What we owe ourselvesAs artists, we work ourselves crazy in an attempt to arrive at the unattainable goal of perfection. We insult ourselves in a way that we would never put up with from someone else. We are our own worst critics, even during times when we go out of our way to support and encourage our friends. We pour our souls into our creations. We need to listen to the compliments along with the constructive advice. Remember that there is value in what we do and that we have every right to be celebrate when things go well. So, what do we owe ourselves..?
Recognise your talentIn this context, I'm talking about talent in terms of something you instantly feel an affinity with and have a flair for. This can be anything from painting amazing portraits to being naturally great at organising a group of people to work on a project. I have never met anyone who doesn't have a talent, but I've met people who aren't aware of their talent, even when others point it out.
Recognise your skillYour skill is the bit you build, starting with your talent and honing your craft. This can take serious amounts of time and effort, but it's totally worth it. If you're still determined that you are the one person in the world without a talent, start putting yourself into situations where you are forced to try new things, or approach familiar things in a new way - even things you don't automatically enjoy. As you build your skills, you will find your talent.
Seek opportunitiesSometimes you will just happen to be in the right place at the right time in the right company. When something comes together like that, make sure you see it and act upon it, if not at the time then definitely shortly after. Always have your eyes open for these opportunities and NEVER waste them.
Make opportunitiesIf you're putting yourself out there, trying to find opportunities to progress in your career (or your hobby, not every artist chooses to make that their career) but don't seem to be having any luck, change your approach. If you aren't finding opportunities, start making them. Enter contests; get involved with collaborative projects; join industry networking sites; go to events and openings, even if you're on your own (not as scary as you think, really); contact people who are at the place, artistically, that you're aiming to reach; seek new information and challenges, whether from a university course, a new book or a useful website. Take the bull by the horns, figure out what you want to do, write a list, and then just start doing.
Be proud of your achievementsAchievements don't have to be huge events. Getting into art college, getting a degree, having an exhibition, selling prints, getting a commission that you really wanted or having your work published are all pretty amazing accomplishments and definitely reasons for major celebration. The smaller things are worth celebrating too. Finishing a piece you've been working on for ages, finally being able to afford the camera that you worked all summer to save for, getting a compliment from an artist you admire, mastering a complex technique or logging into dA to see that someone has commented on a submission that you worked hard on are also cause to be cheery. You work hard and you deserve to be proud of the results.
Be inspired, not intimidatedLooking at or listening to other people's creations can be both a positive and a not-so-positive experience. Think about what first attracted you to the genre or medium that you work within. It IS inspirational to see that someone who started where you started has gotten so far, although moments of self-doubt are a universal experience. If you start to feel like you're going nowhere, look at the art created by people who inspire you and instead of feeling intimidated, remember that the people who's work you're admiring felt the same way at some time (and probably still do, occasionally).
Skin by Dan Leveille