Emma Howell

Art Talk: How to Not Lose your Sh*t

Emma Howell
28 July, 2017



Are you an artist? Or would you like to be an artist but you’re not quite sure how it works as a career? Do you lack faith in your ability, so you’ve settled for another career you’re not entirely happy with? Maybe you don’t want to be an artist but you’ve stumbled across this blog post and giving it a read..

So, first things first, it’s hard to be an artist. We get the odd comment and scoff when we tell someone ‘I’m an artist’; many people don’t see it as a job, more of a hobby. Well, they’re half right- it is a hobby but we’ve been canny enough to turn our hobby into our job. It can also be a physically and mentally draining job that involves super late nights, super early mornings, self-doubt, a million spreadsheets, creativity slumps, a heck load of organisation and many more things… but having your hobby drain you instead of a grumpy boss or a mundane office is pretty cool, right? And you can make a living, it does work; but you’ve got to stay cool and not lose your sh*t. So, if you are reading this and you are/want to be an artist, don’t lose faith, we’ve got this!

This next bit is for all the artist’s out there that sometimes struggle with the actual process of making the artwork.. but still read on if you’re looking at becoming an artist because this will come in handy! If you’re neither of the above, hello and thank you for carrying on reading!



How many times have you thrown a piece of artwork away because you just can’t get it right? How many times have you sat back and thought to yourself what the hell am I doing, perhaps it’s time to quit while I’m ahead? Have you ever spent hours painting over a canvas again and again and again, making a mess of murky colours and wanting to tear your hair out? I don’t know about you but all of the above happen to me quite regularly- I lose my sh*t.

However, over the last few weeks, with the help of a few people around me and practicing mindfulness/positive mental attitude.. I’ve started to not lose my sh*t and instead, fricking love every second of this artist life, murky colours included.


So, here are 6 things to be mindful of before you lose your sh*t:



You’re painting on a canvas and you can’t seem to get it right. Compositions aren’t forming, paint is not flowing, murky colours are appearing, your water is looking like chocolate milk and you doubt your whole existence over one piece of art- sound familiar? Well, don’t fret, some of the most beautiful artworks I’ve seen are beautiful because of their depth. See your painting as a single layer of marks, set it aside to dry and work on top of it later. Do this twice, 5 times, 10 times- something will come of it, I promise. In addition to this, change the orientation of the artwork.. you’ll be surprised at what crazy cool things you can see at a completely different angle. Oh, and don’t forget to step back at regular intervals.. what you see up close can be a completely different story to what you see from further away. (If you’re a super duper experienced artist, I know you already know this!)



So, I have to thank my boyfriend for this one. The other day I told him that I’d made the most hideous painting and that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. He said to me “it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, somebody out there will, right?”- I mean, how fricking wise did he want to be!? Of course someone else will like it.. as the saying goes, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. I then went on to tell him that I need to write a blog post about this and he said “but that’s not good marketing, you can’t say your work is hideous, no one will take you seriously”. I took his word for it.. but I’ve obviously ignored it. I mean is there a rule that all artists need to like every piece that they make? A lot of my artwork is about the process and not necessarily about the end result. If people like it then that’s a bonus, surely. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up about that “dreadful” painting you did last week because somewhere in the world there will be a living room it will look great in.



Has anybody ever looked at your artwork and said “I don’t get it” or “I can’t see anything” or “it looks like a 5 year old did it” or “oh my gosh it’s a horse galloping on a wave with flames coming out of it’s ears” when really it was an abstract impression of a landscape you saw on holiday? Yes, this happens to me all the time. From all the things I’ve read and heard, this seems to be quite common among abstract painters. I think the thing to do is to not focus on whether people ‘get’ your art or not and remember that your work is your work, it’s all you and it’s all yours. Don’t feel as though you need to make sense to other people, you don’t necessarily even need to make sense to yourself! As long as you’re creating what you want, using the colours you want to use, holding the brush in what ever way you feel comfortable and you feel happy- you’re set. There are many many people out there who will respect you as an artist and love your work.. some really won’t get you but you can’t cater for everyone.



This is a big one for me.

If I’ve ever have a moment of self-doubt and been on the brink of losing my sh*t, I remember that art actually saved me. After suffering a tragedy, I lost all sense of the world and couldn’t see a life ahead of me- I had metaphorically jumped down a huge hole and refused any help to climb out. It wasn’t until I started painting and drawing again that I started to see the light at the top, and kind of wanted to see what’s up there again. I channelled all of my negative thoughts and feelings onto paper and canvas- and jeez you can make some crazy cool marks and blend up some awesome colours when you’re not feeling level headed. Thankfully, I’m completely out of the hole and now climbing up a career ladder but it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a box of paints and brushes. It sounds crazy, mega crazy- but it’s true.

So, being an artist or creating art is actually a fantastic form of therapy; it enables you to transfer bad into good. If you view your art making process as therapeutic, healing, meditative and intuitive, you certainly won’t lose your sh*t, you’ll keep your cool and realise how awesome being arty is.



You know the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? This is quite fitting for when you come across a problem as an artist. If you’re feeling disheartened about your latest painting, confused about shipping an artwork or in need of some advice about which paint brand to use, talk to other artists; they are everywhere! When I say everywhere, I’m talking about the net. Personally, I use Instagram and Facebook to connect with other artists; it’s tremendously helpful in the prevention of losing my sh*t. Three artists I must mention here that are prominent on Instagram are @amirarahimart, @taylorleepaints and @zaideewalker; they’re all super inspiring and fantastic artists. Amira Rahim actually started a creative community called Passion Color Joy, a support network for artists. It’s there for all artists to share tips, ask for product recommendations, talk about wins/struggles and more; it’s a place that makes you feel supported and encouraged- check it out!

So, there is no harm in asking another artist a question about their work and what materials they use or even ask them their opinion about your work and help you with your creativity block. Talking to other artists and having reassurance from these like-minded individuals will not only boost your confidence but also give you the opportunity to spread the word about your business and on top of this, you make friends from all around the world!



Finally, you love making artwork, you love the way paint moves on a surface, you love mixing up new colours and you love that somebody has your work on their walls at home. If this is you, it can be your career- so make it happen!

The days when your boss shouted at you for something you didn’t do, when beads of sweat ran down your face whilst you were sat in that unventilated office, when that customer patronised you, when someone threw a pint at you while working behind the bar.. can you empathise with any of those? They all happened to me and they’ll never happen to me again. If you’re an artist, they will never happen to you because you are your own boss (except during the time you need to work to fund your business- of course!). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising those who work in an office, a bar or a shop, if you can do those jobs and feel happy, I think it’s super amazing. I’m just not cut out for it for the long term. I just need to make art, so that’s what I’m doing.

Don’t lose your sh*t, remember that you’re doing what you love and you chose this path. I think being an artist is incredible and we’re so lucky to be able to call our hobby our job.


Thank you for reading; I hope this helps you, somehow.


If you have any comments or opinions on this,  please let me know.