April 11, 2011

Motivation Part 1 : What Holds You Back

Hey friends,

So I am giving a lecture towards the end of April about art and being an artist to a group of high school students, and I realized that I have given this kind of lecture many times, I should write it down here in case any one else could use it.

I love my students at the Worcester Art Museum - I teach art school portfolio preparation and advanced painting + drawing, and have, along the way, given them lots and lots of advice, that could really apply to more than just artists.

is a fear of failure.  Stop thinking about your problems and get to work.
I used to be terrified of calling art directors. I was afraid to charge a lot for my work because I didn't feel it was good enough.  I would endlessly tweak my website and promo materials before ever sending it out to people - for fear it wasn't ready.

I was really scared of rejection.  Of not being accepted by my peers in the illustration business.  Brick by brick I was building a wall in front of myself of self-doubt.  Nobody else did it - I did.

So one day while drinking peppermint tea I thought "Wait a second - who cares!  I'm wasting precious time!"

We're afraid to succeed because we know at the top there is lots of responsibility and there are hatersOh haters gonna hate.  They could say your art looks like someone else, or you are contrived, or you aren't doing anything special - blah blahIs that seriously the worst thing that could ever happen to you?


Will the police come to your door and say "Mrs. Veronica Fish, we are here to arrest you because everyone hates your work so you have to go to jail now." 

Of course not.

So what's the worst that could actually happen?  Some dude leaves a negative comment.  Whatever.  You are stronger than that.

Knock it off.  Right now.  SeriouslyJealousy is insanely pointless.  It accomplishes nothing, except to drag you down and make you look bad, and the worst part: you do it to yourself - for no reason.  Some people have been at it longer than you, some people have good connections - either way, it doesn't matter.  They are just people, doing their thing, getting by like the rest of us.  Just do your thing, the best you can.

Be a hunter-gatherer.  There is so much to be inspired by, if you have exhausted your usual haunts explore a new place.  Find a new museum, pick up a random book at the library, ask your friends for suggestions, even watch movies with fresh visual styles - anything that plants a seed of a new idea in your brain.  Doodle ALL. THE. TIME.  Get a tiny sketchbook and doodle stuff in it all day.  Even if it's the ugliest thing you've ever drawn, it doesn't matter - just keep your hand and brain working together.

Slay it like a dragon.  Swear off Facebook for a solid week and actually stick to it, have a friend take away your tech-toys, cancel extraneous internet accounts.  Paul Pope once told my illustration class in college that he works 3 solid days of every week with no phone, TV or internet, and gets a tremendous amount of work done. That's a great strategy!  Remember : your work deserves your full attention.

FACT : You are awesome!


  1. you are awesome! thank you, thank you. Very good advice. You're a treasure. PS-I miss-read the Paul Pope for Pope Paul, but I imagine he was pretty good about getting centered too.

  2. thanks so much for all of this great advice. I need it! Will do my best to remember it.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I'm not that kind of artist (I do music!), but I still find a lot of what you say true and helpful. Now I just need to buckle down and do stuff! (gah)

  4. Thanks guys!

    Megan - if you subtract the art, it can really apply to lots of things!

  5. Great post! These advices can definitely apply to other fields, and basically life in general. Can't wait to read Part 2! :D

  6. just in time to get me off my butt and do something new for spring...thank you Veronica way rad outlook

  7. Thanks guys! So glad it was helpful, I need to internalize it myself

  8. Ugh god, that constant feeling of things "not being ready" that's me all over it! Ah I need to tell you smtg stupid but I know we're never on chat, I'ma gonna start email you more OK!!! xDDD

  9. This was really wonderful~ Recently we had an architect come speak to us about how to be more successful by taking care of ourselves and setting goals. He talked about practicing creating quality work while being efficient (that all nighters really aren't the key to being succesfull). Just like you mentioned, fear is one of the key factors in not succeeding. He made us write down a list of fears we had. Once we had done that, they didn't seem so bad anymore.....just admiting that we were scared seemed to solve the problem and allow us to fully concentrate on our work~

  10. I love it! Please make this post into household wallpaper so I can plaster it everywhere as an ever present reminder. And the police would say, 'Mrs. Veronica Fish, we are here to arrest you for being WAY TOO AWESOME!!!' ;)

  11. Thanks guys! I'm so glad you liked it!