(& it makes you more attractive)

Posting your art on Instagram used to lead to sales and now it doesn’t. Change happens fast and it makes sense to try to keep up but it starts to feel very similar to the Trump technique where there’s always something we have to catch up on, always on guard. “What’s he said now?” .. compulsive.

And like what came after rave culture was acoustic music, I’m seeing AI as rave while art is human and is rooted. It’s often the opposite of AI. Slow, contemplative, meaningful.

My work is partly about helping you become clear about yourself, your art, your role in the world, what you bring, and what happens because of you.  

That’s just the very first step in your journey to artistic freedom, but grounding yourself and getting secure in what you are and what you do could give you more confidence to step away from the daily change hurricane and give you space to ask how it serves you and your purpose.

Clarifying yourself simplifies everything.

We don’t serve tech, it serves us.

So I’ve got eleven things I’d like to say about confidence, in no particular order. Here we go.

1 – the starving artist does not necessarily make the best art

It has been said, but we have to kill off the poor/starving artist thing, the best art coming from trauma.

For me, I can’t be creative if I’m worried that the bailiffs are going to knock. For me, creativity happens after the dog’s fed and the washing up’s done and I’ve got two or three hours to myself. (I’m not obsessive about housework, far far from it, but .. the dog does need to be fed before I can do anything else.) But more than that, if I’m worried about something, it kills my creativity. So that’s the opposite of trauma begetting great art.

Plus (and I’m a marketer so I know this) so much of our mental narrative is placed there deliberately, bought and paid for by .. I’ll say it .. capitalism. Trickle down economics. Austerity. Capitalism would love you to undervalue yourself. It would love you to fail, actually, so normal people work in normal places buy normal stuff made in a factory like normal. If you are strong enough that capitalism doesn’t actually break you, capitalism would be satisfied if you feed your creativity into Instagram or Facebook forever in return for the distant promise of a reward that never comes. And along the way, be sure to learn and follow the ever changing rules so you feel like you’re getting closer.

That’s one take. Another take is that social media gives us unprecedented access to people who will love our stuff. I hold both views, and I enjoy, I profit from and I use social media every day and I recommend you use social media too. I just wish there was a social platform that didn’t create monstrous tax avoiding billionaires, didn’t encourage the worst of us, and was equally safe and welcoming for everyone even if they, shock horror, are not a white, western, straight man.

Your art is valuable. Check inside yourself and see if you believe that. 

I have an imaginary friend. A red squirrel. If I wish, anytime (well, perhaps not while driving), I can lay down in a beautiful, summer clearing in a forest, surrounded by wild flowers and the hubbub of insect life, and my red squirrel will come to me and we can chat about things like that .. “is my art valuable?” and my squirrel will answer.

You might wish to invent your own scenario so you can chat with your subconscious anytime you please.

You have an inner Chat GPT.

Anyways, if you have confidence that you are valuable, you’ll be more resilient & able to ride out any setbacks.

So let’s just kill off the starving artist thing and get some robust feelings about doing good and being a good artist.

2 – the reason you’re not selling your art is your marketing (not your art)

Galleries take 50%, right?

It’s clear as day, then, that it takes 50% to sell your art.

I bet you 50p you’re not spending half your time on marketing. 

I’ll raise that and bet you 75p you don’t want to, either.

I mean, I’m here to show you that marketing is beautiful and ethical and uplifting and you’ll love it when it’s right for you.

But right now, you probably don’t think that. Selling feels adversarial and awkward and not what you’re about and all you want is to be in the studio. 

Ideally, amazing buyers will discover you behind the studio door, buy all your stuff before you notice, and beckon others to come buy your stuff too.

EVEN IF you accept that 50% galleries marketing thing .. you are skilled at art, probably not at marketing. So even if you said OK, from here on, I’m going to do art in the morning and marketing in the afternoon, your marketing won’t be as good as your art. So that morning/afternoon resolution may not last because your marketing may not work. And we end up with learned helplessness.

