When Circumstances Control Emotions

Whenever I sell one of my paintings, my energy is renewed, and I feel as if I can conquer the world. My self-esteem soars as I begin to envision all kinds of new ideas for paintings. The same types of feelings emerge when I get a painting accepted into a competition or win an award. These “cloud nine” experiences often send me right back to the easel.

On the other hand, when sales are slow and my painting inventory stacks up, my self-confidence takes a hit. I begin to doubt my abilities, and I wonder if painting is worth all the frustration and hard work. It's at times like these that I am inclined to avoid the studio altogether.

Some of you who are naturally more secure and emotionally stable than I may not identify with these ups and downs created by positive and negative circumstances, but I thought I'd bring up the topic here on the American Artist forums just in case some of you deal with similar mood swings that come about as a result of everyday experiences.

In times of economic turmoil, such as we're dealing with at the present, it's important that I not let circumstances (either positive or negative) determine how I feel about making my artwork. In fact, I need to learn to base my feelings on reality and know what my strengths and weaknesses are no matter what the art market is doing.

Recently, my art sales have seemed as if they're on a roller coaster—way up and then way down. Rather than let my feelings ride along, I need a new approach to evaluating my situation and my artwork in general. Here is how I'm dealing with a recent slowdown in my sales:

  • I'm taking time to focus on improving my artwork by copying Old Master paintings, practicing techniques that I find difficult, and trying out new approaches just for fun.
  • I don't adhere to extreme positive thinking—because sometimes making a situation falsely positive doesn't make my work any better. Similarly, negative thinking can be just as misleading.

So what is true for me as an artist? The fact of the matter is that although I'm a fairly good painter, I'm certainly not the best. To imagine that I'm the best would be buying into a fantasy. On the other hand, my ability has come a long way since my beginning years, and it would be untrue to say that I'm an amateur. The truth: I'm a professional painter who has experienced success and sales. My work has been published, and I've had the honor of learning academically from the very best. This is not bragging; it's the facts, and these facts make me feel good about all the money I've spent on workshops and the effort I've put into becoming a better painter.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement. You've probably heard it said that artists never stop learning. I fully agree with that statement. For now, the best remedy I can think of—especially when nothing seems to be happening with my art career—is to hone my skills, strive for the next level of expertise, and seek out further education. That way, when the economy does pick up again, I'll be ready with an amazing new body of work. I imagine that some of you are not feeling the recession, and that's a good thing. For the rest of us, it's wise to be thankful for the skills we already have and to "keep on keeping on" by faithfully befriending our studio.

Please feel free to share your remedies for dealing with disappointing events.

Lori Woodward Simons earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from University of Arizona. She has studied watercolor and composition extensively with Sondra Freckelton and Jack Beal. Simons’ work has appeared in several issues of Watercolor, and she is a co-author of the Walter Foster book Watercolor Step by Step. She is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group in Vermont. She resides in New Hampshire with her husband, Brian Simons, a software engineer. Visit her website at www.woodwardsimons.com and follow her on Twitter here.

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Lori Woodward

About Lori Woodward

Lori Woodward earned a bachelor's degree in Art Education from the University of Arizona. She has studied with Sondra Freckelton,(watercolor) Jack Beal, (composition) and currently is mentored by Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik as a member of the Putney Painters. As a writer, Lori has authored articles for Watercolor Magazine since 1996.  Lori authored a chapter on artists' web sites for Calvin J. Goodman's Art Marketing Handbook. She is a regular author on Fine Art Views, an art marketing online newsletter, and she has instruction art marketing and watercolor workshops at Scottsdale Artist School.