10 Lies Artists Tell Themselves

and How to Overcome Them

10 Lies Artists Tell Themselves banner

I have yet to meet an artist that is not held back because they have convinced themselves that at least one of these ten lies are the truth. I know because some of them still hold me back today.

In this article we will look at what these lies are and why we need to kick them to the curb.

How many of are holding you back? Read on to find out...

1) You Need Talent to Become an Artist

It's a common deception we tell ourselves: "You need natural talent to be a real artist." This lie is not just harmful—it's fundamentally untrue.

The journey into art isn't reserved for those sprinkled with some mystical talent dust at birth. Instead, it's a path open to anyone willing to put in the effort. I am one of those artists that was not born with "natural talent".

The Truth About Talent: Talent, as we perceive it, is often the result of hard work, dedication, and a lot of practice. Studies have shown that perseverance and a willingness to learn are far more predictive of success than any initial inclination towards art. This growth mindset is your true ticket to becoming an artist, not some elusive, innate gift. In fact I find that as the years go by, and my experience improves, more and more people are exclaiming how "talented" I am - NO it took me 20 years of blood, sweat and tears to get to where my art is now!

There are many more stories of artists who started their journey without any obvious talent. Henri Matisse, for example, was initially a law student before he discovered his passion for painting. Through years of relentless practice and study, he became one of the leading figures of modern art. His evolution as an artist debunks the myth of requiring innate talent.

We all have the talent - IF we are willing to work at it!

This is how you do it:

Start Slow: Begin by setting small, achievable art goals for yourself. Focus on the joy and the process of creation, rather than getting bogged down by the end result.

Praise Your Progress: Recognize and celebrate your own efforts and improvements, no matter how small. Acknowledging what you did right in each piece encourages a positive mindset and fosters continuous learning. A great way of doing this is to look back at the artworks you were creating a year ago, and eventually several years ago. You will be amazed at your progress.

Practice Relentlessly: Practice, practice, practice. Remember the determination you had when learning to walk. Every artist, including the greats, started as a beginner. Your growth is a function of the time and effort you invest in your art.

Find a Role Model: If you’re starting art late in life, or never went to art school, look for role models who started where you are now and succeeded. Take inspiration from what they managed to achieve. If they can do it, so can you!

Keep Learning: Engage actively in workshops, art books, online resources, and art communities. Learning from others can dramatically shorten your path to becoming an amazing artist.

It's crucial to recognize that talent is not a fixed trait but a potential that can be developed. If you find yourself doubting your place in the art world because you believe you're not "talented" enough, it's time to shift your perspective.

Talent is made, not born.

Your dedication to learning, practising, and overcoming obstacles is what will define your artistic journey. Let go of this lie and embrace the empowering truth: You have everything you need to become an world class artist. It all starts with your next mark on the canvas.

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.

- Michelangelo
Artist walking a tightrope indicating failure is not an option

2) Failure Is Not an Option

The lie that "failure is not an option" haunts the corridors of our creative minds, setting a trap that can demotivate even the most passionate artist. We create an artwork and then are not happy with how it turned out. We see all the things we didn't get right and none of the things we did. We then call the artwork a failure. I am sure you know the feeling all too well.

This crazy lie paints failure as the ultimate defeat, rather than what it truly is — a excellent learning opportunity along the path to becoming a master artist.

The snake-in-the-grass here is perfectionism. New artists often set impossibly lofty goals and when they can't meet them, they get discouraged and blame a lack of ability.

Especially nowadays when we see all these amazing artworks plastered all over our social media feed. This makes us think that these are "standard" artwork and what ours should look like when in fact what we are being shown are the best of the best.

Don't let the fear of not meeting expectations, whether our own or those of others, paralyze you or stop you from taking the leaps that lead to discovery and development. This fear feeds the lie, convincing us that to fail is to unveil our lack of talent or worth.

To dismantle this lie we must first redefine failure. Every brush stroke gone awry, every misshapen form, carries with it invaluable lessons. These are not markers of defeat but signposts guiding us toward improvement. As Thomas Edison famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Imagine if he had accepted failure as a sign to stop inventing?

Strategies for Overcoming Your Fear of Failure:

View Mistakes as Lessons: Rather than harshly judging ourselves for each misstep, we should seek the wisdom hidden within these moments. What can they teach us about our technique, our medium, or our expressive voice? Look at your artwork and see what specific things you are not happy with. Decide then to focus on improving those things.

