5 Cool Ways to Wear Confidence in Public

For an artist to be able to climb what often feels like a very steep career mountain, confidence is your essential ingredient.

And by that I mean bone-real confidence; not the pumped-up kind, where we’re skating over a surface of insecurity and fear, and so we’re pumping ourselves up to keep from falling over a cliff.

I’m talking about the kind of confidence that’s based on what decades of academic research have shown: that it is not compliments—it is not people telling you how good your art is—it is your level of competence that is the bedrock  of your confidence.

Here are 5 cool ways to increase your art-career competence, which will automatically increase your confidence. (And if I’ve left any out, go right ahead and add it in the comments!)

1. Cool Confidence in the Studio

I don’t care where you are on the career path, keeping your technical skills finely tuned is essential. If you know you are shaky at any level, or slowly getting a bit jaded or stale, find a mentor, a leader in your genre to work with, or start an artist group and invite artists who have the skill levels you would like to have.

If nothing else, set yourself a new challenge, something out of your comfort zone. Work that place hard for 3 weeks and see what changes in your skill level. There is no destination here, only continual arriving…

2. Cool Confidence in Your Relationship To Your Art

When’s the last time you had a heart-to-heart with a piece of work? Did you keep a written record of that conversation? I know an artist who literally talks to her paintings and waits for them to respond.

If nothing else, keep a notebook in the studio next to you and jot down key phrases as they swirl around in your mind. Otherwise, the wallpaper inside your head will fade away and you might lose the very phrase that unlocks the next collector’s heart and purse.

3. Cool Confidence in Your Artistic Fingerprint

When your work is speaking from the level of your soul, no one can ever successfully copy you. Your artistic fingerprint is just that: yours. By definition it cannot be anyone else’s.

Here’s the litmus test: If you were in a group show with 10 artists and you had 4 pieces sprinkled in-between the other artists and spread over three rooms, could a stranger see one piece in one room, than another piece in a different room and immediately know these pieces were from the same artist – and not because they were all cats! (or pears, or landscapes)

An artistic fingerprint can be simple or complex, and it is never about self-duplication. It’s something you do organically, probably effortlessly, and it infuses your work with what I call the soul essence of self.

4. Cool Confidence in Your Titles

This is the beginning of your non-visual communication with your viewers. And in the land where websites rule (or Facebook), words are essential. Even the raging visual Pinterest asks you to name your boards, put words with the image you pin.

Words are your true friend because they help you create more than one level of association, increasing what I call the “sticky factor” that helps people remember you. Smell the coffee. Taste the tang of the freshly sliced tangerine. Feel the rough edge of a broken fingernail. Listen to the church bells call to prayer. See how well that works?

Compare to: “Untitled #10”  Need I say more?

Yes, actually I do. Online, people search by words. One artists got two commissions just by giving her landscapes the exact names of the location where she painted them. Someone googled those areas looking for gifts and found her work… need I say more?

5. Cool Confidence in What You Say About Your Work

People are always going to ask you about your work. Hemming and hawing, coming out with stock phrases about beauty and color and light, or over reaching for the bravado of academic phrases, this is the provenance of amateurs.

(Yes, I know… more words. Funny how word-language follows us around…)

Remember that notebook I suggested in Cool Confidence #2? This is your treasure chest of perfect words. Keep it by your side, next to your bed, in the car, in the studio… Jot down ALL thoughts (that primes the brain to keep supplying you with more). Don’t edit. Especially don’t judge. At this stage its all good because once you’ve let your brain dump out the cliches, the dumb, the boring (the weeds), only then is there room for the sleeping jewels underneath to shine through.

Start here, with these five competence building blocks, and watch how quickly your confidence shifts into a higher gear.

Because, all your marketing plans, all your business goals are on shaky ground until your confidence levels become strong enough to support them.


Wouldn’t it be great to know a few confidence tips, like how to address friends and family who overtly, or subtly, put down your desire for an art career? And what if you had a system designed to give your confidence a real boost no matter what’s going on?

At the smARTist Telesummit 2012, one of our keynote speakers did just that, while 9 other keynote speakers covered everything you’d want to know about: “Your Collector Lifeline: How to Use Confidence, Connection, and Communication so They Buy Your Art.”

