How to Start


I attended a terrific panel discussion yesterday called “Draw More Income” as part of the AGM programming for Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC. We had a great range of speakers: Derek Besant, Lee Deranger, Brittney Tough, and Kari Woo. Each of them addressed the practicalities of how they made a ‘go of it’ as artists, and what obstacles and setbacks they faced.

A common thread in the discussion was lack of confidence and fear – these being negative mindsets that held them and other artists back from achieving the success they wanted in their careers.  So it seemed incredibly fitting that I should find this in my inbox this morning:

To survive in this high-pressured, crazy world, most of us have to become highly adept at self-criticism. We learn how to tell ourselves off for our failures, and for not working hard or smart enough. But so good are we at this that we’re sometimes in danger of falling prey to an excessive version of self-criticism … we need to carve out time for an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion. We’re suspicious because this sounds horribly close to self-pity. But because depression and self-hatred are serious enemies of a good life, we need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious, and fruitful life.


It seems ridiculously obvious, but I do wonder how many of us in creative fields fall prey to exactly this type of thinking, and just how much it holds us back from all kinds of things.

Good food for thought.

3 thoughts on “How to Start

  1. Gosh Sydney – I can relate so strongly to this post! I looked at your ‘Draw More Income post too, and think it is a terrific idea to have the postcards available, and so helpful to artists endeavouring to create a successful practice.
    I couldn’t agree more about lack of confidence and fear being the biggest block to ‘getting on’ as an artist. In my own case, it has been not so much the pressures and stresses of today’s working practices (which I have tended to reject ) but stems from a difficult early life. Over the years I have rescued many parts of myself, through meditation etc – and it was only last night that I suddenly, finally ‘got’ that self-care and compassion are OK. It was an amazing piece of synchronicity, to read your Brain Pickings quote! Thanks.

  2. HI Sydney – Thanks for sharing that with us, do you know if one can listen to a recorded version of the speakers you heard at the conference? Would love to hear them myself -Thanks

    • HI Julie! The panel discussion was recorded for a podcast that Visual Arts Alberta – CARFAC produces, so I expect it will be available soon. The podcast is available on here: and has a range of interviews with working artists around the theme of “Draw More Income” – in short, how they make money & supports their art practices, what successes they’ve had, and the problems they’ve encountered in making a ‘go of it’ as an artist. Worth checking out for sure!

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