Are You Waiting for Permission to be an Artist?


This might seem like a weird question, but let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about excuses artists make to avoid creating, and the first excuse *spoiler alert* was “I’m not an artist.” I wanted to expand on this excuse a little further, because I think it’s a huge obstacle for a lot of artists, and aspiring artists.

Right now, you might look at my website, social media accounts, and online store and think “Yeah, she’s clearly an artist,” but it took a lot of internal convincing that I had the authority to wander down this path. It might seem obvious now that I can and should be an artist, but few of us start out that way.

I’ve struggled with allowing myself to be an artist in the past, and I’ve witnessed this struggle with so many other artists.

I taught an art class for senior citizens 7 years ago, and watched a few of my students stare at the art supplies I laid out and declare they couldn’t make art. They weren’t artists in their eyes and this prevented them even attempting to create. Thankfully, they listened to my encouragement and after a few weeks they were able to stare at their own creations hanging on the walls. They were happily wrong in their initial assessment.

When we wait for permission to be an artist, we then wait for permission to even make art at all. My students were in their 70s and 80s, and were finally believing in their own ability to create. So think about my question again. Are you waiting for permission to be an artist? How long will you keep yourself from doing art?

It’s time to stop waiting and give yourself permission right now. You are the only person that gets to decide if you should make art, but I will very enthusiastically say right now that you CAN make art. Since you might not believe that right away, let’s go over a few reasons why anyone, at any level, at any point in their life can be an artist.

1. You don’t have to be good At It.

A lot of people think that you can only be an artist if you are good at art. I mean, you should only be a doctor if you study and pass all of your exams and prove you know what you’re doing, so naturally you should only be an artist if you prove your knowledge and skill in a similar fashion. Right?

Nope. Art is one of those things where anything goes. You don’t need to prove you are good at it. There really is no such thing as ‘good’ art, you don’t need to have technical skill, and you don’t need to pass a test to get certified that you are ‘good’ at art. You can make art right now and be an artist no matter your background or skill level.

Toddlers do it all the time. Take after them!

2. You don’t need others to Approve of your art.

Everyone has their own taste in art. One person may absolutely love the art you make (keep them in your life!), but others may hate your art. If the first person you show you work to happens to be a hater, it’s possible you could decide to never do art again. I’ve heard stories like this.

You do not need anyone to tell you if you should continue creating. Only your opinion matters. If you like your art, then make more. If you don’t like it, then try other things or practice more often. But, make a promise to yourself right now that if creating brings you joy you will continue to do it regardless of how others feel about your work.

3. You don’t have to sell your work.

Claiming the title of “Artist” does not mean that you need to be a professional and make it into a career. You do not need to make sales in order to prove you are an artist. You can keep your work to yourself. You can give it away as gifts. You can practice your artistry for pure enjoyment.

You are an artist well before your first work of art is even completed. Making or not making a sale does not define your identity.

4. You don’t have to go to school for art.

Like I said before, you don’t need any sort of proof that you can practice art. That means art school is 100% optional in your journey as an artist. The best source of education when it comes to making art is to just get your hands on the supplies.

No person can teach you how a brush feels when it spreads paint across a canvas. Someone can describe it to you of course, but experience is the best teacher. When I scroll through Instagram and look at other artist’s work, the last thing I’m thinking about is what art degree they have. My first thought is “how long did they have to practice to develop these skills?”

5. Your art doesn’t have to Have a Message.

When I was in art school, I felt like I wasn’t an artist because I didn’t have a desire to make a statement with my art. I wanted to make beautiful things. I didn’t want to disturb my audience. I didn’t want to create social commentary. I didn’t have a message that was accepted by the community I was in. Thus, I felt like an outsider.

You will encounter differing opinions all along your journey, but your art only needs to speak to you. And it doesn’t even have to say anything in particular.

6. Your art doesn’t need to follow any rules.

Seriously. You don’t need to adhere to any set of rules out there. Every area of the art world has its own guidelines for how to thrive in that space, but following them is optional.

Honestly, I find it’s too exhausting to try to conform. It’s easier to make up my own rules and just do my own thing. If the rules of others prevent you from making art, then ignore what you’ve learned and pave your own artistic path. Boldly be you and make the art that you crave to see. You just might pioneer a new genre of art or a new space to thrive in.

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Now, if you read all of the points above–what’s stopping you from creating or calling yourself an artist? You have the freedom and the authority to make any kind of art you want to right now. You don’t need my permission, but you get my encouragement.

Go make art, and give yourself permission to be the artist you want to be.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

5 Excuses Artists Make to Avoid Creating

Are you making them right now?

