People think your art is bad.

It seems that one cannot write an article about artists without reiterating that they are their own worst critics. So, let’s get that out of the way right now. We’re terrible at assessing our own work. What’s worse, artists as a group tend to have very different tastes from the populous at large. Keeping the opinions of your artwork inside the bubble of professional opinion can be dangerous. Regardless, striving to achieve greatness as an image maker is still worth perusing. Your power as a craftsman can be essential to your success. However, being successful as an artist involves more than making expertly rendered paintings. In fact, it's likely that the business around the art matters more than the artwork itself. Some of the most accomplished craftsmen in the world do very poorly while some people whose work that you think sucks are doing great. That’s because our individual judgement over an artist’s work is basically meaningless in the marketplace.

There is a decent chance that if you are reading this piece, you are an artist who thinks that they aren’t ‘good’ enough (whatever that means). In fact, there are people out there who agree with you. They might say passive aggressive things like you “aren’t there yet” or describe your work as not on a level with “so and so”. That’s bullshit. You may not have work that fits the needs or taste of a particular art director or taste maker but that doesn’t mean your work is ‘bad’. And yes, people do call your work ‘bad’. I can say that confidently because I’m sure no one has escaped being called ‘bad’ by somebody, somewhere, sometime. If you haven’t been called ‘bad’ before, then you are in real trouble because that means no one is looking at your work. There is no art so immaculate that someone will not assault it, that’s just a painful truth about being an artist.

As artists, we desire to express ourselves, but that is ultimately an embarrassing process. Saying something honest and heartfelt in a public space opens up the most extreme fear and shame response that a person can have. Making good art is like making a public speech that never ends because it never goes away. We wrap our feelings in superficial barriers that protect our more intimate selves from this embarrassment. This is where I think artists tend to subvert their own work. It's easier to aspire to be like some famous artist that everybody seems love than to be yourself. It's a trap that's so easy to fall into and I see it happen all the time.

There are many many criteria to judge our work on. So, let’s reject the idea of assessing ourselves as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Even if you are bad at art, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to whatever success you can achieve. If you can create consumer demand for your work, art directors can reject you all day long without consequence. Gallery owners, collectors and other important figures make up a tiny fraction of the art buying world. Being in their good graces is nice and sometimes profitable but hardly necessary. If you could get past what they think about your work, you could make anything. In fact, you CAN make anything. Any thinking that leads you to believe otherwise is the quiet, yet familiar whisper of your own fear.

Trust what your fear tells you, it will always lead you in the exact opposite direction you should be heading.