and opinions on whether you should go to school for art, but I believe more and more that if you already have a degree and are deciding on whether to go back to get an art degree, it’s just not necessary. If you’re deciding on a degree to choose because you’re about to go to college, then you may want to consider an art degree if you want to do art or design for a living – but to go back to school just for an art degree? Not necessary. Just make art.

Thinking a work has to be perfect before I can share it or even do it

Ah yes, the perfectionist dilemma. “How can I even do art without it being perfect???” It’s ridiculous to spell it out and yet I went for my entire life believing that the only art worth doing was perfect art, and so I held myself back on doing much of anything. Luckily, my NEED to create overwrote that enough of the time that I finally managed to break through it. Doing art is like doing anything else – practice makes perfect. How on earth can you improve if you never practice? We have this perception that art takes Magical Talent that either you have or you don’t, but just like any other skill, you can build up with conscientious practice.

More than just doing art, share your art! Putting your art out there and asking for polite critiques is extremely helpful! It can help you see things that you hadn’t seen before. My mom is both my biggest ally and my biggest critic – I can always count on her to encourage me and point out things she doesn’t like. Even if you don’t want to ask for critiques, put your art out there anyway. It will get you used to talking about your art, which is huge.

Believing that exposure will come if you’re good enough

And, the corollary: “Nobody is looking at my stuff, therefore it’s bad.” It’s so hard to remind myself that this isn’t true! Even if I post on instagram and only get a few likes, that has nothing to do with whether it’s good or not. The only person you should ever be comparing yourself to is YOU. Is your work getting better? Are you challenging yourself? Are you learning? Then that’s what matters.

The myth of “if you build it they will come” isn’t particularly true in this day and age. Audiences take time and effort to build, no matter how good your work is. You need to be giving exposure to your art and meeting people and talking about it, or else no one will even know it exists. Your biggest fans could be out there, unaware that your art exists. The most important thing is you figure out what works for you, whether it’s blogging or Facebook or your local art fairs. Keep putting yourself out there and engaging with others, and you will find what you’re looking for. And speaking of that…

Staying holed up in my studio all the time

This is a biggie for me. I’m introverted by nature and it’s so easy to be inside all day, creating art and design, and then wondering why I don’t know any other artists! I have been trying to slowly develop the habit of reaching out to people, or engaging with THEIR art as well. Another good idea is to take classes or attending meetups. It doesn’t work if you stay inside all day and just post on Instagram and don’t engage with anyone else. Comment on people’s posts, say hi to people you admire, ask for feedback, and also just go outside! It’s the perfect opportunity to get inspiration, take photographs, and just take a break.

Not believing in myself

This is THE biggest hurdle to my art growth, for sure. A combination of Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism has contributed to just being paralyzed with fear when it comes to art. I’ve slowly gotten over the hurdle by just powering through, a technique which is highly effective and really underrated. It’s tough though! But powering through and doing it anyway leads to small successes, which then contributes to my confidence. Even failures contribute to confidence, because really, what’s the worst that can happen? Trying and failing really IS better than not trying at all.

Raise yourself up, raise others up. That’s the motto I live by with my art now. Hopefully this helps anyone thinking about starting a new hobby doing anything!

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  1. A+ all of this!

    My tablet’s auto-complete has the right name for me. Excellent.

    I’m going to work on being happy with sharing what I’ve worked on. Someday. Maybe.

  2. I think these mistakes can apply to almost all careers, particularly creative ones that tend to use a lot of talent as well as skill. Being a perfectionist is definitely one of my own problems as a developer, and I should be solving problems the best way I can in that situation, even if the code isn’t perfect. I recently saw a talk by someone who said that perfectionists usually have an “all or nothing” mindset they need to get rid of to become less of a perfectionist. That’s definitely me. I always think that if I can’t do it perfectly, why do it at all? 😆 It doesn’t have to be that way!

    Audiences definitely take time to develop. The same was true for my blog, the hard work paid off later on. And you always hear from artists who were not very good in the beginning, and they just kept persevering, and eventually got their traction 🙂

    It’s definitely good to reflect on these mistakes and change a little around them 😄