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My significant other has always loved to do art, but has often been hesitant on entering any art competitions. She recently brought up that there is a competition that she is interested in entering, but is afraid she won't do well and is doubting if she should enter.

I personally believe that doing competitions can be good regardless if one wins or loses, and I want to encourage her to enter. Since I've known her, she is often appraised for her artistic abilities by both peers and other artists. Despite this, she would occasionally give little regard to her artwork and say her pieces are "Bad" or "Can be done better".

What can I say to help encourage her to enter in this competition?

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    Does your girlfriend doubt herself often, or have self-confidence issues? Or is she just self-conscious about her artwork? – BFG95 Aug 7 '18 at 19:24
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    She has expressed self-confidence issues outside her artwork before – Russ Wilkie Aug 7 '18 at 19:25
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    Sorry to nitpick, but did you mean 'praised' instead of 'appraised'? – adhanlon Aug 8 '18 at 15:54
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Whenever you're encouraging someone to try something new, it's best not to pressure too much, so in everything you say, be supportive, and make sure you let her know that you like and appreciate her art whether or not she decides to enter any competitions.

As it sounds like you have genuine confidence in her art and think she'll both do well and benefit from the experience, perhaps the best thing you can do to encourage her is explaining both of these sincere beliefs: she will grow as an artist by seeking more feedback in a competition, and that her art is good enough to compete.

Last, as she remarks that her art is bad or could be done better, you can explain that becoming perfect and finding yourself is a long process. For most professions, it takes about 10 years of 40 hours a week at anything before anyone can really claim to be good at it. That being said, feedback helps shape how we grow. She will likely grow taller and straighter (to borrow a tree analogy) if she broadens the feedback she's getting earlier in the process rather than later. If you can make these arguments to her and help her approach competitions more as a stepping stone to growth than as simply something to win, it should simultaneously make her more likely to do it and more likely to enjoy competing.

38

My girlfriend is also an artist, and she also experiences this issue with self-confidence. While I'm not sure what your SO's Art Education is like, one of the most crucial aspects of becoming a good artist is analyzing work.

For instance, my girlfriend had recently entered her work into a Gallery Showing. We made it into a date! While the judges were going around and looking at other works, we did too, discussing a lot of what we each enjoyed about every piece.

This is where she not only got to receive some feedback, but also encounter other art that inspired her further. Furthermore, we identified ideas that we thought could be enhanced in other pieces. By doing this, I was supportive when she was nervous and helping inspire her to create new pieces from our analysis.

And of course, she can't win if she doesn't enter.

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    This sounds like an excellent idea. My art teacher emphasizes being able to step back from your work and look at it just as a piece of art, not as something you created, but something on its own. Getting into an analysis frame of mind should help with being critical, without being self-critical. – DaveG Aug 7 '18 at 19:59
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Help your SO frame her goals

Why is your SO entering this competition? If her only goal is to win then a competition will be highly stressful, because that means if she does not win, then she has failed. And since only a small percentage of the competitors win a competition (that's sort of the point), it means that she's very likely to fail.

On the other hand, if her primary goals are to get feedback from the judges and to share her art with other artists and art aficionados, then her success is not dependent on the results of the competition, only on whether or not she entered.

So discuss what your SO is hoping to get out of the competition, and help her see that she can enjoy the competition no matter where her art is ranked.

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I personally believe that doing competitions can be good regardless if one wins or loses, and I want to encourage her to enter.

Before taking any decisive actions, you should establish how taxing competitions are to your significant other.

  • There are people who justly think that it does not matter whether you win or lose and treat any competition as a great opportunity to learn, network and just have fun.
  • Some other people, however, have severe difficulties whenever competitions are involved. To them, the toll of participating may be huge: anxiety attacks, nervous breakdowns and shattered self-confidence in case they don't feel they did well enough.

If your SO belongs to the former group, she just likely wants to get some little encouragement from you. If she belongs to the latter one, however, you should avoid exerting any pressure aside from voicing your opinion in a neutral tone, and let her decide on her own. If you complement her now and convince she would win, and then she does not get significant recognition, it may hurt both her self-esteem as well as her artistic drive in the future.

