Art Chooses You: Fear on the Path to Success

Savvy Marketing Advice by Jen Cushman

There comes times in every artist’s career where one must take a leap of faith in order to accomplish the seemingly impossible. In order for true growth to occur, the leap should feel gigantic. The process goes something like this: I would really like to do XYZ, but the idea of it seems crazy. Crazy!

For some people, the leap could be something big and tangible, such as paying a large sum of money to take a workshop in a foreign country to study with a mentor artist/instructor. For others, it might look like finally submitting images of their work to the editor of their favorite magazine. Another leap of faith could be gathering the courage to call the owner of a fantastic gallery and asking for an appointment to show one’s portfolio.

What is it about these scenarios that involve a leap? They come with some measure of fear. Fear is actually a very important survival instinct. It tells us through physical bodily sensations to be wary and tread with caution. Fear can also be a paralyzing emotion. It can keep us from moving forward, settling instead for complacency. The problem, from my perspective, is that complacency breeds discontent and an artist who is just treading water, rather than moving forward, is rarely a happy camper in her soul.

To take a leap of faith means to do something you didn’t think you’re capable of. To feel the fear and do it anyway. A really gigantic leap means that there is the very real possibility that you will fail. Depending on what you choose, the failure might be something only you know about, or it could be…gasp…a public failure where others are going to know how hard you crashed.

I’m writing this column from experience. I recently created a challenge for myself that is pretty big. But first, a little bit of back story. I wrote a book called Explore, Create, Resinate; Mixed-Media Techniques Using ICE Resin® where I also did the photography of my work for the book. Despite my publishing background, the book was a giant leap of faith because my business partner and I self-published. If it bombed, it would be a spectacular and expensive public failure. Fortunately, it’s been successful.

Feeling confident last summer, I approached Tonia Davenport, Acquisitions Editor for North Light Books, with an idea. Things progressed better than I could have dreamt, and we’re in the process of publishing my second book, Making Metal Jewelry. When I wrote the proposal, I asked if I could do my own beauty shots; what publishers call the gorgeous project photos featured in books.

Photography is another visual passion of mine. I felt pretty sure that I was up for the challenge. About half-way through my deadline and lots of afternoons when the light is right attempting to be both photo stylist and photographer, I had a serious “uh-oh” moment. The kind where the fear of failure is so big inside the pit of your stomach that it rises like bile and sticks in your throat as an almost-scream.

A number of times I wanted to call Tonia and tell her that my attempt to play professional photographer was more than a dumb idea. I felt the fear, really felt it to my core, but then I pushed through anyway. Writing these two books has stretched me as an artist in ways that are too numerous to list.

Did I do what I set out to accomplish? That remains to be seen. I hope it hits the mark of my intentions. For now though, there is a sense of accomplishment for taking that leap of faith and arriving at the other side.

Don’t let fear stand in your way. Embrace it. Work through it. Do the thing you believe you cannot do and do it anyway. You will then truly know your passion as an artist.


Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. She writes a business advice column for artists at and also for Belle Armoire Jewelry. She’s also the Director of Education and Marketing for Susan Lenart Kazmer ICE Resin®. To learn more, visit her website or follow her blog at




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One Response to Art Chooses You: Fear on the Path to Success

  1. Jinx says:

    Thanks Jen! Something i needed to hear.