A free resource for creatives. Looking at the hard questions, the SOS moments, and further reading.

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Artist Therapy: Rejection

In the wake of the end of year contest deadline announcements there comes the wave of artist anxiety and fear and sometimes anger and frustration over these contests. Being judged is never a comfortable experience, but I’m here to tell you all that if you’re experiencing a great deal of anxiety or fear over entering these contests, then you’re thinking about them entirely wrong. If the fear of rejection is keeping you from putting your work out there, going after opportunities, talking to the right people, or entering contests then you’re giving way too much power to chance.

5 Mistakes Artists Make When Talking About Their Work

It’s not enough to make great work, you also have to show it to the people. And before you get the chance to show it, you have to learn to talk about it. Whether it’s orally at a networking event or in writing in a pitch email, you have to present yourself and your project well, or you’ll never get the connections and backing you need to get it off the ground. Unfortunately, most people don’t feel comfortable talking about their work at all. Here’s some of the most common pitfalls and tips to overcome them.

Artist Therapy: Guilt

There are two kinds of guilt, and it’s a toss-up which is worse: guilt you feel towards yourself, or guilt you feel towards others. In fact, they’re two sides of the same coin — but heads or tails, you’re losing either way. The definition of guilt is “a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation” but I think that sentence inadequately portrays the particular feeling of horror, squirming, embarrassment, and failure that comes wrapped up together when we feel guilty.

Book Notes: Show Your Work!

Show Your Work offers an easy to follow rubric around sharing your creative work. The way this book fed me and could feed you is through a re-framing. You won’t find a new step by step for crushing it on Instagram, but you will find a way to relate to how you show your work. 

SOS! I Need to Grow my Mailing List

Whether you’re a writer, podcaster, painter, or stand-up comedian, your mailing list is your most direct line to people who want to see your work. By focusing on quality, not frequency, both of your content and of the people subscribing, you will cultivate a strong bond with your community.

SOS! I Don’t Know What to Put in My Portfolio

This post isn’t about the nitty gritty questions of what formats and how many pieces should be in a portfolio, this is about what content you should have in your portfolio. Because your portfolio is your shop window display. If you’re not showing your best work out front, you’re not going to get people deeper into your store. And you don’t put everything in your window display — just the things that are going to attract the kinds of clientele you want.

Book Notes: The Little Book of Talent

Hey all, Marc here again with another book I loved. Like many books I love, especially around talent and mastery, this one is full of stuff you can put into action and DO. I have a passion for learning, and learning about learning helps me be better at all the things I do from fatherhood … Read more

Book Notes: How to Read Literature Like A Professor

I know a bunch of you are wondering over the title of this Book Notes post and thinking “This is supposed to be book reviews for artists, why would we read a book about reading literature?” Let me tell you why! This book is all about recognizing references and symbolism in literature. You know what else operates with symbolism and references to other works that have come before? Art! If you read this book and substituted “reading” for “seeing” and “writing” for “painting” it would work perfectly.

Book Notes: The Confidence Code

Confidence is a big issue. It’s taken on an almost magical quality. It’s definitely a buzzword. It makes things happen, makes people want to be near you, makes entering that roomful of strangers a breeze, right? Well, not necessarily. Confidence is often confused with extroversion, self-esteem, self-worth, and unfortunately with arrogance. So what IS confidence? And how do artists strengthen their confidence?

Artist Therapy: Choice

We live in a capitalist world, and we thrive on options. Our entire economy is built on choices. We do everything we can to “keep our options open” as long as possible. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Your desire to keep as many choices as possible is getting in the way of doing your best work.

Book Notes : Mastering Creativity

Scientific study after scientific study shows that habits and systems are the tools you need to build skill and to become “talented.” This isn’t about becoming famous, crushing social media, or even how to build your business. This is about getting really freaking good at something and it applies to almost any skill, whether they are considered “creative” or not.

5 Reasons Artists Don’t Want to Learn Art Business

I’m an Art Director, and I talk to artists on all experience and success levels. It’s really eye-opening to me that most artists have the same doubts, fears, and roadblocks — whether they’re just starting out or at the top of their field. I see the same patterns over and over, and I want to share my perspective with all artists, so they realize they’re all struggling together. After a few years of educating artists in Art Business, I’ve definitely noticed some patterns holding artists back. Are you stopping yourself from building the Art Career you want?