Set Incremental Goals: Break down the overwhelming into manageable tasks. Each small success builds resilience against the fear of failure and emboldens us to tackle more significant challenges. For example you may have realized that your grass and trees need improving. Now pick ONE of those and concentrate on learning new techniques and improving existing ones until you have mastered it. Then move on to the next area you are unhappy with.

Embrace Experimentation: Allow yourself the freedom to explore and play without the pressure of perfection. It's in these unguarded moments that creativity flourishes and new ideas emerge.

Seek Constructive Feedback: Surround yourself with a community that supports growth. Constructive feedback is a tool for learning, criticism is a weapon of judgement. Here at Paint Basket we don't criticize, we point out what can be improved in your artwork and then tell / show you how to improve it. That way you improve while motivation remains high.

Living Beyond the Lie: The journey of an artist is marked by countless trials, errors, and, yes, failures. But it is these very experiences that refine our skills, sharpen our vision, and ultimately, define our unique artistic voice.

Cast aside the lie that failure is not an option, embrace the knowledge that you are learning a lesson from each failure. Each failure is inching you closer to the perfection you desire. Art is a journey and not a destination, enjoy the ride. Be in the moment and savour the act of creating - the sensations, textures, and colours - without fixating on the outcome so much.

Go gallery hopping then you will soon learn that there is no such thing s "good" art. Every artist has their way of creating and what appeals to them. If you enjoy what you are creating then that is all that matters. Improvement and growth will automatically follow.

I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more!

- Cheryl Cole

3) Art Is Not a Legitimate Pastime

You often hear the lie that art is not a serious pastime or career. Artists are often scolded and told to go get a "real job". Implying that pouring your heart and soul into art is somehow less meaningful than, say, being an accountant or a baker. But here's the thing—it's far from the truth.

Art isn't just a decoration on your wall. Art is the backbone of culture, pushing boundaries and sparking conversations across the globe. From the music that gets you through a rough day to the visuals in your favorite video game, art is a big player in our daily lives and the economy. It's about expression, innovation, and connection on a global scale.

Engaging in art isn't just a way to pass time. It's brain food, emotional therapy, and a bridge to understanding others better. Studies are in , and they're saying loud and clear that making art can ease stress, boost your problem-solving skills, and help you feel more connected. All of these sound like very valid reasons to practice art to me.

It's time to shake off any doubts. Your art practice, whether it's a late-night sketching for a hobby or crafting masterpieces in your studio for a living, is a valid and vital part of who we are. Ignore the naysayers who don't see the value in your work. Your creativity is your voice in this noisy world.

Don't wait for permission to take your art seriously. Share your creations, seek out like-minded souls, and never stop exploring your abilities. The more you put your work out there, the more you'll grow — not just as an artist but as a person.

That old notion that art is somehow not a real pursuit? It's been debunked over and over again and it's time to let that go. Art has shaped civilizations, sparked revolutions, and brought immense joy and insight into the human experience. So, keep on creating with pride. After all, art is about making your mark, telling your story, and enriching not just your life but the lives of those around you.

The object is not to reproduce reality, but to create reality of the same intensity

- Alberto Giacometti
Train zooming past indicating being too busy to create art

4) I'm Too Busy to Create Art

You're juggling a million things — work, family, maybe even a bit of a social life (remember those?). So, the thought of fitting art into your schedule feels like trying to squeeze into jeans you've outgrown. But here's a little secret: saying you're too busy for art is a lie. It's not about finding time; it's about making it.

The idea that you need hours on end to get creative is nonsense. Art doesn't demand your whole day; it just wants to be a part of it. Think of it as a friend who's happy with just a quick catch-up.

Quick Tips to Squeeze Art Into Your Day:

The Five-Minute Sketch: Got a coffee break? That's a sketch session right there. Waiting for your pasta to boil? Doodle time.

Art on the Go: There are tons of apps that let you draw, design, or even sculpt digitally while you're on the move. Your train commute just became your new studio.

Weekend Warrior: Dedicate a small block of time on the weekend to your art. It doesn't have to be a marathon; even a short sprint can get you over the finish line.

Ditch the TV: How many mindless hours do we spend in front of the TV each week? Do yourself a favor and create art instead. You will be so much better off for it.

Involve the Family: Although art is fabulous Me Time, it can be just as much fun when the whole family creates together - on the same artwork or individually. Maybe put on one of our art lessons and everybody in the family follows along.

Rethinking What Counts as Art: Remember, art isn't just sitting down to a blank canvas with a brush in hand. It's also about observing, thinking, and planning. Those moments when you're daydreaming about what to create next? Yeah, that's part of the process too.

