In times of reasonable painting I often ask myself where my confidence comes from. Why is it that some days this goddess merely appears, seemingly unbidden, while other days I have to work hard to get a glimpse of her? What are the conditions that bring this goddess to our easels?
I’m pretty sure that in art as in love, it’s the little things that mean a lot. Don’t, for example, have outstanding issues with spouses, dealers, friends. I’ve found it vital to sit or stand at the easel, guilt free. A feeling of trust is valuable — not just trust that you can do it, but trust in yourself as a person. Funnily, or perhaps not funnily, I think that ordinary cleanliness is related. I never underestimate a good tub.
I’ve not made a scientific, actuarial account of these matters, but there is some anecdotal evidence that I can pass on. Confidence often arises in the morning after a day of change — doing something different from the normal studio activity. Socializing or felicitous friendship, another kind of satisfaction, gives elan to the brush. You feel worthwhile. Constant working can bring visual boredom and a jaded attitude. Pictorial scale, size of support as well as ambition are also important — being in tune with what you may be good for on a particular day. I don’t know whether this is common or not, but I find if I take a bite out of several beginnings, early on, there’s a feeling of hope, and I can be more focussed and confident for my day. Also, a project of set, or series, which involves some additional concentration, can go a long way toward closing out destructive impedimenta. Simultaneity also creates energy — the kind of feeling you get when listening to Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition — a physical striding between pictures that keeps the goddess flirting. On sunny days, moving outdoors for drying, long-view and life-love also adds a generosity of spirit that reinforces confidence.
In my case I know for sure that confidence has a lot to do with momentum. My goddess is attracted and kept interested by action. When I’m lethargic, distracted, or talking too much, she gets bored with me — and wanders off — perhaps to service someone else.
PS: “Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks on great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.” (Cicero) “Confidence is the hinge on the door to success.” (Mary O’Hare Dumas)
Esoterica: Use anything that builds a feeling of personal power. It helps if you know what you’re doing. The glow of heroism provided by certain music, even over-squeezing and unlimited supports make their contribution. Then, in a larger way there are the senses of “professional time,” paradise-studio, conscious love-in-the-stroke, and the feeling of righteousness, however tenuous.
by Jim Pescott
The goddess of confidence you conjure, for me at least, is the inner child. This is my source of confidence, my ego left far behind to sulk about tormenting issues that egos like to share. If I struggle with a painting, and find the wisdom at the time to know I’m struggling, it is because my inner child has been neglected. When I invite my inner child back into ‘the picture’ my struggling dissolves. I cannot count how many times, as I child, I leaped for joy when there was a knock at the door and a friend’s voice asked, “Can Jimmy come out to play?” I will never tire of this blissful refrain.
by Sandy Triolo, Silver Spring, MD, USA
When you think you have reached an end point, stop and take a breath, and then take another look at where you are — you might see you’re actually at a beginning you didn’t know was there. Once you push beyond that point one time, you know it’s possible, and when you push beyond it the second time, you know that’s how you must meet every hard challenge. Now you know you can do so much more and there is no retreating from that without losing your self-respect. This has been a life-altering lesson for me. I am currently finishing my undergrad degree in Liberal Arts (1 year to go) so I can pursue an MFA. I have two paintings in progress while at the same time I’m reading four books a month for school and working 40 hours a week. My two paintings are (finally) not lessons I gave myself to be a better painter but come from emotion and intense content that I want to share. It feels really good to have pushed to this place.
Lady Confidence’s artsy dust
by Jamie Lavin
In watching a patron stop dead in their tracks in front of one of my paintings, it is there the fire of confidence is lit and the winds blow it along with a vengeance! Although I’d really like to think my confidence is inside me, and it probably is, it’s certainly fed by the acceptance of others. I’ve used the “Nolan Ryan analogy” since I began selling my work through galleries; being so focused on the fact that I can “bring it” with my brush and paint that I internalize and think only of delivery of the talent I’ve been blessed with. In the tent circuit however, one must be pleasant and conversational. I deplore reading books and ignoring customers as they walk into the booth. Rather, they’re in my “house” and I make sure they know I’m excited they stopped by! Confidence sprinkles a little “artsy dust” over me every time a collector stops in, or a child looks at my work and comments. I always engage children because they tell me more about my work than their parents will! Of course, a sale lands a dumpster full over me and when I pack up and load out, which as everyone who’s done this sort of thing knows, is so lonely and kind of sad, only Lady Confidence’s “artsy dust” calms my artist soul. Well, that and the Pork Roast dinner at Johnnie’s in Glenview, IL! The apple pie with French vanilla ice cream afterwards also helps!