In your particular case the fact that she brought it up as well as expressed her desire to participate serves as a good indicator that she has almost made up her mind and wants nothing more but a little confidence boost from you. However, you are the only person here to know that for certain.

What can I say to help encourage her to enter in this competition?

One thing you should make absolutely clear is that no matter how well or badly she performs, it will not undermine your feelings or opinion about her art. If she is an anxious type, the fear that a poor result will affect your relationship may be one of the predominant reasons why she's reluctant to participate in the first place.

A somewhat similar thing happened to me in a musical context many years ago when I had a nervous breakdown on stage suddenly realizing that several of my friends surreptitiously snuck behind the scene and watched me play a difficult piano piece, fearing they would think of me badly if I don't perform it flawlessly. I know several other people who ask their SOs and friends not attend their competitions for the very same reason.

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    Yes, and even someone who is fine with "win or lose, it was a good game" in, e.g., a sporting event may not feel the same way about their art, since art is more of a personal expression. – user3067860 Aug 8 '18 at 22:02
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As you've said, entering a competition like this can be good regardless of whether she wins or loses (is there such a thing as losing an art competition?).

I definitely don't think she should focus too much on the possibility of winning. A lot of people enter, but most will not win. Art is such a subjective thing anyway. It really just comes down the the judges personal opinion.

If the possibility of winning is the primary motivation for entering the competition, she may be setting herself up for disappointment.

Having her work displayed in public, in a gallery, is worthwhile, regardless of the outcome of the competition.

Even if she doesn't take home the prize, her work could touch or inspire people in all sorts of different ways.

I've not entered many art competitions, and I've won even less, but those competitions that I've entered, without winning, were still very worthwhile experiences, and I know that people enjoyed my work, even though it may not have been the judges favourite on the day.

Perhaps she could approach this as though it's not a competition at all, but rather just an opportunity to have her work displayed in public. Having work displayed is not always easy, and an artist generally aught to jump at it when given the opportunity.

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She needs to develop a self-belief, not so much in her existing ability, but in her ability to grow as an artist.

All artists start somewhere, whether that be visual art, music, whatever. They may have some natural aptitude for their art but they also have to learn skills either in a formal school setting, from books, or simply by imitating the art of others.

With perhaps some exceptions, the worst artists are the ones that live in a bubble and see only their own work. I'm a musician, and I thought I was pretty good until I started playing in bands. Then I realised I had to a bit to improve on. But I did, and now I'm at a standard I'm fairly happy with. I still know there are musicians way better than me, but being around others and their work has helped me bring my standard up and develop a better filter for my own output.

Entering a competition may seem daunting to her. Try to get her to see it differently. Rather than going up against other artists, see if more as a networking event. A chance to meet other artists, share ideas, see other people's work, maybe get some constructive criticism, which all artists need to improve and grow.

If she can shift her thinking from believing in her ability to believing in her ability to improve then she will realise the competition, will be good for her.

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As others have said, what is she getting out of the competition? If it's because she loves art, and will get exposure to other people who love art, and doesn't care how well she does, then it's a positive thing. You always learn something about your own art by people's reaction to it.

If she goes in with the idea that she needs validation of her skills by winning or placing well in the competition, then she is too much caught up in the idea that so many of us have that our value is measured in terms of what other people think of us.

Art is a very subjective thing, and great artists are often not regarded as such in their lifetimes -- Van Gogh had trouble selling any of his work. So, winning an art competition really doesn't say anything about the quality of one's work, other than that the judges liked it.

Being self-critical about your art doesn't necessarily mean that you lack confidence, either. Any work of art can always be improved upon, and it's part of an artist's makeup to always look for things that might have been done better, even after pronouncing a work finished.

I would suggest to her that what she thinks of herself matters, and what others think of her doesn't matter at all, so she really has nothing to lose by sharing her work with others. I would also mention that if people really don't like her work, it's probably quite good. If it weren't, people would be more likely to simply ignore it.

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