Art Anxiety?

  • I'm going through some severe anxiety about my art right now from the pressures of grad school and life in general. (It's difficult to go through a fine art program as a comic artist.)

    What do you all do to deal with your art anxieties? How do you work through them?

  • Sometimes I sit and cry and huddle under a blanket for a day (being honest). Other times I find that continuing to work on a project or refocusing on a different project gets me over the anxiety. And sometimes I take a break, if only for a few hours, and do something relaxing.

  • I suffer with anxiety and the only thing that helps me is my art it really relaxes me,especially watercolour. If art is the thing that is making you anxious,perhaps you could relax with another hobby,maybe something that gets you out in the fresh air,I dont know what you like to do ,but if you are doing art in college you could focus on relaxing at home and doing things you enjoy.

  • May I ask why you are in a fine art program? Is it so you'll he able to teach later on? Are all of the professors fine artists? Any of them on the commercials side of the spectrum? I ask because as you've already pointed out, being a comic book artist in a fine art program seems like a recipe for art anxiety! I think if that's the case, then you really just have try to take things with a grain of salt. Can you tell us more specifically what sort of problems you're encountering in your grad program?

  • @Tracy-Wilson - My blanket is big, fuzzy and orange -- so an orange burrito appears here from time to time. 😉 Thank you for sharing!

    @DOTTYP - Yes, art is giving me anxiety. It's something I really want to do well at so that kinda messed it up for me. I don't have other hobbies at the moment. Probably need to try a new one. Thank you for the suggestions.

    @TessW - I've done graphic design and illustration for many years as a self-taught artist -- switched to fine art after a brief succession of terrible clients turned me off freelance work.

    It seemed at that time finishing college would give me more training in fine art. (I'm ASL Deaf and ADD which makes it difficult to finish school.) A few collegiate twists and turns later, I managed to enter a low-residency MFA program on a BA waiver based on the strength of my portfolio and writing. My original goal was to do fine art (I even exhibited a series of carved, finished wood rulers the first semester) but then this semester epiphany hit and I realized comics is my career. It was my first "art love," even if life knocked me around a bit over the years.

    The faculty at my college are mainly conceptual artists, so the vibe isn't quite supportive of illustration. It's a low-residency program so fortunately there is quite some leeway with what I can choose to study each semester. They've been supportive of my disabilities/cultural-linguistic needs on one hand and infuriatingly ignorant on the other. (Seems kind of weird to have such a dichotomy but that's the kind of unique college it is.)

    All that pressure causes me to feel that I need to perform excellently to prove my place as an artist. That's probably where my main source of anxiety is!

  • It's a shame there is still snobbery about comic art in the art world. I think Raymond Briggs did fine art but he is well known for his graphic novels / comic style.
    I get anxiety as well, sometimes it is really stressful. All of this art stuff is very uncertain, I feel lately it may be a waste of time, or may never get me anywhere, but I have no alternative. That is causing me a lot of stress. I'm finding that exercising every day helps as well. Walking, bit of yoga etc...

  • If I am reading this correctly, it isn't really your art that is causing the anxiety, but your current situation in college. It appears, as you said, that you think you have "to prove [your] place as an artist". Why? Is it because the faculty are critical of your art? Are they saying its not good, or just critical because it isn't concept art or fine art? Are you trying to prove that you can be successful despite your disabilities? Are you trying to do comic art in a fine arts program? If you feel that comics is your calling, then why continue in a fine arts program that is obviously causing you pain? Not sure how far along you are in this current program, but I would say get out and use your money to find something that supports the comic art you really want to do. And I looked back and @TessW covered some of this, but I think it bears repeating as you have not really given a reason as to why you feel the need to continue where you are.

  • I'm not sure if this is related to your anxiety, but I think this is a good video on the subject of artistic / general frustration by Shoo Rayner I found today:

  • I can somewhat relate, because I've been in a similar situation for my undergrad years. If I could do it over, I would have taken a stand for the kind of artist I wanted to be and simply have taken the courses that I wanted and not worried about earning a degree, or I would have gone to a college that had a good illustration department.

    So as @tombarrettillo has kind of covered, really take the time to consider if this program is really going to serve your life well. Is this going to open up opportunities for you and make you grow? or is it just going to waste your time and mess with your head?

