Fear of Failure

This is the most dangerous thing that will hold you back. It is an obstacle that seems to grow with you, as you develop more and more into your own artistic self.

It seems that every time I learn a new skill, I feel like it weighs me down with expectation for my next painting. Expectation that it