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  • Writer's pictureHelen English Artist

Building confidence as an artist

I am currently on a research mission in my spare time. Part of it involves looking back at my Masters research. Funny how you forget the details even if the main gist stays with you! I have avoided looking at it for the two years since I handed it in because I’d read it so many times during 2018 and beyond.

My masters was about the benefits for adults of regularly taking part in art classes with other people. After a couple more years of teaching art I was thinking about whether I could see those benefits in my current classroom. Cue reread!

The part which had slipped my mind because I take it for granted was the most interesting part. The fact that developing your art over time in a place where you can have positive and critical conversations about it really increases the positive feelings that you have about yourself.

The feelings which we have about ourselves, and what we are able to do, are officially called self-concept and self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is about our belief that we can complete a particular task, like painting a picture in acrylic. Self-concept is how we feel about ourself as a person. Self-efficacy affects self-concept if we care about the task.

We may do a terrible job of handling the acrylic paint in an art class and, as a result, have low self-efficacy in that task. If we don’t care about making art, it will not affect our self-concept. If we really care about our artistic abilities then our self-concept will probably suffer. The encouragement of other people can help reduce the impact of a failed task if we trust their judgement though – your teacher and your fellow artists are vital here. Conversely, if we do a fantastic job at the painting, our self-efficacy will be bolstered and if we also care about how capable we are as an artist then out self-concept will also increase.

It was really good to see my research demonstrating itself in an informal environment, and great to see the theories of the research which I read about making sense again in real life. I smile as I write this because I just realised that my self-efficacy, and likely self-concept, just increased

I thought about my classes over the past three weeks as I read this information again. We have been learning about watercolour techniques and how to apply those to various painting projects. I would say that they all care about the results of their work so both self-efficacy and self-concept are on the line! The first week, they knew that this was a real learning curve though and this helped any issues that they had when they were painting. The next week, they had varying results with the picture they were painting and many of them were suffering from low self-efficacy. There was one artist who was particularly hard on herself and everyone rallied around, which appeared to help somewhat as they had been in that classroom, one day a week, for six weeks previously so getting up and looking at each other’s work has slowly become the norm and they value positive comments from others on their work. This week though, they all flew! The results were incredible. Each with their own signature style but they took to the work like ducks to water…colour! And, guess what, everyone of them was happy with their work and they seemed amazingly confident.

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