10 Artist Struggles – Why Artists Struggle and how they overcome them

This article lists some of the most common artistic struggles artists face along with tactics used to overcome those challenges.

By reading this article you’ll be able to identify if any of these problems sound familiar and also learn new strategies that will help you succeed as an artist.

Some of the Artist struggles could overlap and may seem familiar to you if not all.

This list covers some of the more major ones but there are others that I may have missed and if you think I should add some more, feel free to contact me and suggest yours.

The most common artist struggles are:

#1 Finding inspiration

Finding inspiration is one of the most common artist struggles, I’m sure it’s something we’ve all struggled with at some stage in our careers.

It can be really difficult to find inspiration especially when you’re starting out because you don’t have much to look back on and fall back on which is why artists struggle with this so much.

When looking for inspiration artists often discover new Artists’ styles they like, but might not fully understand how they made that image or piece come together?

This is an extremely common problem as artists are often inspired by artists who they haven’t studied formally or haven’t taken any formal lessons

Finding inspiration can be one of the biggest challenges for artists. You might find yourself feeling stuck, not knowing what to create next.

One way to overcome this is to get out and explore. Look at art in galleries, go to concerts or take walks in nature. You can also look online for inspiration or participate in art challenges online.

Also, reach out to other artists either locally or online and start a chat and get to know them without dumping all your problems onto them. You can then ask how they get their inspiration for their excellent works and see what they do.

Another way to find inspiration is to explore different mediums. Trying new things can help you develop new skills and find new sources of inspiration.

#2 Developing your skills

Developing your skills is another way to overcome artist struggles. If you feel like you’re not good enough, practice more. Draw every day, try new techniques, experiment with color and mediums. The more you do, the better you’ll become.

Attend some courses, even online ones are good but in person are best as it helps you speak to other artists in the same boat as you, and the teachers are most likely experience artists you can casually ask questions to. This leads to networking.

#3 Networking

Networking is also key for artists. It’s hard to make a name for yourself if no one knows who you are. Attend art events, go to open studios, post on social media, and connect with other artists online. When people see your work, they’ll be more likely to appreciate it and want to hire you or buy your work.

It’s also important to stay positive and motivated when artist struggles arise. Believe in yourself and don’t give up on your dreams. Surround yourself with positive people who are happy to help you on your journey.

Remember, when it comes to networking it’s a two-way relationship. If you want help you have to also offer help. Buying a coffee also won’t cut it. Most people can afford their own coffee and their time is valuable.

Offer to volunteer to help set up their next exhibition or do some tasks that may need to be done that will directly help you learn new skills such as helping with social media and the like. This doesn’t mean you become a free worker, it’s just an offer to help in exchange for a conversation or some mentoring.

#4 Building a portfolio

Building a portfolio is essential to getting work as an artist. However, it’s not always easy to get your work seen by the right people.

One way to overcome this is to start a blog or website. This gives you a place to showcase your work and also provides a link for people who may be interested in hiring you. Additionally, using social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter can help you reach a wider audience. I would not even bother with Facebook.

Another way to build your portfolio is to enter art competitions. This not only allows you to get your work seen by others, but it can also help you win some great prizes.

Artists are often their own worst critics and can be very hard on themselves. It’s important to have people around you who can offer constructive criticism but who can also build you up and make you feel good about yourself.

Take all comments with a grain of salt (even the good ones), if I had listened to everyone I would have quit being an artist when I was young as I lacked the skills but I built upon these.

I would have also quit when everyone made fun of me wanting to be a ‘starving artist’ as all they knew of the art world was to be a lonely painter in Paris not selling anything but most of these well-meaning people don’t realize all the great art-related jobs and careers out there that actually do earn a decent living e.g. graphic designers, animation studios, gaming, commercial art and the like.

#5 Marketing your work

Marketing your work is one of the biggest challenges for any artist.

As an artist, you always need to be marketing your work, whether it’s on social media, at events, or in community centers and schools.

Being out-going is critical when marketing yourself as an Artist if you are shy and introverted like me this can be difficult but I’ve learned how to embrace my inner artist introvert and I fake it or make it look like I am some deep thinking suffering soul.

It’s almost impossible not to get discouraged when seeing other artists’ works online or in galleries that are considered successful by many standards while your work doesn’t get much recognition.

Artists tend to compare themselves to others who have achieved more success than them without considering all of the external factors why their colleague has managed to get ahead. Don’t compare yourself with those who have made it, follow their journey, or follow the journeys of those who are a few steps ahead of you career-wise.

Getting your name known is as important as your actual work. Don’t be too humble. I loved Dali as he was a master at self-promotion. His actual work is nowhere near as good as his contemporaries but he has stood the test of time because people remember his stunts as much as his artworks.

So keep promoting yourself and your art, keep it fresh online such as on Instagram and your own website. Create greeting cards with your art and send them out on special occasions with links to your profile. I also like to print stickers with my artwork and QR codes that goes to my website and gift these.

