Imagine: you are no longer worried about your skill level or confidence. You have everything you need to confidently express yourself through unique, original art. You can proudly say, “I am an artist,” when friends, loved ones, and even strangers see your work.

Now, what if I told you all that is absolutely possible for you, starting today? I can almost hear your eye-roll, but here’s the thing: it’s true. Your skill isn’t actually holding you back. Your mindset is what’s holding you back from creating your best art.

Hey there! 👋 I’m Carrie. Here on Artist Strong, I help self-taught artists who have a home studio and feel stuck with their art move from wondering what’s next to confidently expressing themselves through unique, original art. To date, thousands have joined the community.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 If you feel like gaps in your learning hold you back from making your best art, sign up and watch my workshop, “How to Create Art from Your Imagination.” It’s completely free for you to watch, and the link is in the description below.

Today, let’s talk about your mindset and how thoughts like staying in your lane, being stuck to an idea or style forever, and the fear of your art looking all over the place actively hold you back from making the art you dream of.

Staying in Your Lane

“Stay in your lane” is the idea that whatever you are currently doing with your art is the only thing you should ever be doing with your art.

Let’s talk about someone I’ll call Mary. She has worked primarily in pen and ink, creating beautiful drawings that often focus on buildings or landscapes. Recently, she has started wanting more for her art. She’s curious about incorporating color and maybe exploring a new medium like watercolor.

I truly hope she trusts this curiosity and embraces experimenting with new ideas. Sometimes, the discomfort of exploring new ideas and the drop in skill we experience when learning a new medium can trigger our inner critic, saying things like, “Just stay in your lane.” But our inner critic’s goal is often separate from our art goals; it wants us to play small to stay safe.

To be an artist is to explore styles, techniques, and ideas. When we are in the process of exploration, it’s not about achievement or standards; it’s an experiment.

By listening to my own curiosity and telling my inner critic to take a backseat, I followed a meandering path to my art and my unique voice. That’s why I’m here talking to you now. I wouldn’t be doing any of the art or teaching I am today had I stayed in my lane. The next time you hear something like “stay in your lane,” take it as an invitation or challenge to fully embrace your curiosity and say yes to the new ideas and materials calling to you.

Stick to One Style

Another related mindset issue that deserves special attention is the idea to stick to one style. This message is all over the Internet, but it’s always missing important nuances.

Style is the unique way in which an artist shares their voice in their art. I have a video all about this that digs into the six qualities of style, which you can watch via the link below.

While we all bring unique ideas and vision to our art, our style really starts to show in our work when we consciously explore and manipulate the six qualities of style.

When we are learning and developing our skill and style, engaging in exploration, the influences of those we learn from can be really strong, making our work heavily reflect the style of our mentors. This is part of our learning journey. It’s how we learn new techniques and begin to explore our interests, ultimately helping us communicate a unique, original style in our art.

At this point in the journey, we also start getting praise and validation, which encourages us to share our work and maybe even sell it. And here’s where we get confused. “I have to stick to one style, but I’m not even sure I love what I’m currently doing, and I want to learn more! It doesn’t quite yet feel like my voice.”

If you feel your work still heavily reflects the work of mentors and teachers and feel a calling to do more, don’t stop now—you’re just getting started.

Today’s video is brought to you by my premium program “Self-Taught to Self-Confident.” If you are tired of spinning your wheels and spending money on classes that teach you how to paint like someone else and are ready to make art that reflects your unique voice and style, this program is for you. 


“Self-Taught to Self-Confident” walks you through building strong foundations to draw and paint whatever you want so you can confidently build a practice to show up regularly for your art and begin to explore what you want to say. You will create a series of artworks that reflect your unique style that you can share (and maybe even sell). Hop on a call with me to see if you’re a good fit and walk away with a clear plan for your art today.

My Work is All Over the Place

I have enough art materials to stock my own art supply store. You, too?

As we explore materials, ideas, and techniques, it’s inevitable that our art will feel all over the place. It’s part of experimenting! We can get stuck here, however, if we don’t start thinking more consciously about our style and what we want for our art.

That’s when it’s time to explore and experiment with a bit more of a plan.

If feeling more consistent is important to you, this is exactly when starting to work in a series can help you push your skill and voice development to a new level, all while feeling more focused and still using all of the ideas and media that excite you.

I have a whole post on why artists should work in a series, which you can find via the link below. Creating work in a series—a group of 5 to 25 works that focus on one idea, style, or medium—helps challenge you to push your experimentation and ideas further as you use multiple works to explore variations on the idea.

An example of some older work of mine is painting Arabic lanterns. I created a series of these because I loved the image references and colors. I was exploring so much I wasn’t satisfied with one. I explored composition and scale, and really embraced my enthusiasm for the work.

Another example is my Anonymous Woman series. I stumbled upon images of women training to be cabbies in the 1940s while men were off at war. They were documented for the novelty of their evolving gender roles, but no one thought it important to record their names. This really stuck with me, so I decided to give them time by drawing and painting them, embellishing them with gold leaf and embroidery, and finally giving them names.

Engaging with my ideas in this way has allowed me to develop my ideas and think about them more deeply, while also exploring the media I work with.

Here’s my other trick: I also explore more than one series at a time. This way, if I’m feeling frustrated, bored, or need a break, I still have other work to explore that can capture my motivation and interest.

This also helps with your marketing and presentation of your work. It communicates consistency, which helps build trust with collectors or for any grants or exhibitions you apply for.

Having a Recognizable Way of Working

Working in a series helps you and others begin to see what artistic choices and ideas repeat in and across your art. This can be one way to create art people recognize as yours.

But what also happens is the more work you make, the more ideas you get, which continues your evolution. This means what you might be recognized for will also change.

When I look at my art, especially my Anonymous Woman series, I can see a larger, connecting thread through my work. This thread is what makes my work mine—not that I stick to one idea, one medium, or one approach to painting.

I now have the understanding and language to discuss this. When I discuss my art as a whole or as a body of work, this is a means to discuss my evolution and consistency as an artist.

You likely already have some of this larger, connecting thread visible in your work. It’s time to sit back and reflect on your artistic choices to start to tease out your connections and make more conscious decisions moving forward.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 What’s one “aha” you’ve had so far today? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Perfectionism is a Problem

When I break down these beliefs, what comes up for you? Often these ideas become obstacles in our minds and even more excuses for not showing up for art.

Remember at the beginning how I said you already have everything you need to confidently express yourself through unique art? It’s because it’s true. Some of the negative mindsets we hold make us believe that if these beliefs are true, it means something is wrong with our art or even us.

Perfectionism is part of the problem. It encourages black-and-white thinking that dismisses nuance and tells us discomfort means we are doing something wrong.

The irony is that perfectionism keeps us in a constant state of discomfort. We avoid risks and procrastinate from doing the work for fear of doing it poorly or wrong, but we still yearn for something different for our art.

And this is why we can internalize these mindset issues and see them as evidence of our failure, with an inner critic telling us to give up.

What if instead we worked through the creative process in our learning journey, addressing the issues that come up from these beliefs being triggered, and felt fully capable of addressing them? These beliefs aren’t signs something is wrong with your art; they’re signs you are doing the work. Welcome to being an artist!

Once you see the opportunities for learning and growth available in these beliefs, they stop feeling like obstacles and start to feel like stepping stones in your artistic journey.

And this applies to everything, including your skill and voice development. It’s not your limits of skill or medium—it’s your lack of belief that you’re capable of solving these problems.

I promise you, you are capable of more than you realize.

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 I hope you’ve found today’s conversation valuable. If you like this video and want to see more like it, please like and subscribe to Artist Strong. It makes a huge difference in helping me better serve you.

Today we are unpacking the beliefs you’ve internalized and the messages we receive about our art.

None of those beliefs have to be proof of your failure on this journey. Rather, they can be a map that helps you identify where you want to go and how to get there.

Stay in your lane.

Stick to one style.

Have a recognizable way of working.

These are just a few of the messages we hear about being successful at art. 

👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽Do you have one that has held you back or another I didn’t mention? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

I hope you can now celebrate the possibilities for your art, available to you today, when you start to believe in yourself.

I believe in you. Now it’s time for YOU to believe in you.

Remember, proudly call yourself “Artist.”

Together, we are Artist Strong.