5 Fears that can Destroy an Artist

#1 Self-Doubt (What if I’m not good enough?)

This is probably the number one fear of any creative professional.  After all, we are not creating necessities but luxuries for the most part.  As much as our art enriches our life and the lives of others, it remains something that we (at least as consumers) could probably live without. 

i also worry that at some point i’ll give up on making a living with art. i have this mental image of being 65 and having my grandkids find a crate in the attic with all my drawings in it. they’d be like “i didn’t know grandpa could draw. why is he working at Jiffy Lube?”  ~kc7655 DeviantART Forums

When money is tight, luxuries such as purchasing books, music, tickets to performances, and artwork are often the first to go.

We’re not doctors, teachers, or even farmers–we don’t create or provide a service that people can’t live without. As artists, we are well aware of this fact which only seems to fuel our sense of self-doubt. At times we can’t help but feel well. . . expendable

What if no one wants to buy my work?

The cure for self-doubt is surprisingly not success. The world is filled with famous and successful artists, writers, and musicians that are still riddled with depression and feelings of self-doubt.

Unfortunately, for the majority of us, this is not something that ever completely goes away.  Instead we have to find a way to live with this doubt and value the creative process as much as the work itself.


#2 I’m not original enough (someone else is doing it better)

While it may be true that all the great themes in art and literature have already been done before a thousand times over, it’s always possible to bring something entirely new to the process.

Let’s face it, writers and artists have been borrowing from their creative ancestors since there has been a thing called art. Even Shakespeare borrowed almost all of his work from other writers, but in the end, there is little question that he made them distinctively his own.

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”  ~Salvador Dali

Stop trying to constantly reinvent the wheel.  Instead use it, learn from it, model it, and then create your own version of it. Don’t worry about being seen as an imitator.  We have all learned our art from those who have come before us. Embrace it and create a version of it that is true for you.


#3 People won’t take me seriously as an artist

“Art is a hobby and not a real job”

“I’m afraid that my friends and family will be disappointed in me”

The truth is that your career as an artist is only as serious as you take it.  Do you work at it as your “job” or do you only work at it occasionally as your “hobby”?  How much work do you really put into it daily?  If you were your boss, would you pay yourself for the effort that you are currently making?

Having to deal with you friends and family (especially parents) can be particularly tough when it comes to them seeing you as a working artist.  The bottom line however is that they will take you and your art as seriously as they see you taking it.

In other words, if they see you putting in 10-15 hours day after day working not only on your art, but marketing your art as well, they will begin to see you as a “working artist” rather than just their kid who does art.


#4 People will steal my work or my ideas

One of the biggest fears that artists have when I ask about them selling their work online is that they are afraid that people are going to steal their work or their ideas.  While there’s no doubt this does happen, far too many artists are using this as an excuse to stay out of the online marketplace all together.

Yes, people steal ideas all the time.  You do it, I do it, and every artist under the sun has done it at some point (see #2).  We look for ideas that speak to us and then we use them to spark our imagination.  We’re not talking about these people, however, we’re talking about the real thieves who simply take stuff off the internet and pass it off as their own.

Although this is certainly a real problem, you also have to realize that these artistic parasites are a very small minority of the online population. 98% of the people looking at your work online have no intent of stealing your work, they are simply enjoying it and maybe, just maybe, they might be interested in buying it.


#5 My work is never as good as I imagined it would be

No artist is ever completely satified with their work.  Some pieces you will always like better than others but the pursuit of perfection is only a mirage that keeps you from moving on.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

At some point, however, you have to let it go and move on.  You have to accept the fact that even the greatest authors, composers, musicians, and artists were still unsatisfied with their masterpieces in some way.  Perfection is an illusion that will eventually consume you if you let it.  Think of each piece that you create as a stepping stone on a much longer journey.  You will never get to the next stage of development as an artist unless you are willing to set that piece aside and move on to the next.

Just let it go.

Live your art.


Image courtesy of  SXC

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  1. says

    This is all so true. You have to have been in the trenches for a while to know these things but your words will give hope and courage to artists coming up. It truly matters that we do what we do! Thanks for this!

    • SugarCrown says

      Okay, so I know that this is five years later or whenever. But something has just happened that has made me realise my biggest fear in artistry. It’s somebody having the idea before me and expanding it without my knowledge until it’s too late, after all my hard work and proud thinking. I hate that. And then others think you copied them, when you didn’t and instead some external force inspired you. So nowadays I always look up my ideas online. It’s not that I would give up on them, it’s just so I don’t think it’s a completely original idea and spread such a false fact to everyone. I think I’m more innovative than artistic, though, which can actually be worse in terms of the whole ‘copying ideas’ issue. And people won’t simply appreciate this art; they’ll push to have it for themselves. And before it’s too late, your name is lost and no one cares.

      • says

        I see that kind of thing happening to me and I keep going. I may or may not tweak things but would never quit, even one project I love and want to put out or having done a ton of work on. I don’t know what you make, but with music and its imagery it’s not usually that bad.

        “And people won’t simply appreciate this art; they’ll push to have it for themselves. And before it’s too late, your name is lost and no one cares.”

        You’d probably already have recognition. People are more likely to want your success than your style for its own sake.

  2. Drew says

    Thanks Cat, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way — I realize that this is probably going to sound a little kumbaya to our more cynical readers out there, but anytime I can encourage an artist to continue on their path at a time when they may be starting to lose their faith, I feel that we’ve succeeded here at least in some small part.

    I know that personally there have been many (many,many) times that I have felt the urge to give up writing and just take an easier path, but for whatever reason there always seemed to be someone who reminded me that all creative souls feel alone, useless, and abandoned at one time or another but we have to find a way to fight through it and not give up.

    After all, “Living your Art” is not only about the rush of warm fuzzies you feel when everything is falling into place in the studio, but it’s also about dealing with those inevitable crappy moments of self-doubt along the way. One way to do this is to realize that you’re not alone. We know what you’re going through because we’ve been there ourselves.

    Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and get back to work!

    • Kathy Kennedy says

      In my experience art doesn’t really sell only certain types and if you’re not create what the norm is people will not buy your art

        • Desharr Saddler says

          It depends where there’s a market for everything in different places…sooo depending on what you create it has to be presented around ppl who favor that style

          (I feel like that wasn’t really clear lol)

          • says

            I think you’re right Desharr, one of the most important things you can do as a creative artist is to find your audience (or have them find you!) Not necessarily so you can cater to them and constantly try to make them happy, but so you understand that your message and your art, whatever it might be, is getting through and is being appreciated. Without this source of encouragement, it can be a lot more difficult to find the motivation to create day after day.

        • says

          I strongly disagree with #5. If you set aside a piece of artwork you are working on, it becomes easier to do so anytime a piece gets difficult. I say rather stay with it and work through it because you will eventually figure it out, and learn something.

  3. says

    Awhile back, #2 almost derailed my blog.

    I told Mom about my doubts one day, about how thousands of people have probably said what I want to say, and done it in a thousand different ways and done it better. With all the blogs out there, I just couldn’t see how my blog could possibly stand out or make any difference.

    To this day I struggle with the fact that my blog doesn’t hold a candle to MANY others out there, but I still have unique stories and experiences to share with the world. So that keeps me going.

  4. Drew says

    Thanks for stopping by Carrie and sharing your thoughts with us. I’ve got to admit that this wasn’t an easy post for me to write simply because these are fears that most of us, including myself, are constantly dealing with everyday.

    It’s hard enough to deal with these fears privately without putting them out there for the entire world to see, but that’s exactly what we do as artist/writers. For whatever reason, we willingly open ourselves up and expose our vulnerabilities, hoping like hell that we won’t get burned. Sometimes we escape those moments of criticism and self-doubt, and sometimes we don’t, but either way at least we’ve had our say.

    “Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl.” ~Benjamin Jowett

  5. says

    Years ago when I started my career, I simply didn’t think about failing as an artist, and looking back it was that sheer audacity that got me through. One of the most important things an artist can do it to show up – not give up, persist with their work and get involved in everything they can to promote their work and their career. It’s the paralysis of the fears that you mention that has definitely destroyed many a budding artist’s dreams. A very real and pertinent topic, thanks for the article!

  6. Drew says

    I think you’re exactly right Carolyn, half the battle is just showing up and it certainly helps to be young and/or too naive to give up. I’ve read dozens of biographies about artists, musicians, and writers and virtually all of them were riddled with doubts and fears in their early stages of their careers, but for whatever reason, they always kept going.

    It has always annoyed me when people talk about natural talent as if it is this magical gift bestowed by the gods. Everyone seems to forget that Mozart’s fingers became deformed by the time he was twenty-eight because of the endless hours he spent practicing his craft. Practice, persistence, and bull-headed stubbornness will always take you much farther than any amount of natural talent alone.

    Thanks again for stopping by Carolyn and sharing your thoughts, I’ve been enjoying your excellent Artsy Shark blog for awhile now and always look forward to reading it. Keep up the great work!

  7. Drew says

    Thanks Christine for your kind words! No matter how you found us, I’m glad you’re here and I hope to hear from you again soon :)

  8. bcdetwiler says

    just found your site this morning…read several of the articles…was extremely encouraged…posted it to my facebook for other artist friends to find…thanks for all your insight…i feel at home here.

  9. Drew says

    Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing our links with your friends on Facebook!

    As you may have already noticed, we’ve got a fantastic group of creative souls here who are incredibly knowledgable, friendly, and supportive. I hope you get a chance to stop by again soon and by the way . . .

    Welcome home 😀

  10. says

    Wow. I found your site via Twitter today. I love your straight forward, no nonsense and best of all non-pretentious delivery of such sound advice. It’s info that is valuable and necessary, especially for us “emerging” artists.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • Drew says

      Thanks Bill for your kind words! I’ll have to send the Twitter birds a note to thank them for sending you our way :)

      I think, at least for me, the first step to getting past these type of fears was to understand that I was not the only one who was constantly haunted by these fears and doubts.

      Not that they’ve packed up and gone away by any means. Trust me, they’re still around and they like nothing more than to rear their ugly little heads when I least expect them. What I have learned, however, is that these feelings of doubt will eventually pass if I can somehow find a way to keep going and work my way through it. . .

      Thanks again Bill, I hope to hear from you again soon!

  11. says

    Aside from number 4, I know I have problems with all of these. Especially 1 and 5. I’ve encountered 3 only with my parents. I’ve had them (especially my dad) tell me that they hated that I went to school for art. Even when speaking of me drawing they say that I’m ‘just’ drawing, in a tone that tells me that they think I should be/should have done something else.

    But their doubts I can ignore as they were there before my own doubts set in. My own self-doubt is strong enough to slow me down and keep me wondering if I should pursue animation or art in general. My doubts that I draw to slow or that I’m not good enough. I’ll attempt to make it a goal for the year to try not to doubt myself so much.

    This is a wonderful site you have. So many great articles that I’ll have to get though. It so happened I found your site yesterday when I voiced some of my doubts on another website. I wasn’t directly linked here, but I was linked to Char Reed and found your site through hers. I really hope to learn a lot here.

    • Drew says

      Hi Ashley!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your numbers with us. I really appreciate your kind words and I hope that you stick around here and continue to join in on the conversation :)

      Now that I’ve become a parent I realize that my parents weren’t really as clueless as I initially thought, although I know exactly what you’re talking about when it comes to the way they see you as an artist.

      You see, parents have this habit of seeing their kids as their kids, and sometimes it’s hard for them to see your talents objectively. Where you see building an art career, all they can see is insecurity. When you see yourself as a professional artist, all they see is their kid doing art. When they see you on Twitter, FB, and DevArt all they see is their kid wasting more time on the computer.