    If you do stick with it here are a few things I would suggest:

    1. Yoga or meditation
    2. Come up with a few personal slogans/mantras/phrases and sign them to yourself, or think them in your head to help focus you and keep things in perspective. You could also write them down and put them in places around your house. Think of them as reminders. I don't know what you'd choose for yourself, but one that I use for my personal situation is, "Relax. Be kind to yourself".
    3. Remind yourself that not everyone has the same tastes in art and be ok with that. I know that this statement seems obvious, but really take it to heart. The faculty are conceptual artists. This is the lens that they view the world through. Remember that even if you have to be around them, you don't have to prove that you or your art are worthy to them, because chances are they are never going to like or appreciate comicbook art and that's ok. Not everyone cares about or likes your art, and that is fine! That's why the art world is such a diverse place. Know that your art has it's place and that there are a ton of people who do love it and do get it. Which brings me to my next point. . .
    4. Keep in touch with the comic book community. That's the people who get and understand you. Find camaraderie with them.
    5. Get out in nature. Go on a hike or simply walk through a park with lots of trees. There's some promising studies that indicate being around trees is legitimately good for your physical and mental well being.

    Good luck! You are in a tough spot and I hope that you'll be able find effective ways to manage your stress! Wishing you well.

  • @Christine-Garner I am in the same boat...I feel like maybe I'm not good enough, but I want to do illustration, plus there's really no jobs in this area, and I feel as if I should stay home with my husband because he has heart disease and is often quite sick. Yeah, I don't know. I feel like I'm stumbling in the dark some days.

  • @Tracy-Wilson I feel for you, that is a difficult situation to be in. I think Illustration is best if you have to look after your husband and it's something you really want to do. I hope we can help in some way on these forums. I have lots of knowledge but not much practical experience of working as an Illustrator, no local jobs and a heap of insecurity / guilt about the whole thing as well since I'm not earning any money right now, but there are people here who can help.

  • @Christine-Garner You sound like you're in the same boat as I am, or similar. Hopefully we can both get our foot in the door!

  • @Tracy-Wilson I hope so too 🙂 Lets not lose faith! I'll help out if I can.

  • @Christine-Garner - I'm responding to several of your posts in one reply:

    Raymond Briggs was one of the artists I read up on in the beginning of this semester. His work is too rough for my liking but it is interesting how he plays on the relationship of words and art in his pieces. I don't quite understand what he's doing yet so it's still turning over in my mind.

    The video you shared by Shoo Rayner is GREAT -- the autocaptions were tough reading but I got the gist of his message. Love how he said that going forward in a program that might not be an exact fit could still push you ahead in where you want to be. That was a big encouragement!

    "All of this art stuff is very uncertain, I feel lately it may be a waste of time, or may never get me anywhere..." Roughly around 10 years ago I completely quit art. Life was intense at that time and I decided to walk away because I needed to be more 'practical.' Then my knee tore apart in an accident. Goodbye, 'practical' plans! I kept drawing from time to time, increasing over the years -- and realized that art brings me so much joy. I couldn't walk away from myself. 🙂

    If art brings sunshine to your life, then it is not a waste. If art is something that consistently wells up from within you over a long, sustained period of time, then most likely it is meant for you. I'm not anxious about whether or not art is for me -- but as @tombarrettillo and @TessW astutely observed it's the pressure of my current situation that's obscuring my vision. Storms of anxiety happens from time to time but over the last 20+ years art has been a consistent current in my life. If it is a current in yours, then maybe keep following it to see where it goes.

    Re: jobs -- even as a freelancer it was hard to get work. What I did learn and see others say is to make what one wants to be working on, and be consistent about it. Someone will pay you for it eventually -- a slow snowball effect. It helps if you find your niche. The nice thing about freelance work is the ability to do it anywhere -- I raised my boys working from home for years. (Didn't make a living but it gave us a little extra.) YMMV.

  • @tombarrettillo Very good observations and great questions! I am almost halfway through the program so not in a place to easily quit. Your questions help with thinking about the next steps. I think I might try emailing a few specific faculty members to see if something could work on an individual basis...

  • @TessW Awesome suggestions!! You've given me a lot to think over, and definitely new, healthy practices to do. Still turning them over in mind.

  • Yes, I go through this all of the time. Honestly, everytime I finish a piece I feel like I can't come up with anything else. In fact, I am going through it right now, while I sit here and scribble crappy thumbnails that look like crappy thumbnails. It always works out in the 11th hour, but this continual cycle of mysery isn't fun.

    However, when I push through I always learn something new, and so in some ways I am addicted to it. The only time I didn't have anxiety about my art was when I used to think I was really good, and never tried learning new things.

    Here is my process of overcoming my anxiety

    1- tell my wife that I suck at art, and I should just quit, and she always begs me to continue on and tells me how good I am.

    2- tell her the same thing a couple hours later, and she really emphasizes that I am good enough.

    By the end of the week I feel so creative, and then will go through this all again the following week. At some point my mom will catch on.

    Though some of my steps are a bit dramatized, it is usually something along those lines how I deal with my anxiety. I also make sure I have people to get advice from, such as here on the forums. Everyone here has been support group for me over this last year, and they all are so encouraging, and I believe we all want each other to succeed.

    Hope that helps...probably not though...I suck at this kinda stuff.

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