How to Embrace Risk in Your Art Practice

Artwork Archive | March 27, 2018 (Updated April 12, 2021)

“Fortune favors the bold.”

Sure, it's a nice quote to spark a moment of inspiration or pin up on your Pinterest board. 

But, the honest truth? Taking risks is scary.

Why actively pursue something that could eventually go down in flames? Artists and creative entrepreneurs, especially, have a lot riding on their success. One big failure could mean the end of their business.

The only problem is that with great risk comes great reward. In fact, if you want to get ahead as an artist, you are going to have to take chances. Sometimes it’s the only way to find the success or happiness you crave.

So how do you decide to take the risk instead of running in the opposite direction? Here are a few tips to get you started.


Roleplay with your more confident self.

Start by asking yourself the question, “What you would do if you knew you could not fail?”

In phrasing the question this way,  you’re barring any self-doubt from having a seat at the table. And all that’s left to focus on is your passion and dreams.

Do you want to try a different style of painting? Call up that gallery owner about showing your work? Take this time to understand your goals, however risky they may be, without letting fear stop you in your tracks.


Factor in the risk of doing nothing.

Interestingly enough, doing something flashy and different isn’t the only risk you need to be worrying about. The other big risk? Inaction.

Yes, risks are scary. To avoid facing fear, we often kid ourselves into thinking that our current situation isn’t that bad. We reason that while things aren’t great, playing it safe is the more sensible option—because at least you didn’t fail. Maybe if you “wait it out” a little longer, better things will come along.

But, that’s all a lie.

Better things don’t just fall into our laps. They will actually get worse over time, especially if you don’t do anything to change course. As much as you wish you could, you can’t fool yourself into false complacency forever, and this unhappiness will only weigh you down even more.

That’s pretty alarming. Knowing this should worry you just as much as the risk itself.

Again ask yourself, “If I do nothing, how will it hurt me one year from now?” It might be a huge blow to your self-esteem or sanity, the progress of your art business, or even your potential income—all things you may not be able to afford to lose. Is the comfort of your risk-averse bubble worth not being an artist at all?

Something to keep in mind the next time your fears appear bigger than your dreams.


Keep things in perspective.

Another problem of risk-taking is that we tend to overestimate how big the risk is and its consequences. It all boils down to that fight or flight reflex embedded deep in our DNA.

Of course, what we actually fear is failing—so we build up the problems in our heads in order to talk ourselves out of doing it.

We automatically focus on what could wrong—our imaginations run wild, our anxiety increases and in the end, not taking the risk feels like the smarter option. Sneaky.

The next time this happens, be aware. Realistically, your mind is exaggerating things and the odds of everything working out are a lot better than we choose to believe.


Put yourself on your own pedestal.

In the same vein, stop underestimating your own abilities! Picture yourself doing an amazing job at the task at hand but also being able to navigate the rocky terrain when something doesn’t go your way. Know that you will be capable of handling obstacles. Reassure yourself that you have the emotional tools to deal with temporary setbacks.

Fear will always whisper rotten things in your ear. That you aren’t qualified. That you aren’t ready. That you will fail if you try. But fear doesn’t really know you that well. Fear doesn't know how much grit you possess. 

Think back to another obstacle you’ve faced and won. Your hard work, talents, abilities, education, and support system have gotten you much farther than you realize. It’s okay to be confident! And staying positive can be an incredibly powerful tool in the art world.

If you are too scared to try something new, then you’ve automatically failed at it.

Even if you don’t feel ready quite yet, take the plunge. There are no heroes when it comes to perfectionism. Trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way. After all, you’ve been doing it every day of your life up to this point.

Celebrate even the biggest of fails.

It’s weird—we often try to hide our failings like they don’t exist, when we all actually "fail" on a daily basis. Our pride makes it hard to acknowledge defeat, and for artists—who don't always have a clear-cut path to success—this can be even more difficult to deal with. 

We’ve gotten lulled into the idea that life is like an Instagram feed—always happy and perfect. But as artist Megan Pena-Ariet puts it, it’s actually more like a blooper reel. Creative careers especially!

Time to drop a truth bomb: it’s impossible to do everything right all the time, and even if you did, life will still find a way to knock you down. There’s not one person who can escape it. So, you can try to ignore this inevitable facet of life, or you can embrace it. Welcome it. Celebrate it!

As Thomas Edison said while inventing the lightbulb, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” And, you only need one that does!

Every successful artist has embraced failure. Failure is how you learn and get better, so you can accomplish the things you once couldn’t.


Tilt the odds in your favor.

Any good risk-taker will tell you, risks should be risky—not reckless.

Many people assume taking risks involves walking into the room blindfolded, when actually, you’re allowed (encouraged even) to go in with eyes wide open.

So before you decide to take a risk, ask yourself: Could this affect your art business, passion, or personal development in a positive way? Will the payoff be worth it in the end?

If the answer is yes, it’s time to get strategic. The best part? Risks seem much less risky after you formulate a plan.

Again, ask yourself those all-important questions: How can you approach this new course of action so you have the best chance of succeeding? What concrete steps can you take to achieve this new goal?

For instance, do you want to find new ways to sell your art? Reach out to your artist friend who’s worked with interior designers. Hoping to launch a new art website? Start researching web designers and or DIY platforms. Ready to transition to a new style of art? Sign up for a workshop to learn a new technique. Want to quit your day job to become a full-time artist? Find a system like Artwork Archive to manage the crucial business side of your art career.


Always try to find a way to keep risks manageable.

Don’t confuse fear and risk.

Fear is ultimately a good thing. It’s trying to keep you safe. Fear tells you to stand back from that ledge, run from that snake, or throw out that expired milk.

The problem occurs when fear keeps you from doing the things you really want to do, things you’re excited about, things that would be great for your art business. That kind of fear keeps you too safe.

The only way to get ahead in life is to take risks. Trust in yourself and remember these tips to become a better risk taker.

Ready to take the risk and become a professional artist? Sign up for your free trial of Artwork Archive to get your art career off on the right foot.

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