      Let’s face it, we’re living in a lot different world than our parents grew up in. Thirty years ago, writers, artists, and musicians didn’t sell their work online because there was no “online”. You grew up, you got a job with an publishing or advertising agency and you created what your bosses told you to create. That was essentially your “art career”, unless you were one of those hippie-radical painters who were lucky enough to find a gallery to sell your work.

      All any of us can really hope for is to find a few kindred creative spirits who will support us along the way. There is of course no right or wrong answer here, just commit yourself to listening to your heart and following your own path. Keep in mind, however, that no matter which path you choose there will always be haters and doubters along the way — but there will also be people out there who will support you and your dreams no matter what. My advice would be to ignore the first and find the second.

      Thanks again Ashley and welcome to the neighborhood!

      • Jeff says

        It took nearly 35 years for my parents to take me seriously as an artist. Through high school I was constantly told that I was wasting my time with my self-selected and art centric courses. In fact, at one point my father actually told me that if he had it his way, all they would teach in school was English and Math. For real!!

        They weren’t particularly interested when my works were published and pushed to millions, or the numerous awards that I won. None of it really helped to get them to understand that not only was I making a successful and lucrative career out of being an artist, but that I was also pretty darn good at it too.

        No, it wasn’t until my father asked me one day if I wouldn’t mind helping him with a logo he needed that he would realize. I was apparently “good at that kind of thing”. None of the designers at his office had managed to get him anything he liked so I sat down for 15 minutes and whipped something out.

        “Wow. I mean, WOW. This is really REALLY good.”

        “Thanks Dad”

        “No, I mean really good!”

        “Well, you know, I’ve been at this a while now.”

        I guess the moral is that regardless of what anyone says, sometimes you need to push through all the **** and stay true to what you believe in. You CAN make good money with an art background. Heck, you can make GREAT money if you’ve got the spark. A lot of people didn’t believe in me, people I care about, but I still did it.

      • says

        I really like your post here, Drew, and I replying especially on this reply is, because what you wrote there is exactly what my dad think I’m doing all this time, I got my art job is usually online, and to him, he always said that I am “playing” with my PC, reading your comment there about this issue makes me more confident to take this career as an artist, thanks!

        • says

          Thanks Jeff and Eric for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. I think you’re both right in the fact that it takes time (sometimes a lot of time) for parents to shift their perspectives of not only who their children really are, but also how different the creative world is today. Somethings really have changed like being able to share your work instantly with a worldwide audience and building your personal brand online, while other things like the amount of actual hard work it takes to succeed as a creative artist, has not changed.

          Congratulations to both of you for finally breaking through and giving the rest of us a sense of hope that someday we too might gain that elusive acceptance from our friends and family to support our fragile creative dreams.

  12. says

    Hey Drew, good article. Maybe it shouldn’t be called “5 fears that can destroy an artist” … your conclusion are probably more true to “5 fears that can create an artist”. Pursue of perfection is what creates progress. You try to create something perfect, you fail, you learn from your mistakes and raise up again to pursue that idea of perfection in next work. That is progress and is moving us forward because that idea of perfection exists in our minds. Otherwise we would just create mediocre work and wouldn’t set the goal for ourselves to reach even further. This goes for your first 2, and 5th conclusions. Questions of self doubt and originality should always be a part of your thought because once they are satisfied you are not developing yourself any more. That does destroy some people, but all great artists I know figured out how to use these doubts to become even bigger. It is a driving mechanism, but you can also consider it as element of destruction.
    People are reducing art to economical level, and is today considered in terms of profit . Art is an independent in itself and should serve only to satisfy the needs of itself and not others. You can earn money in art by selling it to others, but ask yourself all the time is that art you created used to gain value on market or is it coming from your inner motivation to create because you just want to. If you feel like you need to express yourself and think painting is your strongest vocabulary for doing it, then just do it and don’t care about material consequences. Just make sure you have enough to survive (eat, sleep) and do your thing. :)

    • says

      I think you’re absolutely right Toni in the fact that these 5 fears (and numerous others) can either break us down and destroy us, or if we are willing to face them, they can actually help to create the type of artist that we were intended to become. It’s that whole what-doesn’t-kill-us-makes-us-stronger idea that sooner or later forces us to choose between giving up and putting our head down and moving forward despite our fears and doubts.

      It’s a shame that art (like pretty much any other pursuit these days) has always been judged a success or failure by the mainstream based solely on economic returns. Sure there have always been those rugged few individuals who for whatever reason don’t seem to need the approval of their peers or aren’t driven by the bottom line. Maybe these represent the so-called “outliers” or maybe they have just been lucky enough to not need the money. In the end, it’s all about doing what you love to do. I think you summed it up beautifully when you said. “Just make sure you have enough to survive (eat, sleep) and do your thing.” Amen!

  13. Lorenzo S. says

    Well written. As a musician and artist, i sometimes think, why do it? no one cares. But it makes me happy to create and that has to be enough. I’ve had plenty of paid gigs, especially for my music. Yet I still doubt myself way to often. Maybe I need a pep talk from the Joker, “Why So Serious”.

    • says

      You’re right Lorenzo, when it comes down to it, you just have to do it for yourself. As soon as we start worrying about the result or how the audience will react to it, we tend retreat from our original vision and try to make it fit what we think someone else will like — ‘Why so serious’ indeed 😉

  14. says

    This is a wonderful article Drew. 1 and 5 are especially pertinent to me and its hard not to get disheartened when the art in your head is always so much better than what you actually produce 😉 – or so it seems.. Carolyn is right in that the fear paralysis can destroy art careers. It’s good to see it spelled out like this in order to help us realise that dissatisfaction in what is produced can actually spur us forward instead of holding us back.