5 Things Artists Do to Sabotage Their Career

I’m an Art Director, and it’s part of the job to evaluate artists. I’ve seen a lot of artists succeed…and a lot more drop out of the professional art world. There are patterns that are easy to see from my perspective that are more difficult for freelance artists to recognize, so I’ve listed the top 5 ways that artists sabotage themselves here. Are you sabotaging your career?

SOS! I Need to Write a Bio or Statement

There is no more dreaded piece of writing a creative has to do than the artist bio or artist statement. We’re fine making the work — but why is it so hard to articulate it? Often we’re much better at talking about our work in a group of creative peers, but we just freeze when we have to write it down. We can’t launch a project into the world without an About page, a Bio, or some kind of Artist Statement, so we’d better face our fear and get comfortable with writing about ourselves. 

SOS! I Feel Like A Fraud

We struggle for so long in obscurity—constantly falling short of our ideals—that we get used to the feeling that we’ll never be good enough. We’ll never be as good as our idols. We’ll never be good enough to feel satisfied with our work. The development of an artist often takes so long, and can be so discouraging, that when we do finally start to be successful we actually can’t recognize it. This is called imposter syndrome, and it is more common than you think.

Artist Therapy: Negotiation

Many of us think negotiation is a dirty word. It has a negative connotation, as if we were asking for things you shouldn’t. We feel that if everything was going well, we shouldn’t have to negotiate. But we’re thinking about negotiation all wrong. It’s not what needs to happen when things go badly—it should be a sign that everything is going very well. With a mental shift and a few go-to scripts, anyone can learn to negotiate confidently.

SOS! Someone Ripped Off My Art

Someone has stolen your art. Maybe it was just an Instagram post, maybe it was a blog post, or maybe it was something more serious — your art being used as some business’s logo or your art even appearing in the background of a movie or TV show or to sell prints and merchandise. How dare someone steal your artwork?! What do you do next?

Book Notes: Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience

If you have ever been “in the zone” or, as the author calls it, “flow” in any activity you know the joy of getting completely absorbed in what you are doing. You lose sense of time, you lose sense of effort. Everything seems to work together. You feel lighter, faster, smarter, more clever. Don’t we all wish we could work in that mindset all the time? But doesn’t it feel like completely unpredictable magic? The author calls this “flow” state an “optimal experience” and breaks down exactly the conditions needed to get into flow in any activity, and maintain it as long as we want.

Book Notes: Resonate

Talking about our work is hard. Selling our work is even harder. Very often in our art careers we are called to speak about and explain our work—whether it’s lecturing a class, or especially when setting up crowdfunding campaigns — and knowing how to do it effectively can take the squirm out of selling that many of us feel when we have to speak about our art. Resonate is the book that helps you see the patterns in every good presentation and breaks them down into a template you can use to make an audience feel (and do) what you want.

Artist Therapy: Play

Dream jobs are still jobs, and they still take work, and they’re often just as hard and brutal day to day as any other job we might have. Unfortunately a lot of artists get so wrapped up in how hard it is to establish and maintain a career in art that we burn ourselves out. Once that happens we have no way to recharge because while we have turned our love into our work. Art used to be something that made us feel good about ourselves, feel confident, feel alive. Now it is something that is often a source of anxiety and insecurity. We need a better work and play balance.

SOS! I’m Stuck in Infinite Revisions

Have you found yourself stuck in infinite revisions? Everything started off so well: you were excited about the client, you agreed on terms and signed a contract, and they loved your thumbnails…but suddenly you’re stuck in the artist version of Groundhog Day. Suddenly every time you send a revision, you get more notes. You keep thinking this will be it, but changes keep appearing out of the woodwork. The job drags on and your fee is looking less and less worthwhile. You are stuck in the hamster wheel of art. How do you get yourself out?

Artist Therapy: Frustration

Frustration is a funny thing. It’s kind of the ugliest possible child of disappointment and fear. Frustration is linked intimately with our sense of fair and unfair. We don’t get frustrated with something in our path that we feel has the right to be there — it’s the unfair roadblocks that frustrate us. To beat frustration we must be both optimists and pessimists — simultaneously.

