Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Fear Factor

I have yet to meet an artist who doesn't recognise what I call "The Fear Factor" stage of a piece of art. You know that feeling when the piece is going so well, that to place the next brush stroke, patch, stitch or whatever will surely ruin it. I know that I have been literally paralysed with creative fear. Often for weeks at a time and sometimes I have avoided finishing a piece altogether in case I wreck what is surely going to be my "Masterpiece" with the capital M!!!

I have been mulling over this thought for a while now and would like to share some thoughts for getting through this block. For that is what it really is. A block.

In the above Poppies painting, I was stuck for almost 2 weeks with this fear. Every time I went near the painting I got so afraid of what to do next that I would down brushes and find something else to do. That was ok the first week as I had some other creative stuff on the go and classes to prep for, but week 2 saw my house getting some serious cleaning! Look, let me be frank here, even my oven got cleaned. Now I would like my in laws to think this is normal behaviour for me (I mean the cleaning) but to all you creatives out there, you can see that this was seriously eccentric behaviour. On any normal day, normal for me anyway, painting would win hands down over oven cleaning for sure.

Going to bed one night I prayed for inspiration on getting through this block when the following thought popped into my mind. IT'S ONLY A PIECE OF PAPER. Now, I cant count how many occasions I have consoled my students with this piece of advice, but I had forgotten to follow it myself. Then I thought," even if it goes horribly wrong I can use it as a practice piece and redo over fresh." So next morning I went into my art room and fired up the ole brushes!

There are many more illustrious than I with wonderful advice on this sticky old problem. To quote just a few,

Julia Cameron, author of the wonderful "Artists Way" ; "Remember that is is my job to do the work, not judge the work."
George Tooker; "Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life. There are as many solutions as there are human beings"
Joseph Chilton Pearce; " To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong"
Robert Motherwell; " In the brush doing what it's doing, it will stumble on what one couldn't do by oneself."
Albert Einstein; "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."

If you are wondering if I managed to finish or wreck the Poppy painting you can judge for yourself on


  1. that's a lovely painting!
    i also love the quote from marianne williamson:

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

  2. I've been there honey, mind you I never got as far as cleaning the oven! I remember working on a piece for three days solid, my back was broke and then I chucked it in the bin! I've never forgiven myself! ;D

    LOVE the poppy painting and those reds just pop off the screen - it was definitely a labour of love! Tx :)