6 things I did to become a happy artist

I talk about being a ‘happy artist’ a lot.

It’s in the name of my membership for artists, the Happy Artist Studio.

So what do I really mean when I say that?

It looks different for everyone, but I’ve noticed over the years that while we each have a completely unique path to walk as artists, there are also commonalities that contribute to ‘happy artist-ness’. 😊

I’ve picked six things today that both I and other artists I know who would call themselves happy artists all have in common.

You don’t have to do them all; it’s not a checklist to tick off.

But the more you can embrace them or integrate them into your practice, the easier – and happier – your life as an artist will be!

So here are 6 things I did that have helped me become a happy artist….

1. Allowed my curiosity to lead me

A lot of artists experience big juicy gobs of self doubt, especially in the early days. Super fun.

That’s normal for a beginner at everything!

We’re not sure we can ‘really do this’, or if we’ll ‘be any good’.

We’re afraid of wasting time or materials, or setting ourselves up for ridicule or rejection.

That’s where our innate curiosity comes in very handy.

For one thing, we all have it, and I really think it’s time it stopped being demonised for ‘distracting’ us.

Our curiosity is an absolute gift, and since no artist is without it, we might as well embrace it and go all in!

I’m not saying I’ve always jumped on the curiosity horse and ridden off into the sunset without falling off a few times, or getting lost on a few detours, or indeed just not getting on the horse {where is this metaphor going 🤔🐎}.

Of course, like anyone, sometimes self doubt and other demons have got the better of me.

But I find that my curiosity always wins in the end, simply because the nature of it is that it never goes away.

It keeps coming back and poking you on the shoulder, saying, ‘What about this? What if you tried this? What could this be like? This looks so fun!’

And some of the best things I’ve created have come from letting my curiosity lead me.

Things like:

Your curiosity is a superpower, sometimes disguised as a distraction!

What could happen if you stopped trying to rein it in and let yours lead you more?

{Me and horse metaphors today.🤷‍♀️}

2. Tracked my journey

My entire online life started when I discovered a relatively new thing called ‘online art courses’.

Yes, this was back when dinosaurs roamed the internet. 🦕

I utilised my curiosity superpower – or more accurately, it grabbed me by the soul and pulled me forward – and tried more or less everything I could get my hands on/afford.

And I started a blog to track my return to my artist self, after a long period where she got lost.

That’s all it was ever intended to be; a way to follow my own journey to ‘artistic recovery’ and beyond.

I didn’t anticipate what also came from it – all the friendships, projects, and the development of a business.

But even if it had remained simply about tracking my journey, seeing where I’d been and how far I’d come was encouraging, fun, fulfilling, and a key contributor in establishing my happy artist life.

3. Learned as much as I could about everything

Or, put another way, I 100% embraced my magpie tendencies.

This connects back in with the point about curiosity.

Plus, the more I followed it, the more it grew!

I became insatiable, and letting myself immerse in learning grew me as a person and as an artist.

It grew my confidence, because I started building skills and developing my artist voice.

When it started to grow into a business, it built my ability to create an impact in the world {however small}.

And of course, then I got to do all the learnin’ about business!

I mean, it helps if you love to learn. 🤓

But I suspect this also a quality at the forefront for most artists too.

There’s always a new technique or tool to try, or a new idea to develop.

Learning about something you’re excited about is a way of playing, like making art is a way of playing.

And more play = a happier artist. 😊

4. Took a lot of ‘detours’

Looking back, I took lots of courses about making various kinds of art I have zero interest in now.

I guess you could call them detours, but they all taught me something, even if it was ‘I don’t want to make art like this’.

It’s all part of uncovering and developing your unique voice as an artist.

It can be as useful to know what you don’t like as it is to know what you do.

And detours are only detours if you decide to call them that.

I’m glad for all of mine – even the ones I regretted at the time – because they all gave me a nugget of intel that helped me get to where I am now – a happy artist.

5. Created a container to focus in

This was a Game Changer for me.

I studied on a year long mentorship programme, and it’s what took me from ‘making lots of art and not feeling like I’d quite landed on what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it‘ to ‘this is my work and it feels joyful and true‘.

That shift created the confidence I didn’t have and knew I needed to start approaching galleries and putting my work out into the world in bold new ways.

It might have happened without that container of a year, but it would’ve taken a lot longer.

And this is key too – I intentionally decided upfront that that was what the year would give me, and that I’d put everything I had into it.

I’d get the absolute most out of what the experience had to offer in order to support my longer term goal.

And it worked.

So, focused container + intention = happy artist!

FYI: A good chunk of that year was excruciatingly difficult, precisely because I’d made that intention. There was a lot of crying and bewilderment. It was like a bootcamp that stripped my art down to nothing and built it back again from the ground up. It was hard, and it was wonderful, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

6. Kept going

This is the one lots of people resist or struggle with, and when they’re successful at that, they’re typically pretty sad about it.

{It’s also another reason to be grateful for the Curiosity That Never Goes Away.}

Sometimes keeping going feels really effing hard.

The artist path will bring you up against all your demons, because it’s about growth, and demons are afraid of the change growth inevitably brings.

It takes a bloody long time to become your truest artist self, because you’re up against cultural conditioning, historical precedent, perceived rules, personal history, and possibly some doubt or dissent from loved ones about your chosen path.

And that’s before we get to the courage required to ‘speak your truth’ with your medium!

It’s a brave thing, to be an artist!

Keeping going will turn out to be another superpower.

Because if you keep going, you will inevitably grow, reach personal milestones, and see your art evolve into something you feel truly reflects you and your vision.

Keeping going is how you get anywhere, from the post office to your happiest artist life.

You just keep on till you get there.

And when you get there, you find there is not only no real ‘there’, but another ‘there’ rises up to entice you!

We have to keep going because it’s a long game, and this is who we are.

And the keeping going is the part that’ll make you a happy artist.

So there are my 6 things – which one will you try embracing more as you go forward? Or do you have something that helps you that you’d like to share? Drop your thoughts in the comments!