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definition: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities

Lack of confidence is the most challenging roadblock I encounter with students. I hear everything from “I don’t like that” to “I couldn’t possibly” to “oh, it’s terrible!” The most difficult students fight, fight, fight me every. single. step, to the point sometimes I want to scream – “Why are you here????” But of course I don’t, because I know why they are here…they WANT to try something new, they feel the urge to create or (my least favorite) they have seen something that someone else has done and they want to duplicate that. It’s a starting point, not the goal. The goal is to develop each student’s own painting personality.

First, I want to give students the tools to understand the materials we work with. It’s bad enough some students fight themselves…they don’t need to be fighting the paint. I fill them with information and teach them why the colors or the paint is behaving a certain way. What they paint is up to them…we make it work.

Second, we focus on composition. No matter the skill, a bad painting is a bad painting when the composition doesn’t work. It doesn’t have to be great, but we want to be set up for success from the beginning and learn how to regroup when things just don’t work.

Third, we work on learning as we paint. I believe the best way students remember what they learn is to be able to apply the lesson in real time on something they are invested in doing. Fixing an oops in the moment is far better than any lecture/demo I could do.

Lastly, I really work on the negative talk. It’s the one thing some students just won’t let go. They let that little guy live in their heads so much it pains my heart. Students can do much, much more than they realize. After 50 years of painting, I’m still getting better with each one. And I won’t even talk about all the failed efforts that did and still happen. I learn from each one.

Time and practice and patience. No one in any profession or hobby EVER became great at it upon first try. Lucky them! Remember riding a bike? Remember hitting a ball with a bat? Remember that first piano lesson? We weren’t cyclists or league players or concert pianists instantly, nor did we have that expectation. Most of us aren’t eager to be a surgeon’s first patient. The idea we can create art masterpieces immediately is silly and harmful for those with no confidence. Yes, there are some lucky humans who can do things well quickly, but they are quite truly rare. That’s why we use the term gifted. I believe we can all make art…it just takes practice and confidence that in the time we will get the great stuff.