How to deal with the challenges of being an artist

I recently wrote a post sharing some things I’ve found to be essential as an artist.

One of those things was something I call a Demon Management Systemβ„’.

{Not an actual trademark, obvs. Maybe it should be?!πŸ€”}

When I shared the post on Instagram, I got some questions about it {understandably – I clearly made it up!}, so I decided to write a post explaining what I mean by it and why we all need one as artists.

In a nutshell, a ‘Demon Management System’ is a way to deal with the inevitable challenges that come up as we navigate the artist path.

Whether you make your art for the pure joy of it, as a professional who sells their work, or anything in between, you will not be exempt from demons.

I’m talking about things like:

  • Self doubt about our abilities or the quality of our work
  • Procrastination {more of a result of a demon but it’s on the list as a thing that interferes with a happy artist life}
  • Fears – eg. of criticism, of sharing your art, of not being ‘good enough’
  • Low confidence
  • Frustration
  • Stuckness
  • Confusion {about where to begin, what to focus on, what your ‘style’ is}
  • Feeling like a fraud {all the reasons you’re not a ‘real’ artist}
  • Loss of inspiration {and the fear it’ll never come back}
  • Feeling overwhelmed {by inspiration, by what’s possible, by what everyone else is doing}
  • Worrying what others will think
  • Worrying you don’t ‘have a style’
  • Resentment or fears about lack of consistency
  • Lack of trust in yourself

Basically, the parts of being an artist that don’t feel good and don’t support us in thriving.

The parts that hold us back from what we’d really love to accomplish with our art.

The parts that stop us getting into flow, or creating art we feel satisfied by, or feeling confident enough to share or sell our work.

Now, when I talk about having a Demon Management System, I do not mean that there is some kind of exact step by step formula you can apply in order to avoid all demons.

Sorry about that.

But this is also good news, because while it can take some time and effort to develop your own way of managing those pesky demons, it means that you can create something completely tailored to you.

Which means it will work.

It’s something I help you with in all sorts of ways {so we can find yours} inside the Happy Artist Studio.

Having been a regularly practising artist for fifteen years now, and having observed hundreds of artists during that time, I’ve noticed that there are two key aspects to a happy artist life.

One is the part we all love – the process.

The actual making of the art, the gathering of inspiration, the learning of techniques, the experimenting, and for some, the sharing and/or the selling.

The other is the invisible part, which I have seen is often overlooked, to our detriment.

I certainly wasn’t taught how fundamental and essential it is to thriving as an artist.

It’s usually called mindset, and although it’s not my fave, I use that word too, since we all understand what it means.

How we think about art in general, our own art, what it means to be an artist, and ourselves as artists will have the biggest impact on our experience of being an artist, no matter how long you’ve been doing it or how ‘good’ you are.

Accolades, awards, praise, compliments, sales – all lovely to receive.

AND will mean nothing if on the inside you are drowning in demons.

Your mindset is what will make the difference between genuinely thriving and feeling like a happy artist, and perhaps outwardly looking ‘successful’ but internally struggling with issues of self worth, validity, ability etc.

It’s not about ‘fixing’ you so you never experience a demon again.

I still do. They just don’t rule my experience any more.

Also, you’re not broken. You’re just dealing with what we all deal with – the duality of life.

And it’s not about becoming arrogant or complacent or entitled. {If you’re worrying about those things, that’s your sign you’ll never be them!}

It’s about knowing yourself, accepting what you find, honouring that, and working with yourself to create the art that is most truly reflective of you.

And honestly, that is a life’s work.

It’s not like one blog post is going to sort that one out. πŸ˜†

But getting to any destination involves taking one step at a time, so here are three things you can start to do or think about when it comes to creating your own, unique-to-you Demon Management System.

1 | Take the ‘I am an artist’ challenge {it’s free!}

Originally run on Instagram, this seven day challenge is now available to go through in your own time, and it has proved invaluable to artists who have struggled to do that most fundamental of things – call themselves one.

The reason for that is – you guessed it – demons.😈

The challenge helps you to explore what exactly is going on for you around that and offers some fun {and weird} ways to start to move beyond it.


2. | Start to notice where you get stuck

A Happy Artist typically experiences more flow and ease around making, sharing, thinking and talking about their art.

So where are you snagging?

Maybe you find you often stall out on a painting at certain point.

Some artists really struggle with the very beginning – the blank canvas.

Some {hi πŸ™‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ} tend to get stuck before it’s complete but at a place where they don’t know what to do next or find it’s going in a direction they don’t want.

Or maybe your sticking point comes up around sharing your art, or talking about it, or actually telling people you’re an artist. {See point 1!}

We can’t change what we can’t see, so your first step to creating your own Demon Management System is to find out where exactly your demons are showing up.

Make notes or journal about it if that helps. See if you can unpack what’s ‘really’ going on in those instances.

3 | Start calling everything an experiment

This might sound weird, or too non-committal, or too vague, or too easy! {It’s ok for it to be easy!}

My business, art practice, and painting process all have experimentation as one of their cornerstones.


Because the second you call something an experiment, the pressure’s off.

You can create a hypothesis, and just see if it will work. If it doesn’t, no biggie.

Just notice what you learned, recalibrate, try again, try something different.

We can often take this artist thing a bit too seriously!

Adopting an experimental mindset shifts you out of the rules and into your creative zone.

It’s populated by questions like ‘What if I….?’, or ‘How could this work…?’, or ‘What could I try to have this happen?’.

To use another word I’m not a huge fan of {such a fusspot!}, it’s empowering. 😊


We all have to learn to deal with the challenges of being an artist, no matter how much we love making art, or how long we’ve been doing it, or how ‘being an artist’ looks to us.

I hope this post gives you some ideas and perhaps new ways to think about it, and if you know you could use some help with your Demon Management System, read on!


Tara LeaverIf you are experiencing demon issues, or would like some support and guidance in setting up your own Demon Management System, the Happy Artist Studio is set up to help you do that.

Not only that, we also give you the tools and approaches to fill in some of the other gaps you may be experiencing, such as:

  • wanting to loosen up and make more expressive art
  • discovering and developing your unique voice as an artist
  • connecting with artist friends for support and to feel less alone
  • developing a practice that works for you

Find out more here – we’d love to have you!