I don’t know what I’m doing! Moving forward in the face of uncertainty.

I don’t know what I’m doing! Have you ever said that? 

Me too. Lots. 

It’s okay to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. (even though it feels awful)

Okay don’t freak out on me here, but seriously I really don’t know what I’m doing and I never have. There’s always some amount of self doubt or confusion.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately surrounding our journey as artists, our definition of success, the ups and downs of being an artist, the lows and highs, the growth and the struggles. Why all this contemplation you ask? Well probably because my ten year anniversary of being a full time artist is coming up this month. 

And ten years is a long time. It’s kind of a milestone really. 

I can’t believe I’ve made it this far! Supporting myself as a full time artist has been a huge learning curve and pretty darn difficult sometimes. So as I’ve been reflecting on the journey’s ups and downs of the past ten years – it’s only fitting that this week played out the way it did with highs and lows and self doubt creeping in on me once again.  

I had some wins, some big wins actually in my paintings this week. I created some work that I honestly thought, “If I saw that at the Louvre signed by another artist I would be impressed! Wow I painted that!” 

Then two days later I go to paint expecting another beautiful masterpiece and it’s a total FLOP. Why does that seem to happen after a really good painting anyway? 

After ten years I know when a painting just isn’t going to come together. I knew in the first hour this one was a bust. You know that dog won’t hunt kind of painting. So I attacked it with my brush and smudged it all about. And even that looked better! Oh my gosh. Time to call it done and wash it off with some turp. 

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But NOPE. It still sucks after all these years when it happens. 

You just feel like yelling, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” 

Ever been there? 

All the sudden you get this hopeless pit in your stomach that you don’t know what you’re doing. Oh and on top of that you don’t know who to reach out to to ask for help. You wonder who on earth can give me the answers? What do I do next? I’m so confused. And you feel all alone in your despair. It’s just an awful rush of emotions. 

I don’t feel that way often now in my painting because the great paintings tend to far outweigh the flops. But I do feel that way a lot when it comes to learning about running a business or being a leader. After all, I went to art school, not business school. I got an art degree not a marketing degree! Why didn’t someone tell me I’d need both?

Then I remind myself that I’ve never known what I was doing….and that’s okay! 

Seriously. When I went to art school I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I had zero answers. Bupkis. Little by little I kind of knew what I was doing, but still there was always something I didn’t know. I never had ALL the answers.

Then when I graduated art school I really had no idea what I was doing when it came to making a living as an artist. Every day was like an exercise in trial and error. Sometimes things went well and sometimes they failed miserably. Sometimes I just copied what I saw other people doing and sometimes I tried my own ideas. Sometimes I got help and guidance from others and that really helped and sometimes I was just wingin’ it. All alone like a man searching for a jewel with a blindfold on. (p.s. He’d find it much faster if he could see clearly)

So, I get it. It’s frustrating when we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing. When we feel lost, unsure, and no one to turn to. But I also know that we really have no choice if we want growth and progress than to do it anyways. To move forward and try even if we don’t know what we’re doing. One thing I know for sure is that trying is the only way to get progress. Everything we want is on the other side of fear and self doubt. 

I also know from the past ten years that it’s okay to not know what I’m doing. Hey, it’s worked out for me this far! So I’ll keep trying and I hope you will too. Please know that you’re not alone. 

So this week I’m sharing with you three exceptional paintings that came out of the studio and one that I had to abandon because it was a total stinker. Oftentimes we only see the good stuff. The wins. But that’s not the full picture. 

Because no one is perfect and no one is at peak performance all the time


P.S. Have you felt this way recently? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. I’ll lick my wounds a little more today, but then I’ve gotta move forward. 

P.P.S. Congratulations to our Mother’s Day Painting Giveaway Winner, Cheryl F!

Love in Light, Kelli

12 thoughts on “I don’t know what I’m doing! Moving forward in the face of uncertainty.

  1. Aww, thank you for such kind words. I’m glad I could give you a laugh. Its SO important to remember not to take ourselves too seriously and roll with the flops 🙂

  2. Yes Cynthia! I love that you’ve been incorporating the Done is better than perfect motto into your artist lifestly–It truly helps us get through roadblocks, and get more paintings done – allowing ourselves to learn more and grow in each painting. Keep doing you!!

  3. Thank you Karen, your support means so much to me! We as artists love to strive for excellence in each painting, however flops are part of the process and we just have to remember to embrace them and keep our head up 🙂

  4. So funny!
    Your honesty is so encouraging. Not only are you an awesome artist, but you have a beautiful personality.

  5. Kelli I felt that way a lot and it makes me feel better that an accomplished painter / artist like you runs into the same feelings as us novices
    Done but not perfect is my new motto

  6. Thank you for this post and the encouragement, Kelli! I was raised a perfectionist by parents who asked “What did you miss?” if I got a 98 on a Calculus test. It has its good side, but I really need reminders like this that it is normal to paint a flop sometimes and to roll with it as part of the journey. I LOVE those beautiful paintings you did this week! Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary!

  7. Thank you so much Connie! Always remember its totally okay for that to happen 🙂 I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying the lessons!!

  8. Thanks Kelli! you are so funny!!! It’s nice to see the pro not get it right everytime too!! Working on a Liz Robbins pc. right now. And of course as usual, its a bit too big….but I”m going with it anyways!!

    Robin Raymond

  9. Words to live by. A creative myself (poet and singer) I totally get what you’re taking about. Super validating to read about your experience! Thank you.

  10. Congratulations on your ten year anniversary and the encouragement. I just told my husband that I had thrown out a painting recently before he saw it. It was a mess. The good news is that with your teaching I feel like I get at least one thing done better with every painting. Loving your class!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *