How Artists Should Deal with the Naysayers

By Carolyn Edlund

Carolyn Edlund

Carolyn Edlund

The other day I talked with a gentleman and his wife during a consultation who were working together diligently to produce and sell his art. It was a real pleasure to strategize with a team of people who were totally supportive of each other.

But that’s not always the case. Many times, artists work in isolation, feel a lack of support, and have to constantly battle their own lack of confidence as well as family or others who don’t believe in them.

Why does this happen? It’s one consequence of being an artist, and of being exceptional. You see, the vast majority of people don’t feel they have any special talent. They spend their work days fighting rush hour traffic, hating their boss, and wishing they had a better job. It’s been reported that 70% of Americans are “going through the motions” in their workplace – pretty depressing, huh?

They don’t even consider taking control of their futures by becoming an entrepreneur, let alone being an artist!

Most people feel they can’t create art – or sing, dance or act. They may watch reality shows that celebrate these creative talents. They would love to be like those artists. And the truth is that they are jealous of you, my friend. When you put yourself out in the world as an artist, you are publicly sharing your soul, declaring what you are passionate about. And that’s risky. Naysayers are part of the downside.

On the upside, I have found the most supportive and validating people are the ones who are successful creatives themselves, comfortable being entrepreneurs who proudly love their jobs. They have been in your shoes. They are confident and more than happy to give a hand and some advice to new entrepreneurs who can benefit from their experience and wisdom.


"Top of the Hill" by artist Jan Crooker

“Top of the Hill” by artist Jan Crooker


What I’ve Learned

The Artsy Shark blog started out in 2009 as a labor of love. I closed my studio years ago but still wanted to share what I knew with other artists. I certainly don’t know everything, so I immediately sought out the knowledge and assistance of experts – and they responded favorably. Every single time.

In fact, I have never been treated rudely by anyone in the art world whom I contacted for assistance. They have given generously of their knowledge, agreed to write articles, or be interviewed. Many have become friends.

There are other art bloggers out there who do what I do. I don’t see them as competition – in fact, we often work as partners. Lori McNee, Cory Huff, Alyson Stanfield, Barney Davey and others are wonderful sources of information for artists. We promote and share each other’s businesses. We promote art and artists. As a result, everybody wins. Our network of mutual support works.

Artists themselves are some of the most generous people I know. They will jump to help you anchor your show booth in a wind. They will share the names of their best suppliers, congratulate you on your new gallery show, vote for your art in a competition, and often purchase it. They know that it takes many artists together to draw a crowd to an art or craft fair.

The best way to deal with the naysayers is to hang out with your art community, your group of cheerleaders and fellow creatives who are willing to live their art out loud. Go in trusting that you will receive the support.

Leap! The net has already appeared.


Art Credit: Jan Crooker. See more of her work here.



  1. Cal Zontal says

    Nice article Carolyn. Always nice to read such positive voices 🙂

  2. Dear Carolyn,
    What a lovely message. Once again you have sent out a blog post that resonates with the artists and designers out there.
    thanks you so much for your continued inspiration.


  3. When I am in a rut and have hit the wall we all hit sometimes, I have a set of friends that I know will kick my ass out of wallow mode and get me to a point where I am again able to deal with questioners. Ultimately I know that questioners are people just like me that don’t always agree -which is all good. Sometimes they are the people that love me the most and are just wanting to see me avoid struggle. It is up to me to decide if the struggle is worth it based on my own views and opinions. These are the people that will eventually tell you, “I knew you could do it all along.”

    When I am with other artists, they speak my language, but I find that most all humans want to help other humans fulfill their dreams.

    • “When I am with other artists, they speak my language, but I find that most all humans want to help other humans fulfill their dreams.”

      That is so true, Linda. Good people who want the best for others far outweigh the naysayers.

  4. Carolyn, love this post. It speaks volumes to me. It can be very challenging when family do not support you or take you seriously and even put you down – no matter how many awards you have won!
    As an artist I have had to grow a thick skin because you do bare your soul and we creatives are very sensitive (a wonderful attribute) and often feel things very deeply and convey that in our work. I have had to come to a point of acceptance and forgiveness, at the same time taking steps to protect myself from future hurt.

