I had deeply internalized all those negative, destructive messages and made them into my own beliefs that >I< was a failure, that >I< was the one to blame, and that >I< would ‘never make it’ –

Sedna, Queen of the Seas, who never once failed her Soul…

I attended an intense marketing workshop for women artists a while back. It made me cry. It put me right smack dab up against the years and years of deep conditioning about being a woman that I have railed in futility against my entire life.

I absolutely loved everything about that workshop. Because the instructor pointed out that it wasn’t our fault that we didn’t do well marketing our art work.

Because the instructor pointed out that the system was set up against us, just because we were female.

Here’s how it fit for me:
• I was a kid in the 50s. It was assumed that “little girls are to be seen and not heard — and ideally, not even seen…”
• And I was told — more times than you can imagine — “Here, dear, take this pencil and paper and go hush up, don’t bother us, that’s a good girl…”
• Later, in art school, the invisible message was, “If you try to sell your work you’re selling out — art for art’s sake, you know…”
• My father, who literally told me, “You’re just a woman, you’ll never make it, especially as an artist. You’ll just get married and make babies and give up, and I will have wasted my money on all this silly art nonsense…”
• Who also said, “You better major in graphic design, because fine artists, especially women, don’t make it — at least you’ll have a fall-back…”
• And later, certain gallery owners’ snide remarks: “We don’t carry art by women…” and “Your art is just like (local famous man artist) — we couldn’t possibly show it here…” and “Why don’t you go home and bake cakes?”
• And the curators who said, “You’re a woman, you shouldn’t be so outwardly ambitious, it’s unattractive…”
• Another who said, “You’ll never understand the art world, dear, just go home…”

While I hated how messages felt, I also believed them.

That’s why it’s called ‘conditioning’ — you think it’s just ‘how things are.’ I spent 35 years with suicidal thinking boiling in the back of my mind because of those messages.

I couldn’t figure out why I’d been given this amazing gift, only to be criticized, torn apart, derided and rejected.

I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t last at any ‘real’ jobs, either.

Every day I fantasized about how I’d do the Dirty Deed to end things. Thankfully, I never had the courage to choose a method and carry through…

Every day I wondered why I was such a failure, even though I tried so hard. I wondered why I did my best work and hardly anyone bought it.

And every night I was afraid to go to sleep knowing I’d suffer hideous nightmares of being rejected and shunned and derided…

I watched as people visited my studio and oooohed and ahhhhhed, and then turned to each other saying, “Honey, let’s go get some coffee…” And never came back or bought any of the art they ‘loved’ so much.

I didn’t know what to do. On any level. I just knew I’d end up under a bridge, filthy, starving, ill and dying desperate and alone.

Turns out, it wasn’t my fault.

I had deeply internalized all those negative, destructive messages and made them into my own beliefs that >I< was a failure, that >I< was the one to blame, and that >I< would ‘never make it’ –

It wasn’t my fault.


I want to scream this from the bloody rooftops!

To every woman artist who feels like a failure!

We were never shown that we were OK, just as we were.
We were never taught to love ourselves and our contributions to the world.
We were never encouraged to be anything other than a nurse or teacher or phone operator (This was the 50s — for real!)
We were never taught that marketing doesn’t always equate to being sleazy and unscrupulous.
We were never taught that marketing is as necessary as breathing.
We were never taught how to market our work.
We were never taught how to buckle up and be courageous and TALK about our work — in joy — to EVERYone.

We were never taught that talking about our work
is friend-marketing, not vanity, not shameful.

We were never taught how to have the confidence to keep trying.
We were never taught to switch gears to something else if what we were doing wasn’t working.
We were never taught to look for our markets, or how to find them.
We were never taught how to recognize the customers who would buy, and buy again, and refer others to us.
We were never taught what to say, or who to approach, or how.
We were never taught how to hold our heads up in the face of criticism and derision.
We were never taught what to do when we had inklings of success!
We were never taught how to handle our money, as much or as little as that might be.

We were never taught jack shit about selling our work, and we were made fun of, if we did try.

Now do you see why I cried at that workshop? I felt so relieved!

I felt free of self-blame. Done with it. No more ‘it’s all my fault!’

i felt like now I could have an open mind and heart — open to watching videos and classes and trainings on how to sell my art (and now my books).

Now I know that selling is a service, connecting people with the art that enlivens and enhances their lives.

Now I knew, even though my failure was NEVER my fault, that I did amazingly well despite the handicaps.

Now I knew that despite my buying into the victimhood role, making me complicit in my own ‘failure,’ it was still my right to succeed.

So now?

• No more victim-me.
• No more depression, confusion or collapsing of my energy.
• No more buying into others’ opinions or suggestions until I really look at them and ask myself, how could I make this work for me?
• No more complying with the status quo, even on the most subtle levels.

Thank you [workshop leaders] for encouraging us to
market market market until we are blue in the face!

For helping us get that it has to be an every day, consistent effort, no matter what the immediate results are.

For helping us see it wasn’t/isn’t our fault that we grew up in a fetid rotten swamp of negative messages — but that we can choose right now to step out of it and rise up.

We can even celebrate every moment of the time it takes to build up our client lists, customer bases and collectors.

And cherish every damn moment.

We can embrace the ideas of pivoting, prototype mindset, price-point diversity, pre-sales, gallery setups, art fairs, front-yard art sales, making friends, building lovely relationships both off and online….

No more tears.

No more self-recrimination.

If you haven’t marketed, start.
If you have, do more.
If you’ve done more, do even more.
If you’ve done that, help someone else.

Man, what a relief.

We women artists have to keep on keeping on!


Thanks so much for reading my story. I hope it lit you up. Or maybe it inspired you, or made you curious, or gave you a new perspective with which to view and appreciate your own life. Or maybe take on a new exciting scary fun adventure! That’s my wish.



Image: Sedna
© Angela Treat Lyon 2010
text © Angela Treat Lyon 2023

If you’d like a print of Sedna, please contact me.

This is an enhanced version of a story in my series, INSIDE SECRETS, Stories I’ve Never Told Anyone, Volume III . You can get this book and most of my other books as free or choose what you pay ebooks at atlyon.gumroad.com; or in print on amazon.


The art that saved my life:
Original paintings, drawings, and prints: LyonArtandDesign.com
Original paintings and stone sculpture: AngelaTreatLyonART.com

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