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Artists and self sabotage on ARTiful painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier

Artists and self-sabotage

As Artist and individuals we know we are afraid of failure, but more surprisingly sometimes we are also afraid of success. Artists are no strangers to self sabotage, and it can be seen in a variety of situations.

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Here are a few examples of self sabotage, I have been guilty of some of those and have witnessed some with other Artists. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is an unpleasant remark that makes you realize you are self sabotaging like when someone told me “Why are you trying to sell portraits of your children? Is your business plan to wait until they are grown up, earn a living and can buy the paintings from you?” While it is not entirely true that no one would buy portraits of my children; they for sure were much more difficult to sell than the landscapes I am painting now. I still paint their portraits occasionally but now I know I am painting them for myself, not in the hope of selling them. That remark made me think that I would have to put myself in the customers shoes so to speak and picture what I would like to hang in my own home if I were to buy a painting.

artists and self sabotage

I did paint many portraits of my children, I still do paint them occasionally.

Self sabotaging Artists might:

  • Filling an application or submission and forgetting to stamp it or mail it.
  • Working very hard on a painting and then be careless in the last stages of varnishing or wiring it. Damaging it while hanging it.
  • Always starting new projects but not finishing them, or having trouble considering finished any painting
  • Being at your own opening or a group show opening but looking inaccessible by looking unhappy, reading a book, knitting or looking at your cell phone. Being unfriendly to visitors.
  • Not making it easy for customer to buy your paintings by forgetting to put on prices.
  • Setting up prices way to low or way to high.
Self sabotaging artists
Photo by Anna du Bois
  • Painting subjects that you know objectively have a very low chance of ever selling, like frightening or depressing subjects. Of course, I don’t believe that all Art has to be pretty, but if your goal is to sell to typical customers, you have to consider what they will want in their homes.
  • Waiting for everything to be perfect before starting something, like waiting for the perfect moment when everything is quiet in your life to paint or waiting for the perfect website or the perfect newsletter before publishing it. We usually learn from our mistakes, so even if  what you do is never perfect , you learn how to improve while doing it. Perfection might never come…
  • Painting something that your audience can’t understand, for example with text in a foreign language and no explanation about the meaning or translation.
  • Making it politically difficult to show your work by for example adopting the style of a cultural minority that is not yours.

Have you witnessed examples of self sabotage in other Artists or in your own experience? Share your insights.