How to Project Confidence (Even If You Have to Fake It)

Confidence is one of the most collector-attractive qualities an artist can possess.

You are more likely to get the commission, sell the work, fill your classes, and have your proposal accepted if we believe in you. And we are more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself and your art.

Confidence comes with experience.

Exhibiting your art in public and having conversations with art visitors contribute to growing your confidence. Yet there are times when even the most experienced artist lacks in confidence. This comes with the territory.

Anne Shutan Door

The thing I enjoyed most about meeting Anne Shutan is that she was as excited about her work as I was. When I complimented something, she said, “I know! Isn’t that cool?!” I love that kind of enthusiasm. Here she is with the front door she carved.

You are bound to go through cycles of self-assuredness and doubt if you are experimenting and growing as an artist.

Perhaps these pointers will help when you’re not feeling so sure of yourself.

Visualize the experience.

As you are preparing for an event such as an art opening, visualize how you want to show up. Imagine yourself firmly planted in the room, not flitting about, and welcoming one guest after another.

What do they say to you? How do you respond?

Be interested in other people.

Confident people are comfortable enough to focus on other people. They leave space for conversation and don’t talk about themselves all of the time.

It sounds counterintuitive, but people will think you’re fascinating if you just listen to what they say and ask about their interests.

Develop a firm handshake, look people in the eye, smile, and call them by name. I practice this frequently with cashiers in checkout lines.

In my experience, introducing myself to strangers is a quick way to relieve any anxiety around an event with lots of people.

Stand up straight.

Don’t slouch in the back of the room. Pull your shoulders back, hold your head high, and introduce yourself to people.

Ayn Hanna Speaking

I am fairly sure that speaking isn’t one of Ayn Hanna’s favorite pastimes, but you wouldn’t have known it. She did a terrific job speaking to this crowd in Boulder, Colorado.

Remember that everyone at an art opening is there for the same reason: to be seen and to meet people. (If you want to view the art, go before or after the opening.)

Spiff up.

A new outfit can do wonders for your esteem, as can painting your nails or shining your shoes. Or try a new hairdo.

Anything that improves your appearance can give you a boost.

Never disparage your work.

When someone says something kind about your art, all you have to do is say Thank You. Don’t giggle and brush aside their compliment. Don’t look down at the floor and say, Aw shucks. Look them in the eye and express your gratitude.

Don’t apologize for poorly cut mats, the crack in your pot, or the dirty display pedestal. There’s no need to call attention to imperfections.

Better yet, fix these imperfections before you show your work so that you aren’t tempted to give apologies and excuses.

You don’t have to always be confident. You just need to play the part.


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12 comments to How to Project Confidence (Even If You Have to Fake It)

  • and after you politely listen to others, practice saying these words, excuse me, but I must greet some of my other guests. Or, would you like to come with me to greet the guest who just came in? Do you have a card? Perhaps I can look at your work after my big night is over.

  • Hi Alyson,

    Great points, all. In my years of experience teaching, training, and performing I’ve seen there are 2 things that really help confidence to skyrocket: experience and preparation. This is exactly what you’re talking about.

    Your advice about getting a vision in your head for how you want the event to go and preparing responses and actions in advance will definitely help anyone who takes this advice.

    I would just add that if things don’t go exactly as planned, don’t beat yourself up. Decide what you can do better and make sure you prepare for that the next time around. That way you’re always improving.

  • I’ve learned that a big part of being engaged and welcoming is to treat each question or comment — even the ones you have fielded often and feel are awkward — as if you have never heard it before; stop and think, and take time to truly respond to that person. You should have a thoroughly thought-through answer to the FAQs you get the most, but don’t treat it like a rote thing; they ask because they can’t think of anything else to say, or they truly want to know. Err on the side of supposing they are genuinely interested, and have a concise, engaging answer, or better yet, a question for them. After all, they have never had that conversation with you before (even if many others have!) I find this keeps my attitude open and I don’t get impatient, even with the same old same old. My confidence about talking about my work has grown tremendously since I began trying to engage in conversations with viewers, not just reacting to their comments. And I hear a lot more from people about what my work is about and means to them. Always helpful and interesting.

  • Great tips, Alyson. My favorite: never point out the “mistakes” in your work.
    When people compliment on your art, just smile, look them in the eye and say “Thank you!” Don’t insult their good taste. This is always included in my classes – especially for the beginners.

  • Yes, learning how to take a compliment – just say “Thank you” – it’s so much easier than making excuses. Just say “Thank you!” and see what happens. I have found that the habit of blogging has helped me a lot when it comes to talking to people about my work. To write a blog post demands reflection and analysis of the work, and putting it into words – the written word – helps me to arrive at a deeper understanding of my work – and gives me a foundation for talking to viewers about my work and answering their questions.

  • These are great – the only thing I might add is also don’t apologize for the price of your work. Just say it with confidence – you deserve to be paid for your work. Thanks as always, Alyson!

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