You know the story of the tortoise and the hare right? Art is like the tortoise — consistent, steady effort adds up. You don't need to complete an artwork at each sitting. You can get up and return to most artworks as and when your schedule allows. It's okay to only finish one painting every six weeks if you only have a few hours to spend on your art each week.

So, next time you catch yourself saying you're too busy for art, remember — it's not about carving out huge chunks of time; it's about making the most of the moments you have. Your art is waiting for you to find those hidden opportunities in your day. Make it happen!

5) Art is Too Expensive

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need the fanciest brushes or the priciest paint to make art that matters. Sure, walking into an art supply store can feel like stepping into a world where your wallet's too small and your dreams too big. But here's the thing: the value of your art doesn't come from how much you spend on materials.

Believe it or not, some of the most heartfelt pieces come from the simplest materials. A pencil and a sheet of paper from your printer can be the start of something beautiful. And that's just the beginning. Ever thought about the artistic potential of a coffee stain or the old magazines piling up at home? Art is where creativity meets opportunity — not necessarily where money meets merchandise.

History is littered with stories of artists who made do with whatever they had. Did you know some of the most stunning street art comes from nothing more than power washing an image out of the dirty sidewalk? Or that there are artists out there turning recycled trash into treasure? Your creativity defines your art, not the brand of your supplies.

Tips for the Budget-Conscious Artist:

Hunt for Deals: Art supply stores often have sales or clearance sections. Don't overlook the less expensive brands — their quality is often as good as the better known brands. Often you are just paying for the name.

Repurpose and Recycle: That jar of buttons, old newspapers, or fabric scraps? All potential art supplies. See what you can repurpose before spending a dime.

Leverage Free Resources: There's a wealth of free online tutorials and classes that can help you sharpen your skills without the hefty price tag of formal education. (There are over 100 free lessons right here.)

The myth that art is too expensive is just that — a myth. It's more about making the most of what you have and letting your creativity run wild. So, before you write off your artistic ambitions because of cost, take another look around you. Your next masterpiece might just be waiting in the wings, hidden in the everyday and the overlooked objects around you.

6) Too Old to Start / Learn

There's a sneaky little voice that often whispers, "You're too old to start something new," especially when it comes to art. But let's get one thing straight — that voice? It couldn't be more wrong. The truth is, art doesn't have an age limit. It's not a club exclusive to the young; it's a realm of expression open to all, at any stage of life.

Think you missed your chance? Think again. Most people only really get started with art later in life after they go on pension. Grandma Moses didn't start painting until her late 70s, yet she became one of the most recognized folk artists. And she's not an exception. Over the years hundreds of our own students have gone on to become highly accomplished artists proving that creativity knows no age.

Embarking on your artistic journey later in life comes with its own set of advantages. With years come experiences — a rich tapestry of memories and emotions that can shape your art. Patience, perspective, and a certain wisdom that only life can teach. These are tools in your arsenal, not present in the youthful exuberance of earlier years.

Let's dismantle the idea once and for all that there's a 'right time' to start creating. Art is about expression, exploration, and storytelling. Your stories are valid, your experiences are rich, and your voice is needed. Whether you're 25 or 95, the art world has a place for you.

So, if you've ever caught yourself thinking, "I'm too old to learn art," it's time to challenge that lie. Your artistic journey is waiting for you, not just as a possibility but as a calling. Grab your tools of choice and take that first step. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now. Let your creativity flourish, no matter the number on your birthday cake.

Colorful crumbling blocks stacked on top of each other

7) Creative Blocks Are Unbreakable

Every artist hits a wall now and then — a creative block where ideas refuse to flow, and motivation seems lost. It's easy to fall into the trap of believing these blocks are impenetrable fortresses. Yet, the truth is, they're more like fog — intimidating from a distance but something you can move through with the right approach.

Instead of viewing creative blocks as dead ends, let's consider them as detours or rest stops. They're not stopping you; they're offering a chance to pause, reflect, and maybe even discover new paths you hadn't considered. This perspective shift can transform a period of stagnation into a valuable phase of your artistic journey.

Here ar some tips to break free of a block:

Change Your Scenery: Sometimes, all it takes to dissolve a block is a change of environment. Work in a new space, go for a walk, or simply rearrange your current workspace.

Try Something New: Experiment with a medium or technique outside your comfort zone. The novelty can spark inspiration and reignite your creative fire.

Relax : Being stressed will sink creativity like a lead balloon. Switch off for a while so your mind can regenerate itself. As you do your subconscious will work on your block in the background. When it is ready, the idea will pop into your head like TADAAAA! If you don't believe me, ask Newton after chilling under the apple tree.

