Setting priorities and clear goals has helped me to focus on what is most important and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has a helpful time-management matrix to structure your time and prioritize. This book also talks about thinking of yourself in different roles you may have — artist, wife, daughter, friend. Include time for each of these roles. I have a habit of putting all of my time into “artist” and it requires conscious effort for me to make sure I am not neglecting other areas of my life.
Starting something new is scary. Learning to believe in yourself can be a critical precursor to starting a new initiative. Why is it so important to learn to believe in yourself? How can someone work on gaining these skills? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, authors, writers, coaches, medical professionals, teachers, to share empowering insights about “How To Learn To Believe In Yourself.” As a part of this series we had the pleasure of interviewing Emilie Fantuz.
Emilie Fantuz is an American-Canadian artist known for her large-scale paintings depicting reflections and nocturnal urban landscapes. Her palette knife paintings combine technical elements of hyperrealism with an abstracted stylization that is distinctly her own. Through reflected imagery and complex compositions, Fantuz investigates the perception of colour and light inspired by the beauty of everyday scenes. Fantuz’s work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom and can be found in both private and public collections.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan and raised in South Lyon, Michigan, about an hour outside of Detroit. From a young age, I had a passion for art and was fortunate enough to have easy access to art supplies at home. I spent much of my time painting and drawing and had the opportunity to take some art classes as well. My mother was a librarian, so I also spent plenty of time at the library and developed a love for reading early on. One fond memory from my childhood is of my 6th birthday party, which had an “art party” theme.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Initially, I pursued a practical career in education, but my love for art grew stronger during my early years teaching on the island of Kauai. While living there, I would spend my weekends visiting local galleries and exploring new artistic techniques. It was during this time that I was introduced to the palette knife technique by a local artist, which I continue to use today. For those who may not be familiar, a palette knife is a flexible steel spatula used for painting. While some artists use it solely for mixing paint, I use it for actual painting. This technique is not commonly used for highly realistic paintings, but I have discovered that this tool is very versatile and and I can achieve the effects that I desire with this tool. While I never intended to make art my career, it has naturally progressed and I continue to dedicate more time to it. I still teach part-time, but my passion for art has become my primary focus.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While I can’t think of a specific funny mistake, I can certainly say that I made a lot of work that wasn’t great when I first started painting. With every challenge and mistake, I strove to take it as a learning opportunity, and found that it pushed me to be better. For example, I discovered that certain subjects, like steam or reflections in a window, were difficult to paint with a palette knife and I continued to practice until I was able to achieve the look that I was aiming for. I think that it is important to remember that mistakes truly help us learn — and can be very memorable learning opportunities.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently, I am collaborating with my husband, Mike Fantuz, on our second joint exhibition featuring our palette knife paintings. The exhibition will take place at Christina Parker Gallery in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost province, and we are so excited for the opportunity to showcase our work together. Our exhibition explores the concept of place identity and how places we are from and places that we visit shape who we are as individuals. As an immigrant to Canada, I incorporate imagery related to Canadian culture into some of my work, drawing inspiration from my surroundings and finding beauty in unexpected places. Meanwhile, Mike draws on his experience in aviation to create works from an aerial perspective that showcase St. John’s in a new way, with glittering lights from above. Our hope is that our art will leave viewers with a sense of curiosity and wonder. Perhaps it will spark new thoughts and ideas.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to believe in yourself? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Believing in oneself is essential to getting started in anything. I think that part of believing in yourself can mean that you have to accept the fact that everyone starts as a beginner , being open to learning, and being patient with yourself. Believing in oneself when faced with a big goal or task can be overwhelming at first, but breaking down goals into smaller, manageable steps makes it possible. As an artist, it can be overwhelming when planning an exhibition. There is a huge amount of pre-planning involved, including selecting imagery, editing photography, and deciding which few images will eventually make it into a painting. It is a full year of work before you see it come together, I break it down into monthly goals of what I want to complete. I have to believe in myself in what I am doing to sustain the dedication required to complete the necessary tasks over a year, and do so in the isolation of my studio. It really takes conscious focus and planning to believe in what you are doing and see it through.
What exactly does it mean to believe in yourself? Can I believe that I can be a great artist even though I’m not very talented? Can I believe I can be a gold medal Olympic even if I’m not athletic? Can you please explain what you mean?
There’s a common misconception that people who achieve great things are simply talented or lucky. However, I believe that it’s the dedication, commitment, and self-belief that ultimately lead to success. It’s not about having some special gift, but about taking action each day to come closer to your goals.
Was there a time when you did not believe in yourself? How did this impact your choices?
I’m grateful to say that I’ve always believed in myself, largely because of how I break things down into smaller, more achievable goals. When I was first starting out, I hoped to gain gallery representation and receive commissions for public artwork. By setting goals and working backwards to develop a plan to achieve them, I’ve been able to believe in myself. I think a key has been to scaffold my goals and start smaller and work up towards larger goals.
At what point did you realize that in order to get to the next level, it would be necessary to build up your belief in yourself? Can you share the story with us?
I believe that building up my belief in myself has been a gradual process, rather than a single moment of realization. As I achieved each small goal, it naturally led me to set bigger and more ambitious ones. For instance, when I first started my painting career, I aimed to get into a juried group show. As I succeeded in achieving that goal, my confidence grew, and I set my sights on even larger goals, such as having a solo exhibition at a reputable gallery.
What are your top 5 strategies that will help someone learn to believe in themselves? Please share a story or example for each.
1 . Journaling has been a valuable practice for me. After reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I adopted the habit of writing each morning. This exercise helped me reflect on my thoughts, reveal new ideas, and make connections that I would not have otherwise discovered. When you continually have the same thoughts come into your mind each day with the same questions you eventually make connections and take action.
2 . A morning routine is critical for starting the day with a calm and positive mindset. For me, my morning routine includes running and journaling, I have found myself to be more focused, less stressed, and better able to identify solutions to problems.
3 . Learning from others through podcasts or other resources has been instrumental in my personal growth. By listening to successful people and their experiences, I have discovered many valuable insights and applied them to my own life. I especially like the “QuickRead Podcast” which summarizes books on a variety of topics, often related to personal growth and self-belief.
4 . Practicing positive self-talk has helped me to cultivate a more optimistic mindset. By changing negative phrases like “I can’t” to “I can’t yet,” I have achieved incredible growth and consistency in my work. It takes conscious effort to do this and it might be helpful to look at some examples of how to do this so you are prepared with statements to combat any negative self-talk that comes to mind.
5 . Setting priorities and clear goals has helped me to focus on what is most important and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” has a helpful time-management matrix to structure your time and prioritize. This book also talks about thinking of yourself in different roles you may have — artist, wife, daughter, friend. Include time for each of these roles. I have a habit of putting all of my time into “artist” and it requires conscious effort for me to make sure I am not neglecting other areas of my life.
Conversely, how can one stop the negative stream of self-criticism that often accompanies us as we try to grow?
Overcoming negative self-criticism requires self-discipline and the conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It is essential to have a toolbox of strategies, such as taking breaks, changing tasks, positive self-talk, or finding new resources to address the issue. It is also possible that you may need to reassess your goal and your plan of how you will get there.
Are there any misconceptions about self-confidence and believing in oneself that you would like to dispel?
A common misconception is that self-confidence is something innate or that it appears out of nowhere. In reality, it is something that we can actively work on and develop over time.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with imposter syndrome?
I would recommend exploring those feelings through journaling and creating positive affirmations to combat these thoughts. Many people experience imposter syndrome and it could be helpful to spend some time thinking about why you might be feeling this way and to spend time acknowledging those feelings. It can also be useful to approach the situation from an outside perspective. Imagine that you’re someone else looking at yourself, and ask yourself if you would think that person is an imposter. Often, we are much harsher on ourselves than we are on others, and this exercise can help to provide some much-needed perspective.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I strongly believe that our communities would benefit greatly from an increase in public art that showcases a diverse range of mediums and artists. It’s not just about aesthetics, it’s about incorporating art in a way that enhances our wellbeing, curiosity, and connectedness. I think it’s important for developers and businesses to prioritize the inclusion of art in their design plans, both inside and outside of buildings, and work with local artists to create unique and meaningful installations.
I recently saw a healthcare facility near my home that opted for generic posters/reproductions instead of collaborating with local artists, and it was highly disappointing. There are many studies about how facilities with art create an atmosphere that is healthier, happier, more productive, and less stressful.
Public art should not be limited to just galleries or museums, but should be accessible and integrated into our daily lives. Whether it’s in libraries, parks, community centres, airports, or other public spaces, art has the power to solve problems, increase mindfulness, and promote cultural understanding.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Sarah Milroy, the Chief Curator at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. She is incredibly knowledgeable about Canadian art, and I’ve had the pleasure of attending some of her conversations with artists and curator tours. I was particularly impressed by her recent exhibition ‘Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Movement’, which brought attention to many talented Canadian women artists.
Sarah has a wealth of knowledge, and I believe there is much I could learn from her. I would be very grateful for the opportunity to have a conversation with her, to ask questions and discuss her approach to curatorial practice. It would be a wonderful opportunity to gain insights and deepen my understanding of Canadian art.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My work can be found at www.emiliefantuz.com or an Instagram @EmilieFantuz
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.