How to be a More Confident Artist

This past two weeks I’ve been attempting to add the medium of digital painting to my art skill set. While I’ve done digital painting thing from time to time, my process (winging it) was way too time consuming.

It’s a harrowing thing to step out of your creative comfort zone in to the realm of the unknown. I’ve found that in most areas of life, the realm of the unfamiliar can kill my confidence and give me a massive inferiority complex.

Learning a new art skill is challenging. But I’ve done it enough times to know what to expect. So here are a few tips to help you build confidence along the journey.

Step 1: Cast a vision for yourself.

Somebody is doing something you like. You want to learn how to do that too. Find that person. For me it was a mix of several people that inspired me to want to paint digitally. My college buddy, Chris Swymeler, Josh Addessi, Caanan White, and of course, Jedi master Jason Edmiston.

Step 2. Be prepared to suck really bad for a while.

This is the part I hate the most. You’re in uncharted territory. You don’t know what you’re doing. It’s terrible to feel like a rookie again. So stay positive and watch what you’re telling yourself inside your head.

Keep your expectations low at the outset. Over the past two weeks, I’ve invested roughly 15 to 20 hours practicing digital painting. I produced seven images that were decent, and three that were so bad I hurled them in to my Mac's trash Bin and immediately hit delete, vanquishing them forever from the face of the Earth.

That’s just part of learning curve, so expect it.

Step 3. Practice. Practice. Practice.

The secret to getting better at anything is repetition. So get busy.

There will be times when you feel like you wasted several hours of your time that you’ll never get back. Don’t fall into that mind trap.

While it’s always a bummer, not having something to show for your time, you’re still several hours ahead with the hours you’ve invested practicing. So choose to see all of your practice and all of your failures as an investment of time. After all, you’re learning a new skill. You will make new mistakes.

Step 4: Develop a process.

This is probably the most important part to nail down. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you spend exorbitant amounts of time “fidgeting“ with your drawing or painting, attempting to get a desired result. Realize when you are doing this, step away, and recalibrate.

Stay focused. Pay attention to what works. Pay attention to what doesn’t work. Find a method that works for you.

For me, with painting it was answering the following questions:

  • How do people begin their paintings?
  • What level of opacity do they work in?
  • How did they build their image?
  • Do they use black first, or color first?

Watch YouTube videos. See how other people do what you want to do. Pay attention to their process. Try their methods. See what works for you.

Eventually certain things will stick and find their way into your process. Incorporate those things.

Step 5: Expect to turn a corner.

You won’t suck forever. At some point, it will click if you stick with it. In my experience, this happens once I begin answering some of my own questions and establishing a process that works for me.

Step 6: Stay at it!

Life will get busy. With any new habit, it’s tempting to let busyness cast your new skill by the wayside. Set little goals for yourself. I have determined to do one painting a day to stay in practice. (Or at least paint daily)

So there you go! As an artist you don’t want to stagnate. Be intentional and find new skills you want to learn.

So how do you become a more confident artist? Like so many other things in life, the answer is simple but not easy.

Here it is. Find something you suck at and do it over and over again until you get good at it.

That’s it.

Now go make something rad!