    • says

      Thank you so much Helen for your kind words. I think you’re right, it’s just the nature of the beast to always have a creative vision that lies just outside our grasp. On one hand it helps to pull us forward (like the proverbial carrot on a stick), but on the other hand it does get discouraging at times to always fall short. Still it seems our only choices are to either carry on and fail, or give up and succeed — personally I choose failure

  15. María Paiz says

    Wow! I just found your blog and it’s just what I needed. Thank you so much for writing candidly and in-depth of an artist’s life!!!
    I’ve been called talented in my little world but I never feel that way. I’ve been told I could bring the goods but somehow I’m still stuck in the same place, doing the same thing, wishing the same wishes. I start working, trying to improve, always feeling I’ll never really make it. Now, reading your blog I just realized I NEVER will. BUT, it’s OKAY! Being an Artist (uuuuu it’s scary using that big word) implies doubts and fears but also immeasurable joy in this lifelong quest… I couldn’t imagine my life being any different.
    I’ll come back constantly to your blog entries to reaffirm my newly found determination. Please, carry on writing Mr. Artist… the strings from which you weave your words are the ones other artists will use to secure their dreams.
    Thank you again 😀

    • says

      Thank you Maria for sharing your thoughts with us. While it’s true that we may never actually feel like we have “succeeded” or achieved our creative potential, I think once you realize this it’s actually kind of freeing. Once you realize the fact that it’s not just you, it allows you to relax and enjoy the process a little more instead of blindly running towards a finish line that doesn’t really exist.

      Thanks again for your kind words. It’s comments like yours that make this all worthwhile :) I love what you say about “the strings from which you weave your words are the ones other artists will use to secure their dreams.” That is indeed my sincere hope. Thanks!

  16. says

    I really enjoyed this and gained much insight about art and my art. I have felt all the feelings you have spoke about and continue to feel, but this article lets me realize I am not alone.
    thank you so much you have helped with your words more than you know

    • says

      Thanks Elizabeth :)

      I think one of the greatest gifts that you can offer someone, is encouragement and the feeling that none of us are truly alone on this journey. We are all more similar and connected than we might imagine and that moment when you hear our thoughts/dreams/fears echoed in the words of someone else — we begin to realize that our mistakes and temporary failures aren’t personal, they are simply part of the overall creative process. A type of initiation ritual to test our resolve and dedication to our art.

  17. says

    Awesome tips. I’ve been PC free for some time but #5 rings the truest of ’em all for me. Gonna make sure to review these when I finally get back on track.

  18. says

    I just this, and as an artist, I can say I too had travel through the valley of doubt. I really enjoyed both this artible and the one about art school…thanks for sharring…
    I have sharred them to my facebook page Kaileen Burke Artist…www.kaileenburke.com

    • says

      Thank you Kaileen for your kind words about the articles and for sharing them on your Facebook page :)

      I just stopped by your site and really enjoyed seeing your artwork and getting the chance to read through your blog. I bookmarked it and will be sure to stop by again soon. Thanks again Kaileen and I look forward to connecting with you on FB and Twitter.

  19. Boris says

    Hi Drew! I am happy to find this blog entry. I enjoyed reading this amazing list and it really hit the spot! Thank you! 😀

  20. Giamatti says

    Just wanna say how I am really loving the fact that these can be very much applicable to and definitely happening with artists from ALL art forms, be it literary, visual, performing, or whatever. Great great article :)

    • says

      Thanks Giamatti :) I think you’re right, these types of fears can apply to any type of artist or creative soul who is willing to put themselves out there in the spotlight.

  21. Jules says

    I’m glad to find this, it woke me up feeling all about 5 differnt fears, I felt like these words. Sometimes I wake up thinking about it if being an artist is worth living for life being an artist, because sometimes I run out of creative imagination on art, what next, all the time. Most people tells me, are you selling them, what if no one buys from you and so on, I feel pressured to make people to make me proud if I tried hard to sell it. I just wanted to do art for my freedom living. Also my friends aren’t interested in art I talk about, so being lonely in doing art alone is the hardest thing.

    • says

      I think you’re right Jules, it’s that feeling like you are the only one out there going through these things. I think anyone who honestly creates art does it because they love what they do and not because they think that they are going to someday get rich.

      Sure I think we would all like to sell our work and earn enough money to live our life and not have to continue waiting tables or stocking books at Barnes & Noble, but money is not the reason we create our art. We create because we are explorers of the soul. We look around, we wonder, and then we do our best to describe what we see. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to make other people proud of you. Just do your best, create your art, and make yourself proud. In the end, I think you’ll find that those people who really matter just want you to be happy :)

  22. Steve Thomas says

    All of the above comments really ring true for me, and I am a drummer married to a wonderful artist, and i am really fortunate that we share our struggles in our development. We have come to the understanding that we are always works in progress, and we constantly encourage each other, to be the best we can be. So I just like to encourage all of you wayfarers on the journey of becoming. Steve Thomas

  23. says

    This is a great article that I relate to. I think I suffer from the fear of not being good enough to capture enough market share to earn income to live by. I don’t fear not being successful as Scot Christensen or Thomas Kincade (what a money maker he was!). I fear not being able to earn even the median household income in the US as a painter. I’m not even close now, but truth be told, I’m still only just dipping my toe in the water.

    I fear being a starving artist. I see so many painters that in terms of the quality of their work, they should be doing far better in terms of income than they are, and I think then maybe WOW it’s really hard out there. And I’m sure it is.

    But I have a B.S. in Business Management and I know that even great artists and painters can be sorely lacking in their efforts or skills of marketing, promoting, and selling their works, which are a completely different skillset than those that go into creating their artworks.

    So that’s my fear, not being able to earn enough to live on.

    Your article was great and really boiled down some truths about how fear can eat us from the inside out if we let it. The hard part is to not let the fears get the best of you and to PUSH forward constantly and overcome them.

    Dream. Hope. Pray. Seek out encouragement. Don’t listen to the fear.

  24. says

    Great piece. Now that I actually am in my late 60s, I am afraid that my grandkids will not only find my drawing in the crates in the attic, but me also…..put away with all the drawling that didn’t make it.

