I’ll admit it… I’ve always felt socially awkward. When I imagined working as an artist, I thought it would include a lot of alone time in a dusty room. Well, I was definitely surprised when I found out how much socializing would be required to become a successful artist. I’ve learned that being an artist means permanently living outside of your comfort zone.
In the art community, there seems to be an assumption that once you’re in a gallery, they will represent your work. And you won’t have to do anything else but make your art. I’m sure there are artists out there with this luxury, but as an emerging artist, it is less likely that you will be properly represented. Galleries don’t want to spend their time building up your audience, that’s your job. If you don’t have gallery representation, then you must work even harder to build your audience. If fact, a bigger following can be a huge selling point to a potential gallery.
Being socially awkward and getting nervous around people can be seem like a weakness. However, the nice thing is that no one needs to know about it. I get a sinking feeling every time I have to talk to strangers or promote my artwork. Nevertheless, no one knows that’s how I feel inside, so I fake it. If you’re able to keep it a secret and pretend you’re happy, then eventually you can overcome your fears.
Anxiety during Events
If you’re nervous about large events such as receptions and openings, then you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Firstly, remember that the worst part is over when you step into the room. Most of our worries are built up before the event. I spend most of my time trying to talk myself out of going to an event, but once I’m there it’s not that bad anymore. After you’ve made it in; try and mingle. You’ll want to meet with the person who invited you, so that they can introduce you to other people.
Don’t worry too much about what people will think of you, instead ask them lots of questions about themselves. If it’s an art event, then your fellow artists will be more than happy to talk about their artwork or interest in the arts. You already have the advantage of having art as a great conversation starter and similarity.
Anxiety One on One
Another big fear with social anxiety is having to talk about your art one on one. I still feel shy trying to sell my art to people when I’m having casual conversations. It’s even worse when I’m talking to someone who may have influence, like a gallery director, curator, or business owner. Try to act as normal as possible and don’t make them uncomfortable by clamming up. If you’re having a hard time talking about yourself, ask them about their business. When you hear them mention something that you can relate to; jump in and talk about your art.
Even though social anxiety may be something that cripples you as an artist, it doesn’t mean that you can’t push through it. Now it is more important than ever to promote yourself and meet others who may be interested in your art. Don’t be shy! Just go for it.
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