Imposter Syndrome

P. Barrie

Well-known member
Messages
266
This is where I’m at. "I'm a painter; I make images and objects. I'll let others decide whether it's Art or not."
I decided a long time ago not to make my art a career. Why? Maybe because I believed I didn’t have the skills, confidence or luck to succeed at it. Call it a cop out, imposter syndrome or whatever you want. At the time I was struggling with feeling loved, I don’t think my art would have helped me through that time and I didn’t want it to become an emotional crutch.
Now I’m retired with retirement income, and will make art till I die because I still have a passion for it, and still can.
 
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Iain

Huh?
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1,115
I don't know why the algorithm suggested this for me, but I liked Brad Rushing's answer to the first question, "How do you keep faith in yourself and your craft during turbulent times?"

 

Artyczar

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I agree with him. Do the work. He seems to be talking about a dichotomy about success though--being rich, etc. He doesn't need to be; he just needs to be an artist, etc. I agree there too, but that's not the success factor. He also talks about what other's think about the work or winning awards, and I understand that in terms of getting more work and being self-sustainable, but I'm always looking for the work itself being a success in my own eyes. I have to be happy with it first and foremost. Or not even "first." Period. It doesn't matter so much what others think, it matters that I'm happy with what I'm doing and I just have the self-esteem issue thing, which can be crippling at times. I think that goes much deeper than the art itself though. That's probably more about self-worth.
 

RobinZ

Member
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85
Being a good artist requires being critical and that can be difficult for the ego. Make a perfect photorealist work? Ahhh, it's just craft. Make an ab-ex abstract? Anyone can slop paint around. Paint a plein air landscape? Dime a dozen and they all look the same. Get creative and paint something wild? Good, but no one's going to buy it so why am I doing this. I'm just posing as artist. etc etc. Probably nothing else causes more inward criticism, except maybe the stupid thing you said on that zoom meeting yesterday.

So all this causes doubt, fear and anxiety. And that's good. For the art, if not the artist, because it means you're being critical. It spurs one on to make a photo-realist work with soul, or an ab-ex with skill, or a landscape that looks unique.

But what do I know? I'm an amateur closeted poser artist imposter. Heck, if I had to make a living at it I would paint cottages with golden light pouring of the windows or Elvis on black velvet and I would forget all the other BS. But I couldn't even do that.
And honestly, they wouldn't sell because you don't like to paint that.

That comes though.
 

RobinZ

Member
Messages
85
I think this is especially true of self-taughts or primarily self-taught. I know it was with me when I started out selling 18 years ago. I literally had to paint to t.v. to quiet that inner voice saying "you can't do this. people with degrees don't sell. why do you think you can do this, you aren't good enough, you'll never learn enough, will I embarrass myself?".

Every single person who loved me thought I shouldn't try to sell, I had no credentials, how could I compete even in the much mocked pet portrait market?

I joined an art group that trashed a beginning, self-taught painter's landscape because they said he wanted to paint "pretty pictures" that said nothing, while they(all degreed) showed half finished things they couldn't progress on because they weren't sure what they were trying to say. The landscape painter never came back. The next month, more half finished paintings of things that were abandoned because of what they didn't say. Bad experience.

The first time I took business cards around, I was literally shaking as I handed a teenager my cards in a pet store.

I didn't even know half the art terms.

What I finally came to realize is that there are and should be, many levels of art and art buyers. I am not terribly imaginative, I can paint what I see. My customers like real paintings, but most haven't stepped inside a gallery. I am not trying to compete with top shelf artists. My customers neither know or understand top shelf artists with few exceptions. There is room for all of us.

I've been feeling a bit burned out, my business model is heavily geared for 3 months of painting full time. So I have decided to paint other things, including still lifes, which I've always been fond of. I'm trying to do a painting a day. It's a whole new skill set.

And I've got my t.v. on again.....
 
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3,598
Robin, I had much the same feelings when I built my first web site. I knew it would be world wide and I didn't know if I would be accepted at all or if I would be overwhelmed. It was a little over a year before I got my first commission and that gave me time to learn what I was doing and getting my site to #1 out of millions in a search. Within 2 years I made $12000 from the site in one year. After there got to be so many portrait from photo sites the income went down and my county decided to tax me on inventory from the site and I just deleted it. Now I sell more on Facebook that what I was doing on the site at the end.
 

Iain

Huh?
Messages
1,115
I agree with him. Do the work. He seems to be talking about a dichotomy about success though--being rich, etc. He doesn't need to be; he just needs to be an artist, etc. I agree there too, but that's not the success factor. He also talks about what other's think about the work or winning awards, and I understand that in terms of getting more work and being self-sustainable, but I'm always looking for the work itself being a success in my own eyes. I have to be happy with it first and foremost. Or not even "first." Period. It doesn't matter so much what others think, it matters that I'm happy with what I'm doing and I just have the self-esteem issue thing, which can be crippling at times. I think that goes much deeper than the art itself though. That's probably more about self-worth.