    I feel proud, honored and privileged to be an artist and be able to create. It is a choice that I manifested and I have great compassion for those who go to work and hate it, however that is their choice and they could take responsibility for doing whatever it takes to change their lives so they love what they do. Easier said than done, I know!

    I feel that everyone needs to create in some way whether it be painting, cooking, photography, sewing or whatever someone is passionate about and if they allow themselves to overcome their personal challenges (fear they do not have talent – that they won’t be good enough – they don’t have time etc) it would become so beneficial and meaningful to them.

    Once again, thanks for such a great post

  5. Excellent article, Carolyn! Like many of us, I have personally experienced quite a few naysayers in my career, including friends and family – and it really hurt not to have their support. But I know in my heart and soul that I am a good artist and that I will be successful, and I learned to step away from those people and surround myself with positive, successful artists, friends, business people, etc.

    Now if someone is negative or derisive about my career choice or work, I mentally tell them to “get off my raft” and move on. It works.

  6. So nice to see your photo. This blog has become my daily favorite. Thank you for all of the effort you and your team put into it.
    “Leap! The net has already appeared” Now there are some words to live by!
    Much Gratitude,

    • Many thanks for your comment, Leslie. It’s actually the readership and community here that keeps everything going. So glad you are a subscriber!

  7. Sorry to hear that, Leonard, but of course it is part of business. Move on to the next sale & celebrate that as a success!

  8. I very much enjoyed reading this article! As an artist I feel very lucky to have a passion where I will never need to figure out what to do with my life. As this article states, most people are in a situation where they have a job they dislike and no real passion. They simply count down the weeks until vacation and the years until retirement. Most of these people do not support artists like myself and I needed to learn to ignore the naysayers. Thanks again for posting this!

  9. I am so happy to see someone touch on this.
    As an Author; I knew that we go through this, but I guess that it resonated with me that all creative people do.
    Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone is encouraging.
    Thank you for sharing.

  10. It’s very important an artist has feeling of stability, harmony and balance within him/herself. Nobody can please everybody, that’s not going to happen, thus, an artist, a writer, a singer, a journalist, etc. has to be ready to accept the opposition, the denial from somebody who’s not excited about their work. The most crucial part of all creativity is to be in harmony with ones own soul, desires, goals and ways to achieve them. Having inner stability always helps.

  11. Thank you for these thoughts, I am in a transition and am doing research to start a gallery, unfortunately many folks, even those very close to me are telling me “art” just won’t sell and you have to add products like denim or trinkets to your store. Very frustrating!

  12. Your Workshop in Maine was inspiring and a great Pick-me-up. That plus this article have been like a dose of truth serum for me! I had been isolated from other artists for a number of years, which had put me into a major depression and literally nearly killed me with heart issues (both medical and spiritual)… all because my family (several engineers and computer professionals) told me outright that I should stop working at my art business… “because everyone knows that nobody can make money in a craft or art business…” Competing priorities then seemed to materialize to block me at every turn. This kind of direct Naysaying and Doing is difficult to overcome for a non-engineer-Creative.
    What precipitated most of this negativity was that I had the bad luck to be accepted into a major trade show 3 months before the major economic crash in 2009; about 1/2 of my dollar investment was a loss. However my time invested in accounting, fiber-content labeling and customs issues was worthwhile , as I am now basically starting over again with more knowledge and inventory than I had before.
    One way out of such a funk is to add up the advances that one has managed to achieve in one’s business, in spite of the Naysayers. So one has a base to build on… and new directions have opened up, especially on the Internet.

    • Thanks for your comment and your honesty, Valentine. Artists with families who do not support their vision and the passion they have for their work can be, as you said, depressing and unhealthy. For many artists, the need to create is compelling. It’s who they are. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that type of environment, but the fact that you continue to work today is testament to your perseverance (which is probably the most important trait for any artist to have.) I’m glad you made it through tougher and wiser, and still able to say that you are working as an artist today.

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