03 Jan 2023Mont Marte

Taking a leap into the unknown can be scary and starting a creative journey can look different to all of us. But one thing’s for sure, it helps to build creative confidence before taking the leap. We asked abstract artist, friend and all-round cheerleader, Michelle Sparks (@michelle_sparks_art) for her top tips on bravery and creative courage.

So, whether you’re looking to start a social media account for your art, leaving your 9 to 5 to pursue a creative passion or you just need a little push to get started on that project you’ve been putting off, Michelle’s put together 7 top tips to build creative confidence and kickstart your creative journey.

Michelle holding a paintbrush with pink acrylic paint painting a canvas.

1. Lose perfection

I’ve learnt this over time. If I go into a new project with the expectation that it will be perfect, beautiful or sell quickly, then I’ve got another thing coming!  (I’m not saying this can’t happen, it does…well sometimes and with practice.) Often the pressure we put on ourselves to create the perfect piece actually blocks our intuition and creativity from flowing freely.  Some of my best work has happened from, no planning, feeling my way through an artwork, then staring at it for a few days and tweaking it until it “feels just right.”

So, I urge you to let go of any expectations before you put paint to canvas, paper or whichever medium you create in.  JUST DO… and try not to over think it. 

Artist Michelle Sparks smiling next to two of her framed artworks.

2. Explore your fear – create something ugly!

Fear is often what holds us back in life.  So, what are your fears?  Are your fears that you might create something ugly?  Yeah okay…that’s pretty scary for sure, so let’s lean into our fears, not bow down to them. 

To build creative confidence it helps to acknowledge and get to know your fears and pre-empt them. The more you acknowledge your fears, the less likely you are to collapse in a heap if one of them comes true.  So how do you lean into them?  Create something “ugly!”  Create something with colours you’re afraid of using.  Create something using a tool you never used before.  The chances are, you will create something “ugly” as you had intended, but I guarantee that through the process you will learn something new.  Maybe even find something you like in all the ugliness and discover a new technique, a stroke or a marking that you will want to use again.  So, in exploring your fear, you are removing the power that it has over you and perhaps even finding some beauty in it all.

Colourful abstract painting with 'dream so big it scares you' typography on top.

3. Be brave

When it comes to building creative confidence, being brave is one of the hardest things. But it’s a necessary step, especially in becoming the artist you dream of being.  There comes a time, where you just hold your breath and post that photo of your art that you’ve been umming and ahhing about.  All I can say, is that the more you post, the easier it gets. 

It’s not the number of followers, likes or comments you get that tells you if the work is good. If it wasn’t good, you wouldn’t have posted it. It’s just like cooking, if you’re not happy with a meal you’ve created…don’t put it on the plate!  Remember it’s the quality of followers that matter, not the quantity.  Each person who has chosen to follow you, is saying “I like what you do, and I want to see more,” value your 10 followers or 100 or 1000, nurture your supporters and they will continue to come your way. 

So, ignore the likes and focus on creating authentic work that you’re proud of.  No one in the world is the same as you, you are incredible, you are unique, and no one can take away the inner you…unless you let them.  So be brave my friends and show the world who you are!

Michelle holding a large abstract artwork with 13 abstract hearts painted on a large canvas.

4. Find "your people"

The reality is, not everyone is going to like what you do. Thankfully my mum has always been brutally honest with me, she will always say what she likes and what she doesn’t like, yet she’s probably my BIGGEST fan!  So even your regular followers and supporters are not going to love everything you do. But there is someone out there who will love it!  Your job is to find that one person or even a that group of people who love what you do.  I call these folk “Your people.” 

I believe there are the right people for all types of art, the key is finding them!  You’re not going to sell a thing unless you’re putting your work in front of the eyes of your target audience.  So, it’s important to really explore who your “ideal client is” and what they look like, what they do for fun and what they do for a job.  Once determining this, you can start to find your people.  You can work out where they hang out, what groups they follow or are part of and aim to have your work seen in these places.  Because people don’t know what they want, until they see it…your job is to help them SEE YOU!

Michelle holding two of her artworks wearing a blue striped dress and pink earrings.

5. Ignore the Debby Downers, be prepared, they exist!

Don’t let those “Debby’s” or “Karen’s” of the world catch you off guard. Have some scripted statements in your head to respond with when they say they don’t like your art.  Try… “that’s okay, clearly my art isn’t for you.”  The sad truth is that throughout your career, people are going to form an opinion of you and your art.  Some will be positive and others not so positive.  Try not to fixate on the negative ones, but rather try to look at the cumulative feedback.  If that statement has been repeated to you many times, then perhaps it’s something to think about and take on board (after all, we can grow and learn), but don’t let comments and statements upset your core being and value. 

Abstract blue painting with 'you are a warrior' typography over the top.

6. Some feedback is helpful, and some is not, which ones do you listen to?

I’m going to keep this short and sweet.  We all have an inner voice that helps us determine what is important to us and what is not.  The question you probably have is what feedback to take on board and which to ignore. Only you can answer this question honestly. You know if you need to grow further in certain areas, as most of us are not walking around with rose-coloured glasses on, so take the time to think…is this helpful feedback or not?

I was once told that the more honest the feedback is, the more it hurts.  Feedback/criticism or opinions can be hard to hear, but what I’ve learnt is that the ones that have an element of truth to it, hurt the most.  So, you decide which to own, accept and grow from, and which ones to let go of and push on from.  Just remember to listen to that inner voice of yours and make your own decisions.

Michelle standing out the front of an exhibit.

7. Fake it until you make it. Practice with me… “I am an Artist.”

So many of us in the beginning, shy away from that statement when asked what we do for work?  You might end up saying something like… “I’m a Nurse and I dabble a bit in art.” Is that really who you are?  What if you were to say, “I’m an Artist and a Nurse.” You see what I did there? 

It’s not easy to say those words “I’m an artist, it takes practice. It sometimes feels a bit cringe-worthy when you say it in the beginning but trust me when I say… YOU MUST FIND SOME CONFIDENCE in saying these words, it is the only way people will have confidence in what you do.

Compare this to when you first get your driver’s licence.  Are you a great driver yet?  You may be wondering what the heck I’m going on about, let me put it in perspective. Would that driving instructor give you your licence if you were too scared to do a reverse park or drove so slowly because you were so nervous.  HECK NO!!  You put your big adult pants on and said to yourself “I’ve got this!” You faked it!  Sure, you may have been able to do the basics of driving, but are you a great driver?  Probably not.  It’s the same when you first start creating.  You’re probably not a Picasso yet, but you’re going to stand up and be proud to say… I AM an Artist and I LOVE what I do, and I LOVE what I create!  You won’t have to fake it very long, trust me…this will become your new reality in no time, just be confident!

Artist Michelle Sparks in her studio.

Michelle Sparks is an abstract artist from Brisbane. When she’s not teaching, she’s painting colourful abstracts and landscapes to brighten the homes of others. To find out more about Michelle Sparks and her own creative journey, check out our chat with the artist here.


 We hope Michelle Sparks’ tips help build creative confidence and inspire you to start your own creative journey. We’d love to see what you create, #montmarteart or tag us @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook.