By Natalie Saar
Creating art is one of the most freeing feelings in the world. It’s likely one of the few times when you feel most in touch with your inner being, expressing yourself in different ways. It’s easy to be confident with your creations in the privacy of your home or studio – but it takes a lot of bravery to share it with the world.
So how do you build that confidence to do your first showing, exhibition, or even just to put it out there on the internet? It’s simple: practice. What does that mean when it comes to art?
Practice failing. It sounds counterintuitive, because you want to succeed and to believe that only good things will happen to you. Unfortunately, that’s not always (nor is it usually) the case. Basketball player Kobe Bryant was known for shooting an inordinate amount of free throws in practice and being the first in the gym and the last to leave. When asked why even at the top of his career he shot so many, he said it wasn’t to learn how to make them, it was to learn how to miss. That way when he missed in a big moment, it wouldn’t rattle him because he had missed thousands of shots before. Take lots of chances with your work, and eventually you’ll get a yes.
Be realistic. Everyone has things they excel at and things that they’re just not going to be the best at, no matter how hard they work. Most of the historically iconic artists in history were okay at some styles and flat out bad at others. When he started out, Vincent Van Gogh’s early work aimed to be realistic, but didn’t hit the mark of his peers. However, when he finally came into his own via impressionism, he’d found his niche. By being honest about what you’re realistically good at and what your limitations are, you’ll be able to confidently go in the direction where you’re most talented.
Get feedback. This is a tough one for many people, especially when you’ve put your heart and soul out there to be judged by people. But unless you can be receptive to feedback, then you won’t know what people really think. They may even be able to help you pinpoint something that you’re amazing at but you haven't recognized. Find an honest group of friends, and present your work for feedback. Some people are too polite to give you their honest opinion, so it’s important that you find a circle of people who can do this for you. And most importantly: don’t take their feedback personally. Everyone likes different things, so take their feedback and work with it.
Continue learning. We should all be students of the world, constantly learning something we didn’t know before. This should apply to your art too. Even if you think you’ve nailed your style, there might be something out there that could enhance it. Musician Jimi Hendrix knew he was good at playing a right-handed guitar upside down and left-handed, but that didn’t stop him from learning other ways to modify his sound. If he’d stopped exploring the advancements in electric guitars, we wouldn’t have had the 1969 Woodstock performance of the Star-Spangled Banner, featuring his legendary wah pedal. Never stop learning about your craft and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on something. (Bonus fact: Jimi was so self-conscious about his voice that he was a background singer until Linda Keith, girlfriend of Rolling Stones member Keith Richards, heard Jimi at a club and convinced him to sing more prominently. Even the greats need a push, but they had to first put themselves out there.)
Quick Tips. There are some actions you can take when you're presenting your art, whether at a show or a booth.
Prepare a few talking points about you and your art. This will help ensure that you aren’t left awkwardly searching for something to talk about.
Use strong body language. The basics: be eye level with people (not sitting below them), have good posture, and be friendly.
Be passionate. Have a few conversation starters in your back pocket (figuratively) surrounding a topic you’re passionate about. This will automatically make you seem more confident to people because you’ll speak with gusto.