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#6 Making a name for yourself

Making a name for yourself is one thing but don’t forget the importance of maintaining a good reputation. Don’t burn bridges with people you work with, or people who could be potential clients in the future as you’ll need them later on down the line.

Be patient and never give up on your dreams! Rome wasn’t built in a day (it just looks like it) and it will take a lot of hard work, dedication, and time to achieve success as an artist. Making a name for yourself as an artist is a career-long activity that never ends.

You will be inventing and reinventing yourself over and over in order to remain relevant. Remember that.

#7 Earning enough to make a living from your art

Earning enough to make a living from your art is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to overcome as an artist. Unfortunately, a lot of artists struggle with this because they’re undercharging for their work and their time.

Do your research and find out what other artists in your area are charging – that’s how much you should be charging! If you think you can’t charge that much at first then start low but always aim high. Always push the boundary and ask more than what you want and you will be surprised how many people say yes. And when they say no, then you can negotiate.

Once you’ve made some money from your art it is important not to spend frivolously so save up as much as you can so when the time comes to invest in new equipment or materials, or if you need to move onto bigger studio space, those expenses won’t be so hard on the purse strings.

It is ok to charge what you think you are worth. I sold my artwork cheaply early in my career as I did not want to be Van Gogh and only sell one artwork in my life.

Lucky for me I was also quite stupid and had no idea how much things actually cost, so when I sold my first few large paintings for between $100 and $500 I thought I did well until my dad told me that $500 was what he made in a week. (This was in the late 1980s).

#8 Being scammed

Being scammed is something that artists are not immune to, I have been scammed many times, but probably the most common scam is when people hire you to create art such as custom portraits and keep ordering more but never telling you that they are acting as the middle man finding buyers and then adding a markup without letting you know.

Another scam is people commissioning you for artwork and then refusing to pay you what was agreed or worse, offering you less than what you agreed to and saying “take it or leave it”.

In these instances, leave it. Don’t let them win. You can use the artwork as part of your portfolio or sell it to another buyer later on.

Other scams are people using your art for commercial purposes without asking you first.

Another scam that is becoming quite common now is people are finding their artworks being sold as NFT artworks which are digital versions of their artworks and selling for high prices.

You can reduce this risk by only uploading low-resolution versions of your artwork and adding a watermark.

Any art that you create is covered under copyright laws. While some may claim they copied or used your artwork under Fair Use, there are strict interpretations on how these can be used. Have a read here.

#9 Not growing or developing as an artist

Not growing or developing as an artist can be detrimental as you can easily fall into a rut. Some solutions for this include:

  • setting up a separate Instagram account strictly to post developmental and experimental artwork and practice your craft, versus posting personal pictures
  • taking art courses at local universities or online
  • finding an artist critique group via Facebook or Reddit and meet with them weekly
  • view online accounts of artists using search functions, look at hashtags and see what pops up. Scroll through the feed and see if anything piques your interest. When something does, have a look at similar accounts and see if there is anything you can add to your own repertoire.

#10 Being a unique artist

Being a unique artist is a struggle that is so close to home for me. I tried to be the most unique artist and kept finding 100 other artists doing the same thing.

I gave up trying to be unique and focused on being the best. This doesn’t mean you should stop trying to be unique, just don’t be too hard on yourself if you aren’t instead, try to find your own niche and stick with it.

Do all artists struggle?

The short answer is yes, all artists struggle! Some struggle more than most and not all artists have the same struggles. Even successful artists have their own unique struggles to what an unknown artist may have.

Artist struggles are common to everyone who works in creative fields. If you have a mental block, feel stuck, or just want to improve your art then have a look at the common artist struggles below as I have also addressed each one with a simple strategy to overcome them.

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Most artists struggle one way or another

Identify your artist struggles

If you can’t even pinpoint what your artist struggles are but have a gut feeling that something is not working for you then you should sit down and write out what you’re doing throughout the day. This will help you pinpoint the things that are causing your struggle.

You can also brainstorm using sticky notes, write down all the things that annoy you as an artist, or write the things that other people do that annoy you. Chances are high that you are projecting your struggles onto someone else.

This strategy can help you flip the problem back onto yourself and you can ask yourself the hard questions – “Am I the problem?”, “Is this something I can fix?”, “Is it a real struggle or am I being precious?”.

Let’s face it, being an artist is hard! At least that seems to be a consensus among almost all artists I’ve ever met or worked with. There are so many different types of artists in this world, but there are also common struggles shared by just about all of them.

How to avoid the artist struggle

1. Recognize that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and to have doubts about your work. It’s part of the creative process.

2. Talk to other artists. They will understand what you’re going through and they can offer helpful advice.

3. Take a break when you need one, but try not to let yourself get too bogged down in procrastination.

4. Set realistic goals for yourself and try not to put too much pressure on yourself to succeed. Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes.

5. Don’t compare your work to others – you’ll only end up feeling discouraged and frustrated.

6. Keep a positive attitude and don’t give up on your dreams!

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