Making a sale
by Elsha Leventis
Making a sale is a definite confidence booster as is taking part in exhibitions and shows, interacting with people who have the entire spectrum of opinions about my work. What’s been helpful to significantly curtail the after-show blues that can set in, when the adrenalin settles down, is to always be working on the next project — even before I do one show, I’ve applied to others or am working on a submission or developing ideas for a new body of work. Doing something everyday helps too — whether going into the studio to paint or working on marketing or going out to play.
(RG note) Among yesterday’s emails was one from an artist who didn’t want us to use her name because she didn’t want her ex-husband (who also gets the twice-weekly letter) to find out how much she was making with her paintings. She said she “figured it out” from reading our clickbacks: Internet Art Review and Online Galleries.
by Pat Jaster
Cleanliness of body, mind and soul is “being in tune” and perhaps what draws our omnipresent goddess to reveal herself! A focused, meditative clear mind not distracted by talking or restlessness is where the artist is at his/her best, focused on the creative, all intuitive hemisphere of the brain, drawing on a wonderful unlimited source of information. Confidence also comes from “knowing that you know,” so keep on keeping on!
(RG note) Thank you to the several artists who wrote about cleanliness. Yesterday, I was beginning to paint when I noticed an email (in at least 40 pt Gothic) come in on the adjacent monitor containing this observation: “I have not had a bath or showr for half a year yet I am confiddent as hell. Robert, it is bullshit you rite.”
Struggling for good
by Ron Gang, Kibbutz Urim, Israel
Often when I’m feeling really good and pleased with myself, the work isn’t the greatest. I’m having a great time, yet what’s on the canvas doesn’t possess the magic or staying power. Yet, when I go out to paint, and am struggling, then things often start to happen. The results on the canvas start to make me feel better, a satisfaction that the efforts have been worthwhile, and then I start feeling better with myself at the end of a fruitful session. I find it’s important to be fairly well rested, at least not fatigued, so concentration can be good.
by Francine Houston
I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom with 5 children. Something started to change when I turned 40. I got rid of a toxic partner, set my mind to it, and have begun, over the last year, to come into my own. In the last 6 months, I have allowed myself to not listen to my parents, and the messages that I got from all the well meaning /not so well meaning people who love me, and have struck out into an amazing journey of self-expression and recovery. I have explored my spirituality, my creativity, and my Self… only to find that what I thought at first were weaknesses… are in fact, great strengths. The message “choose your attitude” is something that has become a banner to keep leading me beyond what I thought were my limits. I have just finished a work that is now part of a collective work that is on a worldwide tour. I’m in the process of creating another piece for a juried show. I would never have considered submitting even 3 months ago. So I’m growing, and I’m choosing a more productive attitude — to follow my dreams and my heart, and to not worry about what anyone else thinks.
Stop at negative thoughts
by Lida van Bers
If we all have continuous confidence in our creativity, it would become dull and not very inspiring. The time that our “goddess” leaves us, that is her/his sign to tell us we need an artistic break. It is amazing how we are guarded by our inner voice if we listen to it. Negatives abound more than positives — and it is difficult not to get affected by it. One way I cope with it is to say STOP as soon as a negative thought enters my mind. If nothing helps I read some quotes.
(RG note) The Resource of Art Quotations is at www.art-quotes.com/
Gift of two words
by Janet Warrick, Chicago, Illinois, USA
I have always believed that if someone else could do a thing, then I, too, could do it. I never really thought about where this confidence came from until my mother passed away nine years ago. It was then that the full impact of this beautiful woman’s gift to me hit home. It was a small gift, just two little words, but the impact of those two words was larger than anything I could ever have imagined. The words she gave to me were “you will.” They weren’t “you can if you try hard enough,” or even “anything is possible if you want it badly enough.” They were “you will.” There was no “if” involved. It was stated as fact. It was set in stone. It was powerful. She said these words to me any time I expressed even the slightest uncertainty about reaching a goal. She began giving me this gift at an early age. Those two little words instilled in me the belief that I could indeed do anything I set my mind to, and have been my credo for as long as I can remember. They are the rafts that keep me afloat whenever I fall into the sea of self-doubt. They bolster my determination. They feed my soul. Recently, for the first time in my life, I forgot those words, and the pain was terrible. Without them I came close to drowning in that doubtful sea. But even as I was sucked down beneath the black, swirling surface of doubt, those two little words came up from the depths and pushed me to the surface once again. Looking back, I believe this was necessary for growth, for I came out of it stronger and more determined than ever. But by far, the greatest part is that the gift goes on, for I am now blessed with the opportunity to say to my beautiful four-year-old son whenever he expresses self-doubt, those two little words “you will.”
by Ardath Davis
My confidence ebbs when I hear artists say that they are so bubbling with ideas that there is not enough time to execute all the images that are waiting to be born. Does no one ever have all the right things going for them? The studio is cool enough or warm enough, there is no impediment to hours of painting, a real enthusiasm to get in there and get started, and, that large well-prepared support is waiting for your first stroke. An hour later it is still as pristine as it will ever be. This does not do much for confidence. However, when I see some of my paintings that are in private collections I am usually satisfied that they are true to the mood that I wished to express and I probably wouldn’t change them if I could. Confidence returns, and I must get back and try again. Like golf, painting is a humbling experience.