And right now, for a few days, I’m running an Early Bird Discount on the Home Study Edition – where you can get all the material from the live conference and soak it up in the comfort of your studio or home.

11 Responses to “5 Cool Ways to Wear Confidence in Public”

  1. Ariane, this is by far the best post I’ve ever read and spot on accurate. Exactly where I am at and what I am living RIGHT NOW. Thank you for putting it into words so eloquently. I hope that those who haven’t yet “gotten it” will now have their own moment of clarity from this post. Most excellent, Ma’am.

    • Ariane says:

      When you say “Exactly… what I am living…” I’d love to know more, Jennifer…

      • 1. I am challenging myself to work outside my comfort zone and with that in mind, I wrote down clear artistic goals for 2012. Since then, I’ve created new paintings (and product from those paintings) that are selling like hotcakes-even though I haven’t publicly shown the paintings yet.
        2. Keeping notes as I work on a piece. This becomes the outline for my “back story” – all the thoughts while I work on the piece are written up and given to the buyer as part of my Certificate of Authenticity.
        3. Artistic fingerprint – Everyone tells me that they can pick out my work instantly from a room full of art. I never want that to change – except to get better.
        4. I’ve actually changed a title of a painting to what all the viewers of the piece say when they look at it. (Oh! Its “French Fry Guy”!) I’ve also let friends and family title paintings- instead of what I think it should be, I listen to what the piece says to the VIEWERS.
        5. I absolutely hate “Artspeak” and the ridiculous things artists will say (over reaching for the bravado of academic phrases) to try and sell their work. But this is also my biggest hurdle- talking to people about my art. This year may be easier for me since I started making the notes as I work. I was “living the piece” as I worked on it and that can be confidently communicated to the potential buyer. And it doesn’t hurt that the new 2012 pieces are awesome :)
        Looking forward to your next post!

      • Ariane says:

        Wow, you certainly know how to be specific! :-)

        You might want to check out the Blue Stocking Art Salon chats first and third Wed of the month. Click here to sign up:

        And at this stage of your amazing journey, what would be most helpful for you right now, to reach your dreams?

  2. I’m so happy I read this, because it really speaks to me at this stage in my art career. I’ve been putting off painting and showing for a few months, partly because I’ve been preoccupied with other life events, but also partly because I feel I need to take stock of what I am doing and where I am headed with my artwork. I need something to motivate me to think more clearly about my direction. This is very helpful!

    • Ariane says:

      Thanks for letting me know because I too am taking stock of “what I am doing and where I am headed…” And this post was the beginning of that journey.

      What else do you think would help “motivate (you) to think more clearly about (your) direction?”

      I’d love to know!

  3. Patricia Young says:

    I will be thinking about that and get back to you. I like your ideas and plan to post them in my studio for a start. I like number one and two as a jump off point, fine tuning my skills and developing a relationship with my artwork so that I can share it with confidence, sounds like what I need to work on first. Again, thanks for the ideas and insights.

  4. Holly Irwin says:

    Thank you so much for this post! It rings true on all points. I so need to work on #5!!

  5. sherri says:

    Thank you. I’ve been struggling with confidence in several areas.
    But about a year ago I decided no one was gonna pull me out of the hole, so I’ve gotten back into classes, even thinking of getting my AA. Not for the degree, but for the exposure to young ideas and local art scene. Yes, I’m retired.
    The one thing I’ve been looking for is a mentor. Not many artists these days have the time or desire to mentor. When getting my teaching degree, the whole concept of Student teacher is exactly what I envision.
    Ah well, keep plugging along and not give up. I always refer to Thomas Edison….”Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” :D

  6. ellie scheepens says:

    Thank you Ariane. You are putting words on feelings and struggles I defiantly experience of and on. To push my comfort zone, I decided to reach out to a new artist every month located in the vicinity to broaden my pear group. Its exiting and invigorating. I will join the next art salon soon too. Thank you.

    • Hi Ellie,
      I love it when an archived post gets air time – especially when it’s been helpful.

      Lori and I would be so happy to have you on the Blue Stocking Art Salon – and we can talk more there!

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