I agree, Arty, that the success is in the work, in the work satisfying oneself. This is why I think the "revelation" - that you don't have to believe in yourself, you just have to do the work - is a valuable one as it bypasses issues of belief and self-worth. I don't know, that may be a simplification. A circular argument. A circulus simplificatus, if you will.

Reasoning, conscious thought, is not a strong point. I blame muvver for the concussion.
 

Artyczar

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3,343
I think this is especially true of self-taughts...
I agree. I had such a similar experience, and still do. All my peers have MFAs and they talk the talk and it took me forever to be able to have conversations with them in "art speak." Some of it I think is BS and some of it has validity. I felt like I had to run circles around the MFAers before I would be accepted to show along side of them, and even that didn't do it. They all seemed to still feel I need to pay more dues. Or maybe pay for schooling? I felt like I had to show all my early practice work in order to "prove" I could draw more than cartoons. No one (few) took/takes me seriously. Eventually the sales came anyway--non gallery goers and serious collectors alike. That still doesn't matter to anyone, or me. People will still say it's all luck, but it's not luck when it comes to themselves. It's skill, hard work, and dues paid for them. It's contradictory. Isn't it? But yes, some luck is involved. However, promotion has a ton to do with it.

Anyway, I have to learn to ignore all that stuff, no matter how intimidating. It's still a battle though.

There is room for all of us.
Yes, I fully agree. Especially if your work is in demand. All artists ebb and flow with financial and personal successes. I guess that's what we sign up for. I actually don't even believe there is any real competition between artists since no one artists does the same thing in the same way. You can't control what other people want, so there is room for all of us, yes. :)
 

Artyczar

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3,343
Robin, I had much the same feelings when I built my first web site. I knew it would be world wide and I didn't know if I would be accepted at all or if I would be overwhelmed. It was a little over a year before I got my first commission and that gave me time to learn what I was doing and getting my site to #1 out of millions in a search. Within 2 years I made $12000 from the site in one year. After there got to be so many portrait from photo sites the income went down and my county decided to tax me on inventory from the site and I just deleted it. Now I sell more on Facebook that what I was doing on the site at the end.
This happened to me with the City of Los Angeles. It wasn't easy to get out of, but somehow I did because I have a gallery in the city of Santa Monica (different district). I pay fed and state, and I can't believe they also want tax on inventory. Social Security has also wanted to mess with my inventory finances--saying that my inventory was worth such and such money, but it's not "worth" that or "valued" at anything unless it sells at XX price, then we can get taxed on it like anything. Makes sense to me, because it's art, not a normal commodity. Worthless until sold.

Oh, but something else: the last big grant I won, I had to pay most of it back to the state. Long story, but it took years to pay it back. I haven't applied for a grant since. Nice! (Not.)
 

john

Active member
Messages
163
I wonder if Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst have such doubts. I know that personally, until I sell something (I have to make the effort first) that I will always feel a bit like a pretender. Having the confirmation of someone buying your work must be nice.
 

stlukesguild

Well-known member
Messages
1,484
I agree. I had such a similar experience, and still do. All my peers have MFAs and they talk the talk and it took me forever to be able to have conversations with them in "art speak." Some of it I think is BS and some of it has validity. I felt like I had to run circles around the MFAers before I would be accepted to show along side of them, and even that didn't do it.

I don't understand that sort of thinking. I read a recent study that cited the facts that only 10% of Arts graduates are working artists and only 16% of working artists are Arts graduates. Picasso wasn't an art school graduate. Neither was Matisse.

As for taxes, Arty, it's even worse than you think. If a collector donates one of your paintings to a museum, he or she can write off the current value of the work as determined by an appraiser. The artist, on the other hand, can only write off the value of the materials. When you die, however, they tax your heirs on the value of the Art. This skewed tax code even hits the very successful artists. Artists like Jaspar Johns often churned out so-called tax prints... reproductions of famous works to be sold to cover their taxes.
 

stlukesguild

Well-known member
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1,484
I wonder if Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst have such doubts.

"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."
-Robert Hughes
 

RobinZ

Member
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85
I don't know anyone who has perfect confidence, no matter what they show "outside". I also don't know that Koons and Hirst are plagued by debilitating doubt.
 

Artyczar

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I wonder if Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst have such doubts. I know that personally, until I sell something (I have to make the effort first) that I will always feel a bit like a pretender. Having the confirmation of someone buying your work must be nice.
For me, it's a fleeting kind of nice. It doesn't last as long as feeling good about your own work. Not even close. It's more of a financial relief and not a validation of being an artist, but that's me.
 

Artyczar

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3,343
I agree. I had such a similar experience, and still do. All my peers have MFAs and they talk the talk and it took me forever to be able to have conversations with them in "art speak." Some of it I think is BS and some of it has validity. I felt like I had to run circles around the MFAers before I would be accepted to show along side of them, and even that didn't do it.

I don't understand that sort of thinking. I read a recent study that cited the facts that only 10% of Arts graduates are working artists and only 16% of working artists are Arts graduates. Picasso wasn't an art school graduate. Neither was Matisse.
You're talking about a different time, before collage academia became all the rage.
 
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