Book Notes: Big Magic

This is another book I resisted reading for a while, even after multiple recommendations. But over the years Gilbert’s TED talks and her podcast have won over more and more of my creative friends and I decided to give Big Magic a try. I’m glad I did. It’s the pep talk I think every artist, author, and maker-of-stuff needs from time to time, especially right now. Gilbert has a great way of reframing things you’ve heard a thousand times before (“Failure is good for you” “Everyone has self-doubt” “Fear means you’re doing something right”) in a way that’s incredibly relatable and down-to-earth. This book feels like the cup of tea and warm hug every artist needs right now.

SOS! I Have a Creative Block

Artists have a funny relationship with their inspiration. It seems like magic, and we treat it as such. We need ideas and usually they are just…poof…there when we need them. But no matter how experienced the artist, no matter how many creative problems they’ve solved before, there’s always a moment of fear before you begin: What if this is the time your creativity fails? What is this is the time everyone finds out you’re a fake, a phony, a shitty artist? We are afraid to look too closely at our muses in fear that they’ll desert us when we need them most. 

Book Notes: The Diaries of Anais Nin

Anaïs Nin’s early journals focus on her life in Paris in the 30s, with the threat of World War II looming. She was not only central to the world of artists and writers and intellectuals of that (in)famous Paris scene, she was somewhat of their den mother. She was the one to buy Henry Miller a typewriter and get his first book published. All the while she was toiling away at her own novels. She kept the journals as a way to record observations of life she might spin into fiction later, and her notes on the lives of those artists are a treasure trove for anyone struggling with the creative life.

Artist Therapy: Breakdown

We are taught to never give up. Keep pushing. Work through blocks. Strive. Fight. And that is noble. But sometimes the pushing is not working, and no matter how hard we’re struggling to make something work, we keep sinking into the quicksand. As we fight harder and harder consciously, our subconscious knows something is wrong — and what we’ve been trying to do isn’t working. And those times when our unconscious mind knows something that our conscious won’t slow down enough to accept is when we sometimes end up in a breakdown. 

SOS! I’m Getting Trolled

You’re going about your business on the internet — maybe promoting your new Kickstarter, maybe saying something political, or maybe just posting a picture of a work in progress. Someone comes out of nowhere and starts saying nasty shit to you. Your first response is to jump to your own defense. Maybe you try to explain, maybe you attack right back. Suddenly your heart is racing and your day is ruined and all you can feel is hatred for this person you probably don’t even know. If you’re lucky, it just ends there. In some cases, the hate can spread into the physical world and have real consequences.

Artist Therapy: Confidence

Confident people just seem to have permission to do more, safe in the belief that it’ll turn out ok. People who aren’t confident watch in envy and are convinced that they could never move so easily in the world. Well I’m here to tell you one very important thing: there’s no such thing as confident people — no one feels confident all the time (those people are either arrogant or delusional). Confident people are exactly the same as insecure people, they’ve just figured out one really important lesson.

Book Notes: The Inner Reaches of Outer Space

Joseph Campbell is a philosopher, writer, and researcher into comparative mythology, picking up where Carl Jung left off with his archetypes and focusing mostly on the Hero story. The Hero’s journey (Superman, Luke Skywalker, Thor, Beowulf, etc.) is really a metaphor for the Artist’s journey. The Hero is one who is called to challenges and face themself and make their way into the underworld and bring back a great treasure for mankind. The Artist is one who is called to challenges and face themself and make their way into the subconscious and bring back a great treasure for mankind.

SOS! I’m Not Earning A Living Off My Art

Being a professional artist is your dream. But art careers don’t come easy, and the reality of how hard it can be to make a living in a field where you have to design your own path is daunting. As an artist you’re subject to fickle fanbases, unpredictable trends, and budgets very easily affected by shifting economic outlooks. At some point you may have to face that feeling in the pit of your stomach and realize that you’re just not making ends meet on your art alone.

Book Notes: A Whole New Mind

This book makes the case that the world is entering a new technological age that will require creative and empathic skills to flourish. The Industrial Age relied on the strength of the workers, the Information Age required data and processing power from the people. We are now in the Conceptual Age, which is all about creativity and ideas, putting these skills in higher rather than diminishing demand. So artists, read on and rest easy.

SOS! I Can’t Find My Style

Whether you work in illustration or gallery or concept art, the fact remains that you make a name for yourself by doing something better than anyone else can. Sure, there are artists that exist by being the “second best” at something or “the poor man’s version” of someone else, but it’s infinitely better to have a style all your own. By “style” I mean the combination of medium, technique, and voice that makes your artwork yours.

Book Notes: The Art of Asking

The idea that artists are somehow slackers or a drain on society is an old message, and while it’s easy to laugh off on the surface, it’s much more insidious because we have all internalized it. We are told what we do, as artists, is decoration. It’s entertainment. It’s not necessary. It’s not important. And thus, once internalized, that message turns into a inner shame. And an outer embarrassment. We don’t want to ask for help because it makes us worry that we are a failure if we need help. We need to learn that asking for help can also be a gift to others.

Artist Therapy: Trust

Trust. It’s a pretty big topic, and honestly one that seems to have gotten fairly “woo-woo” recently. I blame The Secret. But let’s not throw out the baby with the Magical Thinking bathwater, because trust is a critical part of being an artist.

Book Notes: Milk and Honey

I wholeheartedly recommend these 2 books to all artists. Not only do they speak directly to many emotions and traumas artists feel about themselves and their own work, but the story of how Rupi Kaur was discovered should be a beacon of hope for all the artists waiting for their break. Make work from your heart, get it out there in front of people, build your authentic audience. Success will find you working.

Artist Therapy: Suffering

I want to tackle a myth today. A really pervasive one that I think locks a lot of artists into justifying unhealthy behavior. The myth of the tortured artist. The belief that you have to suffer for your art. That you have to be a martyr to make good work. That art is only good if it comes from pain. I think we’ve got it backwards. The cart is before the horse, and it’s holding a lot of artists back from embracing (and enjoying) their creativity.

SOS! I Want Out of This Job

As freelancers, our first instincts are always to take a job that is offered to us. Any job. Especially if it’s a repeat client or a dream client we’re working with for the first time. But sometimes, in the middle of a job, things can take a turn for the worse and suddenly all you want is out. Is it the right time to hit the ejector button? Is there a way to save the job? Can you get out without irrevocably burning that bridge?

Artist Therapy: Fear

You want to know why you don’t get things done? Behind the procrastination, the laziness, the insecurity…you know what the root of it all leads to? Fear. But you’re thinking about it all wrong. Fear is not your enemy. Fear is a healthy response. Fear keeps you cautious. Fear makes you careful. People think you have to be fearless to be creative, to make art, but that’s not true.

Artist Therapy: Perfection

How many of us like to tell people we’re perfectionists? Well don’t fool yourself: Perfectionism is holding you back. Perfectionism is the fear that what you are, or what you have made, is not good enough, not worthy enough, to be let loose into the world. And we have to stop bragging about it.

SOS! I Don’t Know What to Charge

You’re courting a new client, and it seems like they’re interested. They ask you the dreaded question: “How much?” What do you do? If you quote too low, you’re not making enough money, and you’ll end up hating the job. But if you quote the real worth of the job, will you lose the client? Let us walk you through some negotiation scenarios.

Book Notes: A Technique for Producing Ideas

My bullshit alarm went off on this one, but I gave it a try, and I’m so glad I did. This book is different, it says more with less. Find out what the 5 steps to producing ideas are (and if you like them, you can buy the book for more detail).

Artist Therapy: Jealousy

All artists, no matter how good they are, have to deal with jealousy and envy. You will see a peer do something you wish you could, and you will feel a pang of loss deep in your gut. That’s normal. Let me be straight with you: no artist I have ever met — no person really, forget just artists — have been able to stop that first gut reaction. But, what we can do is stop it from obsessing us.

SOS! I’m About to Miss My Deadline

Suddenly, with a rush of pit-of-the-stomach dread, you realize that there’s no way in hell you’re going to make the deadline you agreed to. Now what do you do? (Spoiler: the answer is not to go hide your head in the sand and hope for the best.)

Book Notes: I Am Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson is a creative genius, but he’s also a tragic figure. His mental breakdown is so infamous it has even inspired hit songs. There’s been plenty of books written about Brian Wilson’s life, but this is the first one in his own words. And those words are valuable for any creative who struggles with anxiety or depression (and isn’t that all of us?)

SOS! I Have a Networking Event Tonight

Everyone gets nervous before events. But you shouldn’t let it hold you back. Here’s some top tips we’ve crowdsourced from the artists and art directors best at winning social hour