By Carolyn Edlund
Recently I received a poignant letter from a teenager who wanted to present her art. She shares many of the fears and insecurities that beginning artists have about themselves and their work. Here is my reply.
I see in your art that you have a tremendous amount of talent, but that you lack one thing that is essential if you are to make it in the arts – and that is confidence. This isn’t unusual, especially for a young person who hasn’t been to art school (and I guess that you haven’t sold much, if any, of your work so far.)
However, I wanted to offer you a couple of suggestions. When you start your letter by saying that you shouldn’t be taken seriously, you won’t be. When you tell people everything that you don’t have, and can’t do, they will believe you. And when you say that your work is unimpressive, you will fail to impress. If you don’t believe that you are an artist, you are starting a process to give up on your dreams.
Many of the artists that I have featured over the last several years are self-taught. I’ve also seen studies that say getting a masters degree is not indicative of an artist’s success, and I believe that to be true. I know that people who are successful as artists study the business of art, have passion and drive and above all, are incredibly persistent.
I understand lack of confidence, fear of rejection and of competition. I owned a production studio for many years, and have experienced the best and the worst of the business. I also have a daughter who graduated with an art degree, and shares many of your feelings.
T, if you were my daughter, I would tell you that you must never negatively criticize yourself or your ability. Never, ever apologize for your art or your talent. And don’t present your work as less than. The more professionally you present yourself, the more seriously you will be taken. Great presentation, self-confidence, an understanding of the art world, and the ability to sell yourself and your work are more important to success than talent – that might be surprising, but it’s true.
I encourage you to approach your art with a new attitude, and share it proudly with others and with the world.