How to overcome self doubts

The brief

A few months ago I was asked to write a letter to myself as an artist contemplating the end of my degree and working towards making a body of work to exhibit at my degree show in June. The letter was sealed and forgotten about for a while, last week I opened it and read it aloud. I found it quite emotional. This was a good exercise to do and I recommend it, write it as if you were writing to a friend, ask questions, encourage, inspire, support and see what happens…

My letter

Dear Chrissie

I got your email, sorry you are feeling so down about your work, I don’t know why you seem to be making lots and it’s really interesting what you’re doing. Please don’t worry about bothering me with silly questions, your questions are never silly and I completely understand that at times being an artist is really difficult; if it was easy everyone would do it!

I know you wanted to do this degree for years and felt it was something you should have done when you left school, but as you have demonstrated admirably it’s never too late. I understand that your energy levels are not what they were, try to pace yourself, if you need to take a break, do it, the work will still be there. Perhaps at the moment it feels that you won’t be able to make all the work you’d like to make for your degree show, but you know deep down you will, just take it one day at a time. 

You mention that you’re not sure what work you should be making, or even if it’s worth making work at all, well duh, of course it’s worth making work, what else would you do all day? You’ve never been one for sitting around doing nothing and I don’t see you starting to do that now. Also, remember you’ve been here before, uncertainty is a common problem for artists, perhaps it heralds a change in direction. You need to embrace the uncertainty and just make work without worrying about the outcome. I realise that this last comment is a bit unfair as you have a degree show to make work for, so you do need to consider the outcome. Keep things in perspective though, you’re just making work for this one show, it doesn’t have to influence the rest of your life. 

Remember what Hockney said about making work:

‘If an artist is not having fun in his studio, there’s something wrong with him’

ok, so maybe this isn’t the most helpful of quotes, I was looking for the one when he says something like ‘I make the art I want to make’, keep reading both of these quotes, they’re important! Enjoy making your art and do what you want, don’t worry so much about what people will think about it. Anyway, there’s so much conceptual art around, whatever you come up with will be fine as long as you can write some arty bulls**t about it.

Spend some time playing in the studio, yes the studio, where all your art stuff is, just make some work and notice how it feels and do more of that. You’ve bought those big canvases, it’s going to take a while to paint them so you might as well have a good time while you’re doing it. Also remember the work you did last semester, finding ways to start off work, go back and read that stuff again and set to work. Go out for a walk, take some photos, get inspired and show the world what you’ve seen and how it feels through your eyes.

I know you feel out of your depth with the wood and the idea of making something out of it. You should have more confidence in yourself. I really loved the work you did with the discarded wood, it was really interesting and you seemed quite excited about it yourself at the time, stop doubting yourself. Maybe look again at the work of Margaret Mellis, see if this helps you, but again I suggest you just get on with it and see what happens.

If I can offer a little advice, and I say this with love and respect for you, try not to compare yourself to, or be so influenced so much by others, it’s not serving you well. I know it’s difficult, you have to research other artists and you see work on social media and you think, I can do that, and yes, you possibly can, but should you be doing that? Is it your work? I think you need to look more inside yourself rather than externally, try to connect to what you really want to say with your work.

Equally you’ve said before that sometimes you check yourself when you come up with ideas for work, has this been done before, is it ok to make work like this? Try throwing caution to the wind and just make what you want to make however silly it seems, just try it and see what happens. You only have one life, make it count, don’t worry so much what other people think, remember, they will think what they want, do what you want to do!

I realise that at the moment you are full of uncertainty, what will I make, will it be abstract or realistic, will it look like my work, these are all questions you are grappling with, I believe that through making you will find the answers to these and the work will emerge. I for one can’t wait to see what you make, just put yourself into it, enjoy the process and it will be wonderful, just you wait and see.

With lots of love

Me xxx

Stay in the loop

image of Chrissie Richards

If you’d like to know when a new blog post comes out and get updates on new work, exhibitions, workshops and art tips, please sign up to my mailing list. I won’t bombard you with emails and I will never share your information.

Please enter your Email address: