8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist.

My Story.

True story. I am consistently battling self-doubt. As they say, we are all our worst critics, right? Self doubt is what kept me from using my art degree for over 15 years. It took me becoming a SAHM, after a long corporate career, to feel confident enough to try to paint again (mostly because we were going to be relying on one income anyways so, if I failed, it wouldn’t really affect anyone else but me.)

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After 2 years of painting every single day, I have had many opportunities to face my fears head on. It crops up in many ways, but here are some of the effects that self doubt has had on my art if I let it get to the best of me:

  1. Under-charging for my work. I’ve caught myself typing an email response to a custom painting inquiry and instead of putting my true prices and sticking to them, I typed a number- back spaced- and re-typed a lower amount. Or, something has been thrown in for free.
  2. I’ve said no to certain projects just because it wasn’t in my “comfort zone” and I was afraid of failing.
  3. Procrastination happens more often when I am not believing in myself.

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art
During the last year or so, I have been really intentional about acknowledging these feelings and determining their roots. Here are some things that have really helped me to produce when I am not feeling the best about my ability:

  1. Having email templates ready so that I can respond to inquiries in the same manner every time. This takes the emotional ups and downs out of the equation. Doing this has helped me to have even more confidence in my work than if I had accepted commission work at a discounted rate (which leaves me feeling defeated for not allowing myself to get paid what any person should get paid for the amount of hours/effort I am putting in.)
  2. Making the decision to never say “no” (as long as I have time in my schedule to take it on). Last year, I made a personal decision to do my absolute best to take on all painting challenges- even the ones that tempted me to run in the opposite direction. I am a perfectionist by nature, and doing this has helped me to deliver quality pieces of art that are completely outside of my normal subject matter…like a rooster wearing earrings eating chocolate, or a Venus Fly Trap. In the end, I have found that the completion of art that utterly terrifies me actually encourages me to take on an even bigger challenge the next time.
  3. Deciding to produce every single day for an audience (even if there isn’t one). This may sound strange, but if I make a commitment to produce every day in honor of my followers, it helps me get past self doubt. It helps me focus on the process and get away from the hangups that are sometimes associated with it. It helps me to get outside of myself and give me hope that I might make someone smile that day- and that makes getting past that moment of doubt worth every bit of the courage that it takes to paint.
  4. Keep a journal of quotes from happy customers. Self explanatory, I’m sure, but remembering people who have previously trusted me with their vision and memories helps me to know that I am capable of doing it successfully again.
  5. Studying previous personal art and looking for times when technical improvements or better use of materials were developed.
  6. Going outside. There is just something really healing about getting fresh air and then sitting back down in the studio.
  7. Recording the painting process. Last year, I had many moments of self doubt when the image on my watercolor paper was still in the mid-beginning stages. By filming the process, and then speeding it up, I can study how elements like shape, color, contrast and texture develop over time. It helps me to understand the concept of growth in my art. Just like a seed, it takes many other critical steps of development before that seed becomes a flower, blooming out of the dirt.
  8. Never throw away an unfinished piece of art. This decision was born out of this 50 state watercolor project, which took a little more than 5 months to complete. For that project, I had personal deadline- November 1st. With limited time available to paint (literally during the nap times of my kids) I could not afford to fail. If I started something that I wasn’t happy with I set it aside, moved onto something else, and re-visited it on another day. Somehow, I managed to paint 50 consecutive paintings without throwing away a single piece of paper – and I finished the last one on, you guessed it, November 1st.

watercolor United States map - 50 state paintings celebrating America the Beautiful. by Rachel Alvarez

How does your self doubt effect your business? What do you do to combat it?

Let’s get in touch. I would love to hear about your work, and the art that only YOU can do.

-Rachel @rachelalvarezart

PS. Along the way, I have been greatly inspired by other fellow artists and entrepreneurs. Here are some links to some of my favorite speeches and podcasts on this topic.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Adam Lerner talk about the risk of failure at Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was very inspirational. He spoke about his Failure Project- which was designed to allow kids the opportunity to fail- while trying. Students were awarded “biggest failure” based on how much of a risk they were willing to take in order to create. This speech is similar to the one I heard last week:

“Hacks to get more done” via Amy Porterfield’s podcast

“Keeping Real on Social Media” via Jenna Kutcher’s podcast

Read my latest blog post here: I didn’t get the art scholarship.

I didn’t get the art scholarship.

My Story.

It’s a time in my life that I will never forget. I was in my sophomore year of school, and I was deep in the trenches of my art studies.

For spring break that year, my mom and I decided to take a train trip half-way across the country to Topeka, KS. to visit family. On our last day, we arrived at the train station only to hear that our train had partially derailed somewhere west of us after hitting a cow on the tracks.

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Our itinerary was going to be delayed. As I’ve written before, it’s usually my preference to take the long, scenic way home, but this time I need to get back- I had applied for an arts scholarship, and I needed to be home to present my portfolio.

When our train finally arrived in Kansas, we were hours behind schedule.  Our route was taking us to Chicago and, there, we would know just how late we would be on our return to Maryland. After we all boarded the train and got settled in, there was an announcement: “Amtrack officials will be meeting with people in the restaurant car to arrange travel plans. Please choose a member of your party as a representative to speak with them.” My mom looked at me and said, “Rachel, you’re 19, you go and make a decision to get us home.” We settled back into our seats and, ironically, I continued reading a book for my sociology class entitled “Ain’t no Makin’ It” (a really fascinating study on social inequality that I highly recommend.)tom-barrett-328717-unsplash

After a few hours, someone came to our seats and said that we were up. I followed them to a train car quite a ways away, and went inside where two officials dressed in navy blue were seated, waiting for me. “Where are you going?” they asked. “Salisbury, Maryland by way of Baltimore.” I said. “What brought you to Kansas?” they asked. “My mom and I spent my spring break traveling to see our family.” “Is there anything we need to know about your travel needs?” “Yes,” I said, “I need to get back to Salisbury as soon as possible. I’m an art major in college, and I am presenting my portfolio for an art scholarship.” They took notes. “Ok, ma’am, we will determine the best course of action and you will be notified in Chicago of the decision. You may go back to your seat.”

After 10 hours of travel, our train stopped in Chicago. It was about 2am.

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Hundreds of people exited the train and filed into lines at the Amtrak counter. Exhausted and frustrated, they received news that the next trains were not leaving for hours and they were prepared for the long night ahead.

While we were waiting in line, someone discreetly walked up to us and said to me, “Rachel?” “Yes.” I replied. They handed me an envelope and quietly whispered not to mention it to anyone. Inside the envelope we found information about a Chicago hotel, taxi fare, and 2 plane tickets-  back home to Baltimore. My mom and I were pretty shocked. We ended up spending the night in a very nice hotel, and took our time getting to the airport the next morning.

Our plane landed and we drove back to Salisbury. Turns out that, after all of that, we still arrived home sooner than if we had never been delayed in the first place. The next day, I arrived at the Salisbury Wicomico County Arts Council with my photography portfolio in hand and never said a word about what we had just been thru. I didn’t get the scholarship.

19 years has passed, and I will never forget the amazing way that our trip ended. To this day, when I am going thru something tough, I think back on times just like this one. I didn’t get the scholarship, but the experience was even more rewarding.

Isn’t it funny how things all seem to work out in the end?

“Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip.
— Robert J. Hastings

art inspiration - never give up on your dreams

Want to see some of the art that I paint now? Look here <

Read more about my love of travel here <

Enjoy the journey, folks.

-Rachel Alvarez

shop small Saturday

My Story.

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Shopping small is a way to support someone’s dream. I know this first hand! By supporting my art, you have allowed me the amazing blessing of staying at home with my two babies. That is what it’s done for me, but don’t just take my word for it.

Here is what some of my fellow artists, makers and dreamers said when I asked them
“why do you love running small business?”

* “It allows my schedule to be totally flexible to adjust to things that come up so I can be there for my family. (ex. field trips, helping out at school, sporting events, etc.) I get to set my schedule!!”
* “My boss is so kind, he feeds and buys me everything I want at the time.”
* “It allows me to stay at home with my 9m old daughter on weekends and pay bills, without the need for a second “full time” job.”
* “It helps me build self confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
* “We can live in the country and I don’t have to go to work in an office.”
* “I have a son with autism, so I can be there for him.”
* “It’s providing a piece of my heart to others. I love hearing back from others of the joy it brings to them ❤️. ”

I am so incredibly thankful for your support of my art. To express it, I am giving all newsletter subscribers on my website a special coupon code to use this Saturday.

Want to receive one? Sign up HERE.

Thanks again for all of your words of encouragement, shares, likes and purchases.

Thank you so much for supporting my dream,

Rachel

www.rachelalvarezart.com

 

A (summer) day in the life of…

My Story.

During the summer, more than ever, our family gets in our minivan for last-minute impromptu road trips. It’s not unusual at all for us to get lost on back country roads and end up 2 states away without even planning on it– to be fair, two states isn’t all that far since we are on the eastern shore of Maryland and everything is within easy access. Still, it’s always fun to see what kind of new adventures we can get ourselves into.

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We’ve stumbled upon bald eagle nesting grounds. Collected antique pottery shards that have washed up onto beaches. Eaten ice cream on the bay at unknown hole-in-the-wall-perfection.

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I think one of my favorite things about living here is the fact that we can go in almost any direction and hit water. Something about the fact that all of it meets at some point, in a variety of ways, makes me smile. I may not know where I am going, but the water sure does. Water is a very common theme in my paintings- it’s particularly challenging to paint because of it’s ever-changing color and shape, and I love a good challenge.

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There are roads near our home that make you feel like you are literally about to drive off of the face of the planet. No other people- no other homes- no other cars: just the birds and the bugs. I love it.

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My good friend Tim once pointed out that the further you drive into the country, the less fingers a person uses to wave “hello”. I like those pointer-finger-only kinds of hellos. You know, the kind that only the locals give to each other.

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My camera is a close friend during those trips.

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I read a quote the other day that really hit me:

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”   Dorthea Lange

When I was in college, I was initially a photography major. There were many times when I used my camera and a whole new world opened up to me. I noticed things in detail that I never would’ve even paid any attention to without that shutter click. Colors were more vibrant. Pattern more visible. Texture more tangible.

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My encouragement for you is to grab your camera. Don’t go somewhere to take pictures. Go somewhere to discover beauty. Enjoy the unexpected. Get lost, and in the process, find out a little bit more about yourself.

Want to see more of what inspires me as an artist? See more photos, read stories and see works in progress on my Instagram: www.instagram.com/rachelalvarezart . Tag me with YOUR new adventure. I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.

My Story.

My life has been a series of major transitions. I was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland but have moved and migrated over 2,000 miles over the years- only to end up right back where I started.

I’ve had some really great life experiences.

~ In college, I moved to upstate NY for a summer to teach photography and didn’t know a soul. Everyone else I worked with had traveled much further than me. They’d come from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa…I met some really great people there and, at the end of the summer, we were all invited to live for a week in Greenwich Village, NYC. September 11, 2001 happened the day after we left.

~ I’ve been to concerts with best friends and had drinks at the bar with the band.

~ I’ve hiked in Georgia O’Keefe’s backyard.

~ Once, I was offered a job in Baltimore, and packed up all of my things and relocated within 2 weeks.

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~ Later, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon at 5am, eating cold spaghetti and hearing my voice echo across the miles with some of my closest friends.

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~ I’ve been to Boston, sat in what prides itself as the “Littlest Bar” all by myself, and ordered a bowl of clam chowder.

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~  I packed all of my essential belongings into 2 suitcases, moved to Florida and found paradise and the love of my life.

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~ For my birthday one year, I enjoyed beignets in New Orleans.

~ My wedding was on the beach in the middle of a tropical storm.

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~ When I was pregnant with our son, I hiked a mountain in Colorado, and enjoyed the view.

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~ I traveled to Dominican Republic, and got my teeth cleaned while I was there.

There are still quite a few things on my bucket list, but I am happy with life so far. It has been exciting and fun and challenging.

In the last three years, things have definitely slowed down on the travel front, my social life has plummeted and I don’t seem to have as much energy as I used to. I can’t just pack my bags and fly anywhere I want to anymore.

I am, however, still VERY spontaneous. I need to be. My dreams are still coming true. My heart is full, and my kids are darn cute. There is always something to be thankful for, but tonight I am especially thankful for my little family and all of those awesome adventures that led me to my NOW.

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Thank you, God, for blessing me.