Set Small Goals: Break down your projects into smaller, manageable tasks. Completing these can build momentum and help you climb out of the creative rut.

Learning from the Greats: Remember, many renowned artists have faced their share of blocks and come out stronger. Their stories are a testament to the resilience of creativity. For instance, writer's block didn't stop J.K. Rowling from finishing her Harry Potter series; she kept at it, finding new inspiration in the process.

Ask AI: Start up a new chat with ChatGPT or Gemini. Tell it what type of idea you are struggling to come up with and ask it for suggestions. The ideas it suggests may just be the spark you need to solve your block.

It's crucial to remember that creative blocks are not permanent. With time, patience, and a bit of strategy, you'll find your way back to a place of inspiration and productivity. The key is not to force it but to give yourself the grace to navigate this phase at your own pace.

Next time you're staring down a creative block, don't despair. Embrace it as part of your artistic process. Use this time to explore, reflect, and grow. The block isn't the end of your creativity; it's just a bend in the road, leading you to new adventures in your artistic journey. Remember, every artist has the strength to break through — including you.

8) You Must Master Every Medium and Style

Stepping into the art world is like being a kid in a candy store — everywhere you look, there's something new and exciting to try. From watercolors to digital art, from abstract to realism, the options seem limitless. It's thrilling, but let's face it, also a bit overwhelming. The myth that you need to master every medium and style to be a "real" artist can scatter your focus and dilute your efforts.

While it's tempting to dabble in everything, finding your niche can be incredibly rewarding. Focusing allows you to dive deeper, understand the nuances of your chosen medium or style, and develop a distinctive voice. It's not about limiting yourself; it's about honing your skills where they resonate most with your passion.

It took me years to realise this and since becoming more focussed I have progressed a lot quicker.

Here are some of my strategies for focusing your creative energy so that you don't end up trying to go down every rabbit hole:

Experiment with Purpose: Give yourself permission to explore, but do so with intention. Set limits or specific goals for each exploration phase to ensure you're not just wandering but learning and growing. For example you may decide that you want to paint better landscapes. That is a very broad subject so niche it down. You may decide that you like mountains scenes the most. Concentrate all your efforts on learning as much as you can about painting mountain scenes until you are happy with the results you are getting. Then move on to learning how to paint say sunsets.

Reflect on Your Passions: As you try different aspects of art take note of what themes, mediums, or styles keep calling you back? Identifying these can help you decide where to focus your energy.

Set a Project Goal: Challenge yourself with a project that requires a deeper understanding of a particular medium or style. This can provide both direction and a sense of accomplishment. For example you may decide you want to focus on painting dogs. Choose a specific type of dog. Enroll yourself into our dog painting course or one of the classes that teach you how to paint that specific breed of dog. Practice painting several of those dogs until you have mastered the techniques.

Depth Over Breadth: Becoming deeply skilled in one area doesn't mean you're missing out. On the contrary, it can make your work more profound and impactful. Most celebrated artists are known for a specific style or medium that they explored extensively, not for doing a little bit of everything.

Inspiration from Focused Artists: Consider the masters who are synonymous with their chosen mediums or styles - Claude Monet with Impressionism, Georgia O'Keeffe with her large-format flowers, or Ansel Adams with black-and-white landscape photography. Their work demonstrates the power of depth and the unique voice that emerges from a concentrated artistic practice.

The belief that you must master every medium and style is a myth that can lead you on a never-ending chase. Instead, embracing a focused approach allows you to develop a deeper connection with that subject / medium sooner. Once confident in your ability with that subject / medium, learning the next one will build off of the previous knowledge, allowing you to master that one even sooner.

9) I Can't Do It, It's Too Difficult

It's a familiar battle cry in the minds of many artists, from beginners to seasoned pros: "This is too hard. I can't do it." But here's the thing — that voice telling you it's impossible? It's not the truth. The path of an artist is strewn with challenges, sure, but each one is surmountable. The real question is, how do we move from "I can't" to "I can"?

The first step is shifting your mindset. Art isn't about instant mastery; it's a journey of continuous learning and growth. Think of each challenge not as a roadblock but as a stepping stone. Remember, every skill you admire in others was once learned and honed over time. Yours can be too.

When faced with an artwork that seems overwhelming and impossible at first glance, this is what I do to tackle it:

Start Small: Break down overwhelming tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. A landscape painting has many parts to it, but if you just concentrate on painting "just this one cloud" / "just this one branch" you will quickly eat the entire elephant.