As it comes
by Gail Griffiths
What I do has neither the element of confidence nor many other preliminary credentials. Depression needs to lift and clutter needs to disband. Even these two elements serve a purpose in the path to a new piece of work. Clutter meets clutter, and creates a spark. In the lull of a dark cloud and sedate thought, images come. When I was in a never-ceasing bog several years ago, my Mom showed me a photo of my great-grandma. The image permeated my every waking hour for weeks (time goes slow) until I needed to do what I needed to do. So I dusted off my easel, found a canvas, got out my paints and blended a sepia-toned oil mixture like an old photo. As I painted, it was as if the painting was emerging from the canvas — not that I was applying paint to the surface. I do all my work in the manner in which I did that painting. As it comes, whether it be a painting, photo, pencil drawing, mud-pie, completed or incomplete, sells or doesn’t sell, people like or dislike it, I just play, remain joyous and pick up on the little hints passed my way as to what direction to play in.
Cleaned out and ready to go
by David Lloyd Glover, Hollywood, California, USA
Sometimes that rush of super confidence hits you like a lightening bolt. Every stroke of the brush seems to be as elegant as you had ever hoped for. Then it stops. Like someone pulled the plug on you. I take a break. Go for a walk, call a friend or take a nap. An hour later I come back to my studio and voila — it appears again. For motivation, I order up a huge supply of canvas and fill up all the slots in my storage bins until it’s overflowing. Something tells me I’ve got to use these up and fast. Today, my art dealer arrived and packed off with 20 newly finished canvases. Wow, my studio is cleaned out and I feel ready to go again.
Goddess in the zone
by Roberta Shapiro, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada
I use painting “in the zone” to mean those special times when I paint intently and lose all track of time, when I feel someone else or a muse is guiding my brush, when I feel as though I can’t make a mistake, but if I do, I’ll automatically know how to fix it. These special times don’t happen often to me, but when they do I produce what I consider to be my best work.
Painter with issues
by Mary Jean Mailloux, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
I never thought you had a “confidence” issue. You appear to have enough for 20 painters. Guilt free? You are not a “Catholic.” Impossible. Guilt is in the bones. One must paint despite feeling guilty about everything. No issues? No distractions? Wow — Nirvana. As long as there are people in one’s life, there will be issues that can’t be resolved as easily as one would want. I just finished reading The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s a no-put-down book with an excellent expose on Vermeer and life in Delft during the 1700s. Now there was a painter with issues.
by Dave Edwards, Blyth, Northumberland, England
I have been reading through past material on the Painter’s Keys site and discovered a collection of Jim Rowe’s letters. Jim has some interesting comments to make and if anyone hasn’t seen his work yet, may I recommend that they do so. He is described as “a self-taught outsider artist.” Personally, I’m not too keen on labels, although I am familiar with the term. I would prefer to describe him as an original artist who has an exceptional grasp of technique and whose work comes over as fresh and inspiring.
(RG note) Particular twice-weekly letters and their responses are of interest to some and not at all to others. Every day we get emails saying that such-and-such made someone’s day. Others “don’t get it.” But I can tell you that lives and careers are forever changed for the good because of these letters. This is a fun project. Copying and forwarding our material to others is the main way that creative people hear about these letters. If you feel a particular edition, subject or writer would be of interest to one of your friends or acquaintances — please feel free to forward it and give them the opportunity to read or delete us.
Featured Artist: David Loyd Glover
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2003.
That includes Gena Courtney who wrote, “Your letter was especially poignant since I am struggling with purpose and commitment. I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I painting? Will I ever be able to support myself with my art?”
And Janice Aye who wrote, “Sometimes that’s all I have, no one telling me this will be good — just a feeling that I can’t make a wrong stroke.”
And Jerry Waese who wrote, “When you speak of momentum and concentration, there you have it — the whole issue of confidence is wrapped in that grip of the moment. Pick a color, put it on canvas and just don’t stop until the surface is covered.”
And Libby A. Kyer who wrote, “I find cleaning out the studio, or as I call it ‘flattening out the studio,’ really sets me up to do good things. All that open space waiting to be filled!”