I've been trying pretty hard to get my name out there, but have found little success. I get so much rejection letters, no feedback, and few notes. How can someone that has so much working against them find confidence in their art when, logically, everything is tell them that they're terrible? I can't even get freelance or commissions. It all feels very hopeless and I get depressed about trying to envision a successful future. Thanks.
Okay, so. Bear with me. That’s a hard question and one that I struggled with for a really long time. I think that first of all, the best you can do right now is to consistently put out your best work and a lot of it. Persevere. I know it sucks. I know. To completely level with you, I feel like I’m doing pretty well with the whole “posting art on the internet” game– and I STILL barely get commissions. I got two last week. That’s more than I’ve had in six months. I can get thousands of notes on each of my comics and still, not a whole lot of cash coming in.
I think the best thing for you to do right now is make sure that YOU like your art. If you’re not getting feedback or the attention that you want, focus on yourself. Make stuff that you love. Become a great artist in your eyes. People will (eventually) notice. If you take pride in your work, other people will too. Be confident. Better yet, fake it. Fake it until you’re annoying yourself with
how positive you’re being. (You’re not going to come off as arrogant.
Don’t worry about that.)
It’s easier than it sounds and it works wonders (I’ll talk about this more in a hot sec!). If you present your art like it’s an awful thing that doesn’t deserve to be looked at, well, people are gonna treat it exactly like that. But if you respect yourself and your art, so will other people. Beyond that…
- Break it down: focus on what you’re good at. Identify your strengths, even if that feels like a stretch to you, even if it feels like you’re grasping at straws. Celebrate them. That’s awesome. I’m happy for you.
- …and then focus on what you’re bad at. What don’t you like about your art? What do you think you can improve on? Don’t just throw out a blanket “it all sucks”. Be specific. Identify one or two things and try to figure out how you can get better at those things. Can’t draw hands? Do studies. Do lots of studies. Fill an entire sketchbook with studies of hands. Stuck only drawing ¾ view busts? Force yourself to draw some dynamic poses. Go in public, draw everyone you see. Draw people sitting. Draw people moving. Use pixelovely. Use posemaniacs. Use quickposes. Unhappy with your colors? Research color theory. Pick colors from nature. Use sites like kuler and moviesincolor for inspiration. Do master studies. You catch my drift. Anything you think you’re bad at can be remedied with hours and hours and hours of studies and research, I guarantee it. You’re not gonna get better if you don’t practice.
- Practice positive-self talk (this goes along with the whole “faking it” thing). Self-talk affects how you take in the world. The cool thing about self-talk is that understanding how to alter the way you think about situations can help you manage anxiety about your art. Negative self-talk (”I suck” “All evidence points to me being terrible” “I’m never gonna make it”) hurts you. The really shitty thing (well. one of them) about negative self-talk is that it makes you more avoidant– the more you tell yourself you’re bad, the more you’re going to avoid, y’know, actually doing something about the thing you feel bad about. So, there’s this book called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (you can get it for $3 btw. like. sidenote. if you have anxiety and/or depression OR if you’re just a nervous nelly like me, this book is a fucking gift.) that has en entire chapter on self-talk and I wish I could just copy/paste it here for you to read, but I can’t, so I’m summarizing. Start trying to take notice of negative self-talk. Catch yourself. Start questioning it. Is this true? Do I have hard evidence? Am I being objective? Write down the bad thing you’re thinking. Break it down for yourself, because 9 times out of 10, it’s totally untrue. Here, let me show you.
- “I’m terrible at art.” So, let’s check out our evidence: you’re getting rejection letters, no feedback, and few notes. Rejection letters happen to everybody. Having been on the hiring end a few times now, I can say that 99% of the time you’re rejecting people, it’s not because they’re bad– it’s because they’re not exactly what you’re looking for OR someone else has a lot more experience. I know it’s hard not to take that personally, but it’s just A Shitty Thing That Happens Sometimes. So, that doesn’t mean you’re terrible. No feedback? Hey, at least people aren’t knocking your door down to tell you that your art sucks. Small victories. Doesn’t mean you’re terrible, just that people don’t have anything useful to share, that’s more on them than it is on you. That’s fine. You’ll get past that. (And if you really need good feedback on your art, I’d recommend checking out something like the concept art forum’s critique center or, if you’re able, taking a class with others. Anon, if you’re willing to message me privately, I’d be happy to give you a critique!) And finally, notes don’t mean much. Maybe the right people aren’t seeing it. Maybe the art isn’t “shareable” enough, maybe you’re not posting at peak hours, maybe this, maybe that. Doesn’t make it not good. Everyone starts with 0 followers, every piece has to start with 0 notes. Anyways, none of these things support the statement “I”m terrible at art”, so we can determine that that statement is needlessly negative.
- The next step is to come up with a counterstatement– something you can tell yourself to transform that negative self-talk into something positive. So, in light of that last bullet, let’s say it’s something like, “I’m not terrible at art. I’m trying my hardest and doing my best. Every time I draw I improve, regardless of whether the internet is noticing. I notice, and that’s what matters.“
- Keep telling yourself that. Write it down. If you want, you can make it into a pretty sign and hang it above your workspace. Keep noticing negative self-talk, question it, come up with a counterstatement. Write it all down.
- Affirmations help, too. Here are some examples: I am an amazing artist, I am dedicated and hard-working, I am extremely creative, I can and WILL make beautiful things, I am getting stronger and better every day, I love creating things, being positive will make me a better, more confident artist, etc. etc. etc. (here’s a HUGE list of them). Get in front of a mirror and say it like you mean it. Do it every day. Write these down, too. Internalize that shit. If you don’t mean it now, you will soon.
I hope this all makes sense. I hope it helps. Best of luck out there. xx