  25. MMA says

    What are your tips on standstills? A deadlock in creation? I am just starting to really create but after a few years of almost constant work and dedication, i just.. stopped! and i can’t get myself back up and work.. I got lots of ideas but when i get to the desk i abandon all hope.I thought that since i don’t do anything i should compensate by learning. My theory is that, because of the constant learning and thinking of how i must start creating, tires me and the only solution is isolation… I am desperate, please help me! Art is not my income source, i am in a art college. Sorry for my english

    • says

      That’s a good question, and unfortunately not always an easy one to answer. The reason is that before you can “restart” you often have to figure out why you got stuck in the first place.

      My first suggestion might be to try simply to change things up a bit. Whatever your working routine used to be, do something different. Try a different environment or time of day. Try a new technique or method of working — anything that will force you to see things differently, approach things from a slightly different perspective. Sometimes getting stuck is simply a matter of falling into a comfortable routine.

      My second suggestion would be to find some new creative connections in your life. These could be people, music, books, experiences, etc… Again, it’s all about shaking things up and jump starting your creative juices.

      My final suggestion at the moment would be to try your hand at imitation. Sometimes when I am completely stuck, I will go back to some of my favorite writers and free write something as I think they might. I try to imitate their style, sentence structure, format, language and a lot of times that will start things moving again. Instead of trying to be me creating something new and great, I simply try to be someone else, which often relieves some to the creative pressure and frees things up. I’ve talked with many visual artists who have done something like this as well. It’s all about momentum and finding a way to just move forward.

      I hope this helps :)

  26. says

    What an inspirational read! I’m sure a lot of artists go through all 5 phases. Your words of wisdom will definitely give them courage to push forward despite the odds.

    There had come a point when i too had doubted m,y abilities but I had people around, people across the world who believed in me & my work & kept commissioning me. I have no come to a point where I realize where I stand. Of course there’s artist who are way better than I am all over but I have come to realize they all have their distinct strong points & have also come to realize mine. There was a time in 2004 that i had almost decided to leave art, but thanks to various incidents that happened at that time I decided to pursue it as a career & now work as an animation director.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the read. THank you for writing this.

  27. says

    thanks for this article! I have been suffering fear no. 1, 2 and 5 for a loooong time since in high school. usually after finished drawing, I got scared because my drawing was not as imagined. So until now my solution is scanning and post it in internet then trash the real art so my parents can’t find my real art.
    But the weirdest thing is, I enjoyed if my friends look at my drawing. even they give criticizing my drawing, I accept them as some improvement. meanwhile I was so scared if my art was found out by my parents. (and when I try to think why, maybe because in my childhood around 11 years old. For the first time I draw a real person and when I show it to my father, he said that I was so bad at drawing. meanwhile my mom said I must went to art school *but I don’t want to because I want to work that contains International*)
    so until now I’m still hiding my art from my parents, while love to showing my art to my friends or the art teacher

    for the fear no. 4, I don’t mind about imitation because nobody in my class were interested in art *yeah I’m in International Relations major finally, but I’m happy* 😀

  28. says

    All of this is so true in all forms of art — visual, music, and more. I’ve seen it paralyze musical groups I have been with. I also find myself fighting against these feelings from time to time with my own artwork. Even though this article was posted a while ago, it still rings true. These are great suggestions, all very practical — especially the need for self marketing. After all, if we don’t market ourselves, who will?

  29. says

    “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” ~Salvador Dali

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know this article is three years old, but this is exactely what I needed to hear. Now if only I could do something about fear #6: where am I going to store all my artwork once it’s finished?

    I do disagree with artist not producing vital needs: art can feel people feeling less creeped out in hospitals and thus make them less hesitant to go. Decorated pill boxesmake it fun for children to take medication. Elderly at my mother’s nursing home eat larger servings of food when presented on gorgeous painted porcelain plates and sometimes even ask for seconds!

    I assure you that art can do more than just pretty up a black wall. Art can save lives, and we can be proud to be a part of it.

  30. says

    Just found you site today and am so glad I did! I haven’t been able to stop reading your posts. :-) Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 on this one really resonate with me. Thanks so much for posting.

    • says

      Thanks for you kind words and it’s great to have you here :) Really enjoyed your recent post “Washing away the dust…” and congratulations on having the courage to finally show off your artwork. And for what it’s worth, we are all beginners with a capital “B” in some respect. Just keep creating and remember to enjoy the journey!

  31. Royals says

    This was a great piece. And I have to say, I lately struggle with #4. I mean, I am an educated photographer/designer and had some little sites up, but never marketed them well. I lately had the idea starting an art blog with my work but I am not much of a talker, just a visual talker 😀 I am not sure though because I want am afraid people with steal/copy my work wich I want to preserve to later print on art products (notebooks). I feel like, if I share my work now, I might not be able to use them later since people might already get used to them :) So basically I might hold back a bit. Do you understand my dilemma?

  32. says

    I see many other folks in almost any field deal with the same sensitivities, I reckon it’s just a character type but more acceptable to mention if you’re an artist. Perhaps it’s far more creative in any field to be self questioning/doubting rather than out and out secure in what you do. After all is said and done, we’re humans first but we at least have license to see below the surface as well as above and i think that is a security in itself. Thanks so much for this site, you’re a real one..

  33. Sondra says

    I am an artist who was born and raised an artist, by artist parents, in an artists community. I gave it up because of reasons which you listed. In fact, I am so black and white that I don’t do anything artistic at all anymore. I now have a “real” job. A piece of me is dead. Life is ok. It’s like work and hobbies are just to pass time before you die. But I am surviving. People respect me more than they ever did. I guess I didn’t have the guts or maybe the talent, but I was free and felt more strongly than I do now. I wanted to share this so that those who are weighing their options between following their passion and building a secure life will know that they should not be so black and white about it as I have been. If you decide to quit pursuing your arts, at least keep doing them. If you are a true artist, you always will be. Denying your passion feels like a loved one dying. And as time moves on, you start forgetting how to do it.