Making art can be one of the most fulfilling ways to spend your time. For me, creating gives me peace, a sense of accomplishment, access to a flow state of being, and a fun way to make a mess. Though, it can also bring with it loads of frustration and struggle, because it’s not always easy to bring our artistic visions to life.

This is why it can be really tempting at times to make excuses to not create art, which then saves us from the pain of creating. Have you been there?

I know I have.

I have walked away from my art numerous times. I’ve made a lot of excuses over the years, but here are 5 excuses I, and many other artists, have used to walk away from creating. None of these are viable excuses, and after reading this I encourage you to stop yourself from using them in the future.

1. “I’m not an artist.”

I vividly remember sitting down with one of my English professors in 2012, and telling him “I’m not an artist” when he asked me to create work for a new textbook he was writing for the English department.

I wanted to make art. I loved to create. I took a crap ton of art classes in high school and college, and yet the little voice in my head kept saying “You’re not an artist.” Why? Because making art is fricken hard and failure in many forms is inevitable. I was terrified the work I produced would suck, so I made an excuse to get out of it.

You can’t let “I’m not an artist” be your excuse to walk away from creating, because that title belongs to anyone who creates. It’s not bestowed upon you by a school, an expert, an employer, or your mom. If you make art (any and all definitions of it), you’re an artist. Even if you just make art for fun, you’re an artist. So cross that excuse off your list.

2. “I’m not good at Art.”

I tried playing Dance Dance Revolution for the first time at an arcade a few weeks ago, and wow was I bad at that. Does that mean I’m bad at dancing? I mean–maybe. Does that mean I should never ever try it again, because since I sucked at it the first time I’m always going to suck? Absolutely not!

You can suck at something, but love the process so much that it doesn’t matter. You can also suck at something right now, and become a master of that same something in the future, because you keep powering through painful practice sessions. You have to give yourself the opportunity to grow. I know it feels unpleasant, but even if what you make is hideous and technically terrible right now, it’s not a good excuse to stop yourself from creating. It’s actually the perfect reason to create more.

Who cares if you are good or bad at art. Make art anyway.

3. “I won’t succeed.”

I have said this to myself too many times to count. I’d think about a cool image I wanted to create, and then I’d start evaluating the point of even trying to make to create it when I’d remember there’s a possibility of failing. What if it’s ugly? What if nobody likes it? I deprived myself of valuable experiences thanks to the mere thought of the end result not being what I wanted.

Maybe it never turns into a career. Maybe you don’t make money or win awards. Maybe nobody wants to buy it. Maybe a whole bunch of things, but how will you know if you don’t try? How will you see your own potential if you don’t show up and do the work? How will you push your limits if you don’t find out where they are in the first place?

This is an excuse that I know a lot of us use to prevent ourselves from creating. What’s the point, right? If I’m going to fail, why not avoid that potential failure by not even starting the project? Easy, right?! Except when you finally see that the end result doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that you have a creative vision, and you must try to bring it to life.

4. “There are more talented creators out there.”

Yeah, so?

There will always be artists with more skill or success than you, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it into a competition. You do not need to measure your worth against another artist. There will always be room for your art in the world. We are all using the same tools and being inspired by the same subjects and experiences, yet we all have a voice to add to the conversation.

Do your thing. There isn’t another you out there.

5. “I don’t have The Right Supplies.”

Art supplies can be ridiculously expensive. I get that money can limit us sometimes. And when companies use labels like “academic”, “student grade”, “intermediate”, and “professional” it’s no surprise that a lot of artists have it in their heads that you need the good stuff in order to make good art. Well, I’m here to say this isn’t true and not having the “right” supplies shouldn’t prevent you from creating.

You can make high quality art with cheap supplies. Go ahead and look at the top posts using #ballpointpendrawing on Insta. The right supplies are just supplies that can be used to make art. That can literally be anything around you. I’m not saying the good stuff isn’t worth investing in down the road, but I am saying that you can substitute a functionally equivalent product with a much cheaper price right now to get started.

So go get yourself a cheap back of Bic pens and any surface to create on. Cardboard, printer paper, old book pages. Or make collages out of junk mail. Find objects on the street and make sculptures. Your creativity is limitless. The world is full of supplies.

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Creating art is a wonderful activity, but it’s not always easy. I hope this post has helped give you a bit of encouragement to push through! With anything in life, we are tempted to make excuses to avoid unpleasant work while also sacrificing the benefits that come with it. So what do you think? Have you used any of these excuses before? Or do you have excuses of your own?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

6 Reasons Why You’re Not Making Art Sales

I’m not going to lie. Selling art isn’t easy. Whether you are just starting out with selling your work online or you have hit a slump in sales, this post can help shed some light on what you can do to help change things.