I mean, sorry, I don’t mean to be depressing, I’m actually trying to get all this stuff out in the open so we can deal with it.

The upside, my point, is you can be confident in your art right now. It’s just mind games. There’s nothing wrong with your art, you’re not selling because you’re not marketing it right. So be confident in your art and what it’s worth.

3 – it’s not about making art to sell

I mean, it can be, but I’m not trying to persuade you to do that.

The key is to say the right things.

What are those things?

Artists spend a lot of time in the studio, alone, communing with their thoughts and feelings and wrestling them out onto canvas.

So when they step blinking out of the studio into the rest of the world to talk about their art, it’s natural to talk about themselves, their art, their path, their battles.

And that’s like trying to sell a car by talking about the spark plugs or the factory.

(Do cars still have spark plugs?)

You sell a car by talking about how it feels to drive it, the freedom it brings, the capability it has and what that means to the buyer’s life.

You need to learn about your buyer, about the benefits of art in general, and relate it all to their life.

So don’t talk about yourself, talk about your buyer.

And I’m not saying that’s easy. It’s a skill that takes work and practice, but it’s worth it.

4 – a confident artist makes better art

Part of being an artist is pushing at your boundaries. It could be that you are breaking new artistic ground, or you are trying a new material, a new brush, a new surface, a new subject or colour palette.

It means you’re always somewhat unsure, always experimenting and playing.

Looked at another way, though, it’s the confident artist that feels able to push boundaries. If that’s true, perhaps confidence leads to better art.

If we take that one step further in order to make your best work, you need to nurture your confidence, and that means cutting out or cutting down on all the things that niggle away at your belief in yourself. Watch for them. Stop them. Defend your mental well being.

5 – women

In Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg she says that one of the things she noticed and worked to correct in her time at the side of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook/Meta, was whenever they advertised a job, generally a man would look at the job spec and go “I’ve got 6/10 of the things they want, I’ll apply”, where a woman would say “I’ve got 9/10 of the things they want, I’ll go for training in the other thing so I’ll be ready next time”.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there was the idea that confidence in men is seen as competence, where confidence in women is seen as cockiness.

Now, both of those are cultural and I wouldn’t like to say that what might be true in white western workplaces is true everywhere. Also the Sandberg book is at least ten years old now.

But in my work I think I’m seeing men more likely to make bigger paintings. I raised that one time and what came back was “it’s not confidence, it’s my studio is too small” and then we’re into male/female pay differentials and whether you feel you deserve a bigger studio.

So all I want to do here is to acknowledge that confidence may be perceived differently in men and women, and I’m a white western man. So I’m happily sat here saying confidence is good, and I may not be fully aware of the forces conspiring to hold you back. It’s easy from my position of privilege to say ‘fuck them forces’, but I’m not facing them. I’m not you, I’m not in your life, I have no control over who sees this, I’m not taking your risks so it’s easy for me to say. 

I just wanted to acknowledge all that, to say that I want you to succeed and gain confidence and be a role model to others if that’s appropriate and you want that and maybe I can help. But also, sometimes things aren’t easy and it takes a while to win. Respect to you and your situation.

6 – it feels good

I don’t know if this is the same for you but if I’m not paying my way, I feel guilty about going into my office. It feels like a guilty pleasure, selfish, or like a mistake. 

Whereas if I’m on a successful streak I can wander into my office head held high, I have a right to be here, I’m doing the right thing, everything’s good.

I enjoy not feeling guilty about spending time on my work.

But also, my inner dialogue is better. 

I am anyway, notably emotionally stable, I like to say I’m like an oil tanker in that regard it takes a long time for my emotions to turn. But I can have an inner dialogue that’s like “you’re a worthless piece of shit” if I’m not paying my way. Especially since I am the carer for my partner.

That’s not healthy. Confidence is healthier.

The other thing about confidence is it blows away doubt. As you create your art you’re making a zillion microdecisions about all aspects of it. When your art matters to someone else enough for them to pay for it, it validates those decisions and gives you confidence that you’re able to make those decisions successfully.

Selling your art validates your talent and vision.

7 – you deserve stuff

I guess this is within limits, but don’t begrudge yourself better materials, a bigger studio, more time to create great work.

Again this is a confidence issue, if you don’t think you’re worth it then you are holding yourself back. With certainty of purpose, you can gather the things that help to make your art even better.

That applies to stuff you don’t want to do, also. If you’re selling enough perhaps someone can come in for a couple of hours every Thursday afternoon to post and pack your orders, leaving you free in the studio.

I was going to say to outsource your social media and website stuff too (as well as, obviously, your accounts), and even applying for grants and projects. I would just be very cautious about outsourcing your marketing because my stance is .. I want you to be fully and completely you. Whoever does your marketing has to completely get that and be able to represent you.

8 – that includes a holiday

Holidays are tough for the self employed because not only is there the cost of the holiday, but there’s also the cost of not working for a couple of weeks or whatever.

Also if you’re an artist because you are compelled to be, you may feel very bloody weird if you take a holiday and don’t Do Art.

But that’s my point. Stop. Give your subconscious chance to deal with everything and give you inspiration. Keep a note of the ideas it gives you, and otherwise go walk on the beach or whatever you’re doing.

Go stay with arty friends, go to arty places.

Get inspiration from difference.

Stop, occasionally. It’ll make your art better.

I suggest you stop after a show, even if all you do is take a couple of days to potter in the garden or treat where you live like a tourist would.

9 – confidence is attractive

Success brings success. It means opportunity comes to you.

When you are confident about yourself and your art, you’ll ‘present’ better (in whatever way you face the public), and simply you’ll sell more, naturally. Did you ever do networking? You’ll be a better networker if you’re confident.

PLUS if you know your worth, you’ll probably put up your prices.

Art pricing doesn’t work like economics 101. In that model, the higher your price the fewer you’ll sell assuming your value proposition doesn’t change. But in art, a higher price might make your art more desirable.

10 – all your demons can stfu

In The War Of Art, Pressfield writes about our inner voice and how it holds us back. It’s an enlightening book about the many ways we sabotage ourselves. I’m not sure it gives us a solution, but at least after you’ve read it you’ll know your enemy.

But basically, if you have proven to yourself that you are worthwhile, if you have confidence, then your inner demons can just stfu.

11 – live as yourself

I hope I’ve demonstrated that in my words here. I’m a Brit, I was born in the midlands in a light industrial town and adolesced to punk. I’ve been a marketer forever. The UK has been pillaged by Brexit and the Tories and I do not forgive them.

Be yourself, because you’re fabulous.

Not everyone will agree, and that’s brilliant because if you get clear on your values and you stand for them .. I’m imagining Joan of Arc for some reason .. as much as some people will run a mile from you because they hold different values, those who agree with you will find you and love their newly discovered artist co-conspirator.

Want more fun in the world? Want people to be awed by nature so they stop fucking it up? Want people to be inspired?

Get clear about your role in the world and turn it up to eleven. You’ll naturally attract those you want to attract and repel those you don’t.

You’re not Coca Cola, you don’t have to appeal to everyone. The more individual you are, the further away from AI dross you are, the more people who agree with you will love you and you’ll become .. a leader.

You want followers? Be a leader.

I hope I’ve demonstrated something of myself here. This couldn’t have been written by AI. If you’ve reached here, you’re pretty much on board. Everyone else will have already left. 

Welcome to the party, let’s make a difference together.

About me

I help artists sell their work through coaching and training. I’d like every artist to sell their art their own way, congruent with their beliefs, strengths and intended buyer. My best training at the moment is called Transform which aims to help you work out what to say to sell your art. It sounds simple but it really isn’t. If we can work that out together and plug it into a sales/marketing method, you’re good. Check it out here https://sellyourart.blog/