Recently I put a call out for questions, and I plan to answer all of them over time! Here’s one from Lori:
Q: At what point did you feel comfortable with your work…I mean, when did you start to share? I like what I’m doing (sometimes), but the thought of actually letting someone else see it – and, gulp, critique it, still scares the sox off of me! Did you experience this? How’d you conquer it? Confidence is a weird thing!
A: One thing that helped early on was taking “live” classes where I got immediate feedback, either from the instructor or the other students, so by the time I put things out for my first art sale, I already knew that my art appealed to some people.
However, that first sale was so painful that I determined NEVER to do it again. Basically, 98% of the people glanced briefly at my art and then kept walking without any apparent reaction. I was pretty crushed….
But a year later I was encouraged by a friend to try again, and that time it was easier. I began to realize that it was pretty “normal” for most people to not really respond to my artwork; I was on my way to developing a thicker skin.
When I started selling on etsy in 2005, I had a new body of work (Girls) that I was a little nervous to show. But I found the internet to be a pretty painless place for me… I could put it out there and didn’t have to watch people click away!
By the time I did large outdoor art/craft shows from 2006-2008, I was used to most people not stopping or reacting, and grateful for the small percentage that liked and bought my girl paintings.
It’s not easy all the time, though. It was difficult to overhear some of the not-so-nice remarks people made. Even though my skin was pretty thick by that point, I still could get stung, and it’s one reason I don’t do those shows anymore!
Showing your art is a scary thing. It’s a really brave thing to do, I think.
I advise to start small, in a safe environment. Perhaps a small craft show somewhere, or online on facebook, a blog, or etsy. (Note: Sometimes your family members might not be the best place to start, especially if they themselves aren’t interested in art.)
Then, try not to take “non-reactions” personally. And be encouraged that most people will either be positive or indifferent, but rarely are they outright critical; though thousands and thousands of people passed my booths those three years, I only remember 2 or 3 comments that were really critical.
It definitely takes time to grow that confidence, and the fear of putting yourself out there never really goes away completely. But I encourage you to try anyway. Art is meant to be shared, I think!
Beth MacKinney said:
I’m glad you hung in there, Carla. (Otherwise you wouldn’t have written such great books!)
My art is realistic, so I rarely get comments that aren’t favorable, but I think it’s important for artists to remember that realistic doesn’t equal good, although a lot of non-artists think it does. It’s hard to get beyond that ingrained thinking many of us have had since we were kids, but there’s a lot of creative fun and fulfillment out there to be had if you can.
Mary Ann Hurt said:
You have certainly influenced my art, my love of imaginary animals, and that it’s okay to be different from the mainstream! Thank you for sharing you!
I do abstract work and a lot of people are like ‘that is just not my thing’ but then one person ‘gets it’ and that totally makes up for all the indifferent shrugs….
Carla, thank you for your honest answer to something that scares us all. Annie Tinnesand
Michael Tinnesand 503.819.9662
Thanks for the confidence boost Carla,I am doing some art for an online blog soon and I was very nervous about putting myself out there, but seeing that even really good artists get nervous about showing their art is nice to know.
I totally agree about not starting with your family. My immediate family has been super supportive, always, but the first time a distant aunt saw my girls, her reaction was a surprised “And people buy it?” The important thing to realize is like what you said, Carla: Not everyone is going to get what you do. Not even necessarily those that love you the most. They’ll probably support you, but they still might not get it. Even if you were the best artist in the world, your style isn’t going to appeal to everyone. But the beauty of selling on the internet (I’ve been on Etsy since 2006 and have NEVER sold in person and don’t really ever want to) is that the people who do get what you do? They’ll find you. There will be people from all over the world who get what you do and you’ve just made your stuff accessible to them. And when your work really, really resonates with someone and they contact you to tell you what what you’re doing means to them? That is the best darn feeling in the world. And selling online, it’ll feel like a good 98% of the feedback you get is positive, because you don’t have to see the people turning away or hear the rude comments. I’ve only had one instance in all my time selling online where some really, really hurtful stuff was said about my art and though it really, really, really broke my heart at the time, if it happened today, being just a bit wiser, I’d realize their words didn’t mean I suck. Their words just mean they don’t get what I do. And that’s okay. I LOVE music but there’s plenty of singers whose stuff I wouldn’t listen to if you paid me…but the world at large loves them. My opinion doesn’t take away their talent. My opinion simply means their talent is not to my personal taste. For anyone who is uncomfortable sharing their work, I’d completely recommend starting online. It is a HUGE audience and you’re bound to find your people, if you keep at it and refuse to give up. I don’t think most of us are “ready” or even good enough when we begin. When I look back at the first few things I sold, I shudder with how bad they were. But if I hadn’t started then, I wouldn’t be where I am now, because regardless of where we started, we all get a little better with each piece we do. If you wait ’til you’re ready, that time might not ever come.
linda z. said:
thank you for this answer and all it encompasses. it is genuine honesty that truly helps those of us just getting our toes wet. i hope someone purchased a spot for me in your DRAW! class. i am really looking forward to it. cheers.
Judy Murdoch said:
Carla, What wonderfully sound advise, I will try to keep it in my mind for later reference. I’m an older person whose always been creative,but at this stage of my life I decided I didn’t want to sell my work. Reading your experience I thought, who knows what’s up the track I may change my mind. Thanks for sharing it.
Merry Christmas Carla!!:)
I love your work Carla!
I think your drawings are the best thing I’ve ever seen. Who needs realism when imagination can give you this???
Great post (as usual). I so appreciate what you said about people not being interested…even and especially family members. I have volumes of art journals filled and my husband of 21 years has never taken a gander at any of them. I had an old one out the other day b/c I was referencing the fiber treatment cover I had attached to it. My seventeen year old daughter happened to pick it up open it and was astonished that I ‘did all those pages’. I said “seriously?” Sometimes my fifteen year old son will check out what I am doing and that is nice. I have friends who I have hosted art classes for here at my house who NEVER read my blog. I have been selling on etsy for over 5 years and haven’t reached 100 sales. Things like this can be painful.
So, I have learned my validation comes from within. I appreciate my own creative pursuits and pat myself on the back whenever I need to. Basically, we are all doing this for ourselves anyway. Outside recognition is nice but it is not what fuels my creative drive.
I loved what KJ said about different music/musicians, that is SO true. Something for us all to remember.
Thanks again, Carla, you are such an inspiration.
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