  34. Josh says

    Man, I sure am glad I stumbled upon this website! It’s just what I need to read right now, having been stuck in this huge rut pretty much ever since my self-esteem levels dropped back in high school. Before those times I was pretty much always drawing and creating something, then the unhealthy comparisons to the work of others’ happened and it’s been years since I’ve captured something on paper. Music in a sense took over after that point, but even then, my lack of discipline, self-esteem and those 5 fears listed prevented me from really honing my craft with percussion and guitar. Honestly though, at the end of the day, even after all of the contemplation over whether or not to “go to college and get a real job”, it’s art that I truly want to devote my life to. Not really sure what I’ll do about the income/college part, but seeing as how I’m 21 and still hopefully have plenty of time to flesh things out…I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now though, it’s time to get back on the horse! Thank you for this encouraging read, Drew! It’s good to see none of us are ever truly alone in our quest! :)

  35. says

    So my google search for fear helped me find this place. It speaks into the real heart of the matter. I have lots of ” history” with all of these fears and where they originated from but won’t bore you with the details. I’m thankful to have people around me that value what I create and Im trying to take baby steps that feel oh so huge. It’s one thing to paint because you enjoy it but another thing to call yourself an artist and actually work it like a business. A million times over……..thank you.

  36. Jurin says

    I got a Bachelor’s degree in oil painting in 2002 and then put all my art stuff away and haven’t done anything since. It wasn’t until I took an extra credit summer course on civil war films that I found what I was good at, but did realize it yet. Only…now 12 years later I finally found what I loved most and suddenly recalled trying to get into a science fiction horror and fantasy film course back in high school. Every year the class maxed out and they had no room for me. I had to select something else.

    Tell me everyone on the internet, how would you be if you were denied the courses and education you really wanted and then very nearly end up failing out of high school and/or college because you could only take what was left over?

    • Shatz says

      Nobody like when that happens. Happend to my friend and I, but need to move on. Learn to like the whatever-course-you-have-to-take, dont have to love them though. I consider we’re fortunate enough since we both love knowledge and love to learn as much as we can.

  37. Aen says

    So i am in the middle of tearing my painting apart just when i landed on this article you wrote. Thank you for sharing this! Your words uplifted my spirit. Upward and onward indeed!

  38. Sakkiri says

    I’ve always doubted my art skills, and to be honest there were occasions where I would abandon my sketches and completely give up drawing. My dream is to be a graphic designer as well as a anime animator but I always felt that my drawings were inadequate compared to everyone else’s. I go to a visual performing arts school and everyone raves that all of the students in the art strand have a great talent bestowed to them by the heavens, and that really hurt my confidence. Many have said that I should’ve tried out for the art strand but I ended up auditioning in the vocal strand and making it.

    I’ve always been so insecure about my drawing, and I know that there’s a lot I need to work on but I still have a little voice in my head telling me that I’m candidly not good enough. And I sometimes think I am.

  39. says

    I agree with everything except number three. If I were to work ten to fifteen hours a day on my art I would have no time for my day job which pays the bills, the rent and feeds me. I live on my own with no one to give me financial backing. I tried for years to make a go of it while living on social assistance. I did sell almost one hundred paintings but I never made enough to live on and ended up homeless and traumatized. So, you might want to tailor your advice to correspond more accurately to the real world.
    I still paint by the way.
    I do not consider this a hobby.

  40. says

    Artists need to support each other instead of feeling threatened by the competition. We all see art through our unique vision of reality or more accurately, fantasy. Your RSS feed is like a virtual psychiatrist’s couch because it is tantamount to therapy – we need that when we are down in the dumps and question our sanity for beating our heads against a wall. You are like a breath of fresh air; thanks for being the beacon in the wilderness!.

    I create art because for me it is both a labour of love and therapeutic. I don’t expect to make money from it but it is my calling in life and now that I am retired, I am devoting most of my spare time and energy doing what I enjoy doing best. I am reminded of one of Dr. Wayne Dwyer famous quotes “Don’t die with your music in you!”

  41. Shatz says

    Spot on! Happy to be stumbled upon this article (though it’s been 4 years I think). Those lists totally what I always feel. I’ve been in arts in so many years until I reached the college level where I took computer studies, programming was a core subject which I need to pass.

    So here’s the thing, continue on uni level, Im still taking computer major in multimedia but programming still a core subject. Then, my multimedia lecturer said “You dont belong to multimedia because you dont have creativity in you”. I was shocked when he said that since Im an art person. I thought maybe because I caught up too much into programming that my creativity has lost.

    Can we really lose our creativity? Or maybe Im not creative to begin with..? My self-doubt are growing even bigger..

  42. says

    I am 12 and many people do not believe me or they are too jealous to believe that I drew something but I’m fine with that. My drawings are sometimes awesome and sometimes they turn out as CRAP rubbish, but I keep trying and training I know I have this talent from God. I don’t want to waste it 😉 ur doubts grow becouse with stress art work comes out as stress.try listening to music that suits your drawing it helps me:) ART IS MY LIFE

  43. says

    Great post!
    In AA we talk about the Twelve Promises. All but one has come true for me in my twenty years of sobriety. I live with the fear of financial insecurity. Some days are better than others, but I don’t give up, and I believe in my capacity to create.
    I now see this is what the artist lives with most of the time, fear.
    So I ask myself do I want to be constantly feeling this way? Obviously not, so I have to accept that being an artist is the path that I have chosen or has chosen me. I strive to take my work as an artist seriously with courage, commitment, and the passion to create. I have learned and continue to learn about marketing and business.
    Artist’s aren’t like other entrepreneurs in that we can’t simply try another business. But there are many things we can do to improve our financial situation.
    So many of us don’t get this kind of essential information about the practical business of being an artist when we go to art school. It has gotten better but needs still needs a lot of improvement.

    In the meantime, artists must advocate, believe in themselves and their capacity to create because they love what they do.

