Blog / 2018 / Why Artists Need So Much Validation

April 2, 2018

[video transcript]

This video is related to this one about how everyone craves credit and to this one about the myth of the selfish artist. I talk about validation in my book about art marketing.

a small girl wearing parts of the sky and surrounded by lightning, all contained in a circular braid
Gwenn Seemel
Self-portrait as the Sky
marker on paper
9 x 9 inches

The original drawing is available for $75 plus shipping—see all the artworks that are currently for sale. Prints and other arty items of Self-portrait as the Sky are in my Redbubble shop.



Lots of artists I know feel ashamed for needing outside validation for their art. They hate themselves just a little bit for loving the “likes” and the followers and the feedback and the comments and the sales and the grants they get for their art and any other opportunity. They have this idea that they shouldn’t need any of that in order to feel like a real artist, that they should just know that their art matters.

But I’m here to say that I think that needing validation is completely normal.

When I look at the world around me—at the artists I know and at everybody else I know—all I see is a bunch of human beings needing validation, needing to know that their community acknowledges their contributions to that community. That’s what validation is.

And it’s a lot easier for people who aren’t artists to get validation. Validation generally comes from what society has decided is the right way to live. You know, like having a respected career in a respected field. Well, artists don’t have that because art is not respected. And then there’s things like have 2.5 children and marrying someone of the opposite sex and being a homeowner and having a car and things like that that are on this, like, list of boxes that you’re supposed to check. And a lot of people who aren’t artists, they’ve checked those boxes. But a lot of artists, they don’t check that first box of the right job, and then they don’t check a lot of the other boxes as well. It’s just part of what being an artist is. We don’t, you know, follow standards very well necessarily.

And so it’s not really any surprise that artists need some other form of validation.

The people who are checking all those boxes, they’re getting reinforced all the time, by all of our media and just the people around you. All of it says, like: “Ya! You’re doing the right thing!” Artists aren’t getting that, and so they need that more personal kind of validation of people actually looking at what they’re doing and caring about it.

This is a drawing of me as a kid, like thirty years ago. And, at the time, I remember feeling like I was special, like I had all these ideas about who I was and who I could be. But all of that was just when I was by myself. As soon as I was around other kids or anyone else, I immediately felt less confident about who I was, much more vulnerable. And that continued into my adult life. Today, even, it continues.

And it’s just part of my psychology and things that have happened to me. And I used to feel like it was a really bad thing—something that I should be ashamed of. But, really, I’ve realized that it’s not.

I care about what other people think of me, and it’s okay. It actually means that what I care about is my community.

Obviously that can go too far. But, generally speaking, don’t we want people in our community who want the community to do better, who are aware of their place in it and aware of what the community might need and trying to contribute to it?

I guess what I’m saying is that needing validation isn’t something we should feel guilty about. It’s something we should feel glad about. For ourselves and for our communities.

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