Learn from Every Attempt: If everything doesn't turn out perfect, so what. Instead of fearing failure, see each attempt as a lesson. What worked? What didn't? How can you apply these insights next time?

Keep Going: Whether the part you have just painted looks to your satisfaction or not, move on. More often than not, those little pieces you are unhappy with or felt you couldn't do were not even important. Once the artwork is complete and you are looking at the overall result, it looks amazing.

Use Previous Experience: Often the techniques used to paint one thing can be used to paint something completely different. Draw on your current pool of techniques and experiment on a separate canvas to see which one gives you the best effect.

Keep Expanding Your Arsenal: Keep following the lessons. Each one has a different technique to teach you and each one widens your arsenal with which to tackle subsequent artworks.

Next time you catch yourself thinking, "I can't do it, it's too difficult," pause and reframe that thought: "I can't do it yet, but I'm learning." See yourself and your artistic ability as a work in progress. With patience, practice, and persistence, you'll find that you're capable of more than you ever imagined. So take a deep breath, pick up your tools, and take that next step. Amazing art is waiting for you on the other side of "I can't."

Artist in front of an exploding rainbow wall of inspiration

10) I Need to Feel Inspired to Be Able to Create

It's a common belief that to make art, you need a lightning bolt of inspiration to strike. But waiting for this elusive muse to show up can mean waiting forever. The truth is, inspiration is more like a plant than a thunderstorm — it grows from the seeds of your efforts, not from the sky.

The secret sauce of many prolific artists isn't a muse that whispers in their ears; it's their unwavering commitment to show up and create, rain or shine. Establishing a routine might sound mundane, but it's actually one of the most powerful ways to invite inspiration into your life. Whether it’s setting aside an hour each morning or dedicating weekends to your craft, consistency is key.

Mark it on your calendar, and honor it as you would any important appointment. Create a space that feels inviting and stocked with your tools of choice, ready for action.

When you're feeling stuck, a prompt or exercise can kick-start your imagination. There are plenty of books and online resources filled with ideas to get you going.

On days when creativity feels out of reach, push through and make something — anything. Often, the act of starting is all it takes to get the ideas flowing. I was once on a workshop where the artist started with a random, meaningless scribble on the canvas. Then with a touch of imagination you could visualise a wave shape in the scribble. That was enough inspiration for him to know what this artwork would become. (His completed seascape looked amazing by the way.)

Another technique is the grab the dictionary and open it it at any random page, then without looking point to and place on those open pages. Use the closest word as inspiration.

Building on from that you can think of related words. Any one of those may trigger just the inspiration you are looking for. If not pick your favorite from the ones you have and start creating using that. As you work new inspirations will start to come, guaranteed.

Some of the most iconic pieces weren't always born from a clear vision or a stroke of genius. They came to life through trial, error, and, most importantly, the discipline to keep going, even when the path wasn't clear.

Consider the artists who treat their practice like a job, clocking in and creating whether they feel like it or not. Their work ethic, rather than a fleeting sense of inspiration, drives their productivity and creative achievements.

Cultivate a new perspective on inspiration by shifting your view from seeing inspiration as a scarce resource to understanding it as something we can actively cultivate. By committing to a regular practice, staying curious, and being open to wherever the process leads, you'll find that inspiration isn't as fickle as it seems. It's the natural outcome of consistent effort and an open heart.

Waiting for inspiration to strike is like waiting for the perfect moment to start living — it may never arrive. Your creativity doesn't depend on external forces; it's within you, waiting to be expressed through regular practice, persistence, and a bit of routine magic. So, let's put the myth to rest and start creating, inspired or not.

Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.

- Pablo Picasso

Conclusion

Beneath each of these lies we tell ourselves we find a truth waiting to be uncovered — a truth that speaks to the resilience, adaptability, and sheer passion that define what it means to be an artist.

Art, in its essence, is an exploration; a continuous journey of learning, growing, and transcending our own limitations. The obstacles, the doubts, and the setbacks are all part of the journey to becoming an amazing artist, each one contributing to the depth and richness of your work. Each one making you a better, stronger person.

The myths we've debunked together are not barriers but gateways to deeper understanding and greater creativity. Embrace the challenges, lean into the doubts, and push through the fears.

Remember your journey begins with a single mark. Now go make that mark!

If you enjoyed this tutorial, you will also enjoy our article on Is Tracing in Art Cheating, go have a look.

Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.

- Pablo Picasso
10 Lies Artists Tell Themselves - What are they and how can you avoid them?