As a full time working artist, I mainly focus on online sales so this post is geared towards that market. If I ever get back into doing in-person events, I’ll write another post for that area (but don’t hold your breath!).

Let’s jump in! Here are 6 possible reasons why you’re not making art sales:

1. There simply aren’t enough eyes on your work.

I know this is a big “Duh”, but you have to get your work out there and declare that you are in business in order to make sales. This means growing a social following, posting on various platforms, cultivating an email list, and possibly even running ads. (Though I don’t recommend ads to start.)

Every social platform is different, but for sure get started on Instagram (I can help you with that), and create a Facebook page. Post at least once a day on Insta and at least three times a week on FB. Make sure you are creating accounts that are dedicated to art and don’t have extraneous personal content mixed in (i.e. photos of food or selfies). Read: How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet

Right now, posting once a week on one or two social media platforms and just crossing your fingers that people will automatically visit your online store isn’t enough. Create a social media schedule and post often to increase your exposure.

2. You aren’t connecting with your audience and building trust.

After you have established even the most modest of social followings, you can generate sales. Though, if you aren’t connecting with your followers this can keep people from buying from you.

Building trust with your audience is very important. You are taking their money, so make sure they know you are a real person and you are easily accessible. You can do this by sharing your story as an artist, responding to comments and messages as they come in, and by showing your followers you care about them.

Utilize your captions on social media posts to connect on a human level. Build that trust! (Read how to write engaging captions here.) Basically, posting “18×24 acrylic on canvas, DM to purchase”, is doing nothing for your brand. Give your audience more to connect to.

3. You’re making it too hard for customers to give you money.

This plays into the trust aspect as well, but the easier you make the transaction process to buy your art, the easier it is to get that sale. Right now, if you are writing “DM to purchase” in your social media captions and you don’t have a store front or clear transaction process, then you are missing out on sales.

I can speak from personal experience that unless I already know, trust, and have a relationship with an artist I am going to keep scrolling past that caption unless I just can’t live without that piece of art.

Have a store front, have Paypal buttons, use a free ecommerce site like SquareUp, list items on Etsy, etc.. Make it possible for a customer to buy your art without speaking to you, and make sure you are using a secure platform so they have confidence their financial information is safe.

4. You’re not updating your inventory or Driving people to your store often enough.

The internet moves quickly, and so you need to do the same. In order to make consistent sales online, you need to continue to get your work in front of people AND remind them it’s for sale. You should be reminding your following on a weekly basis at least that you have a store with items for sale. You don’t have to be pushy, but short attention spans need a little nudge with reminders that your store exists.

Consider the marketing “Rule of 7”. Your audience needs to be exposed to your product or offer at least 7 times before they follow through on your call to action.

It’s not spammy to push people to your store if you do it right. People follow your art for a reason and it’s quite likely they will eventually be interested in buying from you. Writing trust building captions, and then including a sales reminder at the end as an aside can be a gentle sales pitch. Not pushy. Not spammy. Just a gentle message that you’re always open for business.

I don’t recommend burning out your audience by doing things like trying to sell the same pieces of art over and over again, or using every caption as a hard sell. To avoid this, rotate your inventory and introduce new items every week or so and stagger your sales pitches between meaningful conversation starting posts.

5. You’re not making your art look As good as you can.

One of the issues with online shopping is that you can’t physically inspect the item. That’s where you have to put in some extra effort to give your customer the most comprehensive experience you can of your products.

Make sure you use good lighting when photographing your inventory. Take pictures of all of the different details and angles of your work. Stage your work in different settings to give your customers an idea of what the art could look like in their home and include written specifications in your product listings.

Right now, if you are just taking a head-on shot of your art in a dimly lit room, this could be a huge factor in why you aren’t making as many sales as you’d like. Great photos make a huge impact and answering any questions a customer might have about a product within a listing makes them feel more comfortable with committing to a purchase.

6. It Could just Be the market.

With any business that depends on product sales, you are going to experience an ebb and flow of transactions. There are busy times and slow times. Obviously, the holiday season can make for easy sales, but you will also encounter negative changes in the market that you have no control over (like tax season after the refunds have been spent).

This is why I recommend building your art business to not be dependent on just art sales. Diversify your income. Find passive streams of income to supplement your art sales. Then you won’t feel it quite as much when the market changes for a bit.

While you are brainstorming passive or alternative income options, you can create promotions for times when you know sales will be slow. Run sales in your store and create a sense of urgency for people to buy now. Though, you should be careful with how often you run sales, as running them too often discourages people from ever buying at your regular price and it could make them question the value of your work.

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And there you have it! 6 possible reasons why you aren’t making the sales you hoped for. Do you think any of these could be a factor for you right now?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks.

Further Reading: