You’re Not Alone With This Doubt About Your Art Thing
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
Sometimes I catch myself assuming that successful professional artists soar through the seasons, powered by infinite self-love and piloted by creative confidence.
I have to repeatedly remind myself that’s a big, fat lie.
Like us, professional artists of all levels, do time every day in the Land of Doubt & Insecurity.
Why are they insecure? After all, their work is great, people love it, tell them so and even buy it.
Because they’re human.
No one’s DNA rearranges itself once they sell a piece, publish a book or get a Costco-sized load of likes.
Those creatives we deem successful, do get elated when nice things happen for them. But in a minute or a month they’re back to dancing with doubt just like the rest of us. (This can be doubly true for women artists.)
Boundary breaking digital artist Beth Spencer is just like you and I; Some days she is calm and confident, some days she contemplates packing it in.
However there are two things that differentiate Spencer from many of us.
1. Spencer has the guts to admit her self-doubt in public and even to make art about it.
“Doubt, insecurity, frustration…they’re with me all the time, Spencer said. “But once in awhile…once in awhile…I manage to make something I really love.”
Burgeoning numbers of fans on Spencer’s site, on Deviant Art, appreciate her unique style, which she refers to as “dark whimsy.”
(To learn more about Spencer’s artistic techniques, read this interview of her in Apex Magazine.)
One popular piece of Spencer’s, “The Arrows” is seen here.
I asked the artist to tell us more about the figure and the plaques beneath her (labeled Doubt, Insecurity and Frustration):
“This piece is about the doubts that plague me when I make my art,” said Spencer. “‘Is my stuff good enough? Should I bother? Why can’t I be as good as _________?'”
“The Arrows” depicts frustration and self-doubt, but ultimately it’s a piece about not giving up the fight.
Spencer wanted to show she’s still upright and trying again and again to create things she (and hopefully others) will like.
“The figure in the piece is still standing, …er, perching, even with those arrows in her back,” said Spencer. Can you relate?
Some of Spencer’s fellow digital artists and fans on Deviant Art can’t imagine why Spencer herself should feel self-doubt, and they tell her so. Here is one recent opinion from the comment section under “The Arrows” :
“I look at your works, and how creative you are…and I am amazed that you have those doubts! I ALWAYS feel that way, but I have more reason to feel it than you,” said Shelley Shemaria (who, ironically is a gifted digital artist herself and whose work is to the right.)
But just because Spencer experiences self-doubt doesn’t mean she allows it to stop her from creating an ever-expanding, boundary breaking portfolio of work.
So what’s her secret?
That’s where the second thing that makes her different comes in.
2. Spencer has a technique she has developed over time to temporarily bypass self-doubt and drive her further forward.
She makes work that pleases— herself.
“Because we artists are our own toughest critics, said Spencer, “It’s important to hang on to those moments when we please ourselves.
I remember the times I made something that really thrilled *myself* and that’s the feeling that drives me to keep creating.
“I am still learning to accept the fact that I do my own thing,” said Spencer. “I’ve honed my own style and that even if I go back to the same well again and again, it’s a good and original well, and that’s ok.”
I asked Spencer if she had any advice for other artists or writers on facing or foiling doubt and frustration.
“Yes, make what YOU like, even while understanding that we aren’t making art in a vacuum.
Of course it’s ok to crave admiration and positive feedback. (And it’s ok to be upset when you don’t get it.)
But still…make what YOU like. Make what makes you stand back and smile and say, ‘THAT’S ME.’
Put yourself on the canvas. It’s really the most immensely satisfying thing you can do.”
“The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.”— Erich Fromm.
Have you experienced self-doubt in your creative practice? As a writer I’ve found absence from the page makes the doubt grow stronger. Writing every day is what I make myself do, to keep my self-doubt at manageable levels. What techniques have worked for you that you can share with us?
Leave a comment please! I’d love to hear your take.
Credits for Banner Image, “Unlock The Dark,” by Beth Spencer, Photomanipulation, copyright 2015.Used by Permission of the Artist.
Textures by Myruso Tiger-Stock Limited-Vision-Stock
Frame by Dreamstime