    Catherine Meyers

    • says

      First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your kind words with us. I really appreciate you taking the time :) And I think you’re right that creative artists are unique in the fact that they mainly are interested in creating the art, not necessarily marketing either their work or themselves as artists or writers. I also think that financial insecurity is unfortunately more the rule than the exception for creative artists because of this fact. We all know that we should probably be doing more to promote our work, but that takes away from whatever already limited creative time we might have. In other words, if I get a few free moments I want to actually sit down and write, not sort through my emails or update the website. As creators we naturally want to create, but as most of us are discovering, there’s much more to being a successful creative artist than simply creating good work.

  44. David Braga says

    Everyday goes by i go back and forward on doubting myself and feeling confident. This page is inspiring to me to keep trying in my artwork. My issue is whenever i see other artists who do better, or when i am told to always follow a format in the artwork, i get anxiety. Im in college right now so hearing it from the teachers and/or students will either help me or make me feel stress. I am one who justs goes with my gut on what im creating and drawing, sometimes i keep hearing otherwise. Any advise to give on that?

  45. says

    My father was a painter and a designer. For most of his life he was told by almost everyone that he wasn’t an artist. That he had zero skill. He was mocked, he was laughed at and he was ignored. Often times the local galleries and museums would leave him out of discussions related to the city’s artists. They excluded him from events. As a little boy I watched my dad cry many times. Sometimes he wondered what life was about. He was often degraded in life by other people. But despite all of that he kept creating. He kept painting. He inspired me to become an artist. He told me that it would be a long and lonely road. A road made of exclusion and rejection in everything. He told me that no one will help me but everyone would mock and make fun of me. He was lucky to have found a wife. I guess because it was the 1950’s things were different then. Today as I have learned, being male and an artist represents the worst possible thing in many women’s minds. However despite my dad’s warning I choose art and design as a career. And I too have had to face many of the same things he faced, perhaps even worse. Though the one thing that stands out to me is that after so many years creating. So many let downs and so many rejections. So many tears and so many broken dreams. In a city where to this very day, 15 years after my dad’s passing. (He died in 1997.) The local galleries and art museums have continued to exclude his work. His legacy, even though it is relevant to the history of the city. I too am thrown in that mix and face the same level of deliberate exclusion. But… It is okay. This is how it goes. My dad told me that that is what you face when you take on the life of an artist. It is a way of life and the challenges are great. He told me that is is about the passion to creation no matter what. Little did he know that his focus was so fixated on some little town in the old south that his work had transcended that place. Now his work has been selected and admitted into the Smithsonian. That same painter who was told that he wasn’t an artist. The same painter who spent so many nights crying from the hurt of so many cruel people’s words. His legacy is something that will outlast many of those ‘galleries’ that excluded him. At 39 I too face the same challenges. I am alone and am unwanted. I too have been told that I am not an artist. I too have been passed over by many galleries and museums. But that is how it goes. It is okay. The fact remains that this art is now in a profound place. And it is my duty no matter what to continue to build on that legacy as the next generation in my dad’s history. This art history continues. Though I do not know if I will make it to the next level I have to only do the highest quality work that I can. No matter what anyone says. No matter who puts me down and degrades my effort. I have heard it all in life. My dad prepped me. Some of the names are exactly the same ones that he was called. Though loneliness is a hard fact to face. Like most men I would like a family or a chance to be loved. But the truth is that art is the love of my life. And as a result I can not expect to always be understood or viewed as a productive person. Many women do not want a painter/designer. Though it hurts to know that I may never know the kind of life that most other ‘accepted’ men take for granted. I know that I am building onto something larger than myself. Perhaps in that, the loneliness and rejection is worth it. it is hard to tell. my dad didn’t know but he continued forward. Now there is a sign that perhaps there is a purpose behind persevering. There is value in art that comes from the heart. One thing about being called every name in the book and rejection. When you have taken the worst of blows. You are not shocked or moved by it any more. It hurts far less when you are used to it. Like a knight who has been beaten and beaten. He carries on despite his wounds because knows that the battle must be won, no matter what. history depends on those willing to make the sacrifice for their dreams. Sometimes even if the price is life itself. Sometimes people can make something so worthless that it eventually becomes priceless as a result of its notoriety based on on its deliberate degradation. Art has power no matter how hard people try to take it away.

    “There is no must in art, which is forever free”

    • Anita says

      Hi AJ, your story made my heart ache, I am so sorry that your father died before being acknowledged as an artist and that he faced so much rejection by ignorant people. I know how it feels, I have only ever approached two galleries with samples of my work (ceramic sculptures) and after the 2nd looked down at my work with the look of disdain (she looked like I was holding a lump of excrement) I’ve never tried to contact one since and probably never will but I will never give up on my art and I hope you won’t either.

  46. Mixy says

    I try putting my artwork into gallery and I had no luck. Then I try to even sell it and I had no luck and My art was label as amateur art by the perfectionists… Im trying so heard but no one is interested in my art…. So I thought that I should just give up and forget of being a artist… Well perhaps I should go back to school and study law. Look at hitler, at 1st he wanted to be artist and it didn’t work out for him and then he became A politician and it did wonders for him. Perhaps I should become a politician. Anyhow If you are interested look at my art I have it on Instagram, I’m easy to find, my name is mixy Martinez

  47. sinner says

    The thing is, a lot of people are thinking in parallel. So it is entirely possible for two people to come up with similar if not the same idea. Also, everything has been done. And people are smart now. For example most guitar players can just sort of look at how someone is playing and copy it and incorporate it into their own technique. This is why EVH in the early days used to play with the back to the audience when his crazy tapping technique hadn’t broken out yet. Other art is the same way. People just recycle ideas.

    Most other art is the same way. You can’t shock people any more! When you show someone a piece of art they think you are trying to impress them or ask for their acceptance. Usually, if you are not famous already, no one cares even if you are the most original thing on Earth. That is, people generally won’t even acknowledge your work unless you already have some sort of clout especially in the west. So being original is a waste of time, it won’t turn heads. Your name and art has to have some sort of snowball effect then people will start to acknowledge it. In short, this is like a youtube video going viral. Once it snowballs it can’t be stopped. But getting it to move in the beginning is next to impossible. This is where most people face a horrible death, same thing as business, a lot of businesses die a horrible death in the first 3 months for the same reason. It’s all related!

  48. Rv says

    I want to be a graphic illustrator (A am new to it), and this article made me realize differently. I mean, I don’t do art on a daily basis…so it makes me rethink….though I don’t know where else to turn. Other than Art I am not good at any other subjects…I like to draw with pencil I have been told I am good, but not great. I wonder now where should my life be headed.

    • says

      I think it’s natural to question yourself and your abilities. I know writers and artists who have been doing this for years and they still wake up every day with their doubts. It’s just a part of being a creative artist. My only advice would be that if you enjoy it, you have to be willing to work at it. Natural talent is only the starting line. Maybe you’ll decide later on that you still would like to be a graphic artist, and maybe you won’t. Either way, there are no guarantees. The only way to really find is to put in the work now and see what happens. Thanks for stopping by and keep in touch!

  49. Not my real name says

    Thanks for the article. I feel a lot like the poster who said she does not want her parents/family to see her art. I feel like I can show it to strangers, get criticism, etc, but I recoil at showing it to people I know. There’s nothing NSFW or “too personal” about it… I just don’t want them to know about it… I feel like they don’t understand and don’t value such things. This leaves me feeling isolated and unable to market my art as myself. I can’t even start a Facebook page because I’m afraid my family will find it. I was interviewed about my art by a website and I dared to use my own name instead of a pseudonym. (hope they don’t ever find it on Google…) I don’t know how I’m supposed to market my art if I’m so reluctant to have anyone know it’s done by ME.

    • says

      I get it, and you’re right, it is hard to put your work out there especially if you are just starting out and you feel like you are still in the learning stage. You don’t really feel like you are ready to share you work with the rest of the world, especially online where once it’s out there — it stays out there forever.

      Now having said that, you still have to find a way to do it, because here’s the big secret…. you’ll never be ready.

      Nobody wakes up one day and says, “I think I’m ready to get my work publicly ripped apart by anonymous internet trolls.” What you’ll find, however, is that once you start putting your creative work out there, you’ll get some positive feedback as well which will motivate you to keep going far more than Aunt Gertrude telling you that you have real talent. Eventually you’ll find a few like minded creative souls who just kind of get what you do. Of course not everyone is going to like what you do, but over time I think you’ll find the online creative community to be pretty supportive :)

  50. Alec says

    I’m 17 and I’m currently attending Highschool. I’ve been drawing/painting since well birth but for the past 3 or so years I been having an sort of art block that I feel I’ll never break. I’m still capable of doing, I just have no motivation. I can barely finish my assignments, to the exent where I can’t even do it for fun. Now next year is my senior year, and I’m planing on taking the AP Art Studio class but my block has gotton to the point where I just want to give up. Partially due to feeling inadequate to everyone else. Especially since I did my first acrylic canvas piece. Im at the point where I just want to burn every I’ve ever made and give up. My teacher says I good enough to pass the class, but I look at all the prior stustudent’s art, and well I feel that I’m nothing compared to them. So now I’m at an impasse and can’t decide whether to quit or well force myself on ward. I mean simetimes I think that If I where to practice and sketch every day this summer I could get better, but to what end? So I guess I’m asking for help, maybe even some advice from someone who was in a similar situation. Thanks for reading this rant….well if you did anyways.

    • says

      I hear you Alec and unfortunately I think every creative artist feels this way. Not just when they’re first starting out, but every day they sit down to write, paint, or draw something. We can’t help but compare ourselves to the masters of our craft (or even our classmates) Everyday we see everybody else’s “highlight reel” online or hanging on the wall while we are struggling and feeling like the clumsy idiot who should probably just give it up.

      That’s the reality.

      However, that doesn’t mean that everyone else is necessarily better than us, it just means that (unlike ourselves) we didn’t get to witness all the crappy work they made along the way. What you see hanging in the art show is obviously their best effort—most likely the one thing that worked in a pile of failed starts and experiments. The same thing is true for the vast majority of the professional artists you admire as well. Everyone screws up. Everyone tries something new and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Trust me, everyone in the creative game has a big pile of failed crap sitting somewhere—you just don’t get to see it.

      So my advice would be to sit down and sketch everyday this summer, but have fun with it. Don’t do it to try to “get better” or learn something. Just draw as much as you can. Don’t think about making it into some type of assignment or whether it would be good enough for you teacher or whatever—just draw what you want and see what happens.


  1. […] That’s one of the biggest reasons that we wanted to create a site like Skinny Artist.  We wanted to give a small but passionate community of working artists a place where we could all come together and share our ideas about selling our work as creative professionals.  That’s also the reason that we’re not going to spend a lot of time talking about politics, religion, environmental issues, or even gourmet coooking.  Don’t get us wrong, these are all things that we enjoy talking about (well except politics) but this is a site for working artists.  Maybe someday we’ll start up a site called Skinny Suppers and talk about our favorite risotto recipes but right now we want to focus on coming together as artists in a profession that is often filled with a lot of fear, doubt, and loneliness. […]

  2. […] I’m not talking about if you have a corporate sponsorship or whether or not you are earning the big bucks.  I’m not even talking about quitting your day job, if you have one, and living on ramen noodles and Starbucks (because even if you’re poor you still need your Cafe Mocha) What I’m talking about is changing your attitude and the way you think about your art.  What you’ll discover is that more often than not people will take your art about as seriously as you do. […]

  3. […] I’m not talking about if you have a corporate sponsorship or whether or not you are earning the big bucks.  I’m not even talking about quitting your day job, if you have one, and living on ramen noodles and Starbucks (because even if you’re poor you still need your Cafe Mocha) What I’m talking about is changing your attitude and the way you think about your art.  What you’ll discover is that more often than not people will take your art about as seriously as you do. […]

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