Impostor Syndrome In The Art World

For the past few weeks I've been face-to-face with a creative block of detrimental proportion. Like a massive iceberg that I can't get around, through or over. I've been feeling stuck, stagnant and really unsure of myself and my work.

I'm a self-taught artist. Up until now this fact hasn't really bothered me. However I do get sporadic stings of thinking of what could have been - if I had studied fine art at university. How much farther forward would I be if I'd taken the traditional route and spent 3-4 years honing my craft? 

Be that as it may, I try not to think about it too much, since I don't have the funds to go through another degree, and besides, my art history background has gotten me this far, so I must be doing something right?

Still, recently I seem to have become hyper-aware of my academic credentials, or lack thereof, and I can't tell whether it's a genuine reason to feel behind the curve, or whether it's my brain trying to justify this general impostor-syndrome anxiety. 

To navigate my way through this foggy period I naturally sought out stories of people who've been through the same, and came across the audiobook 'Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking', by David Bayles. 

From the general language and case studies I got the sense that the book was geared towards 'professional' (trained) artists, so I was pretty relieved that it discussed exactly the issues I mentioned at the top of this post.

Bayles digs into the concept of feeling like a fraud in the art world. The anxieties faced by many if not most artists include the fear that your art is meaningless, that you have nothing worthwhile to say, that you can't keep up with art world trends, and worst of all, the sense that not only does no one understand the process of your art making - but no one even cares

The mercurial nature of galleries and critics doesn't help, nor the every-changing rhetoric around what constitutes art and what is merely 'craft'. To be honest I've not heard the word 'craft' thrown about all too much, but from my reading over the weekend I've gathered that this is sometimes used in a demeaning way towards artists working in less mainstream mediums like textiles or clay. As if some work is too 'simple' to be considered fine or high art - more like a hobby (just the word hobby gives me shivers).

This all sounds very morbid, but somehow it made me instantly feel 1000 times better about my own work. I realised that I'm not the only working artist to feel this way and that even if I had 'honed my craft' at art college I probably would've been spat out after graduation with exactly the same mindset I have now.

The creative block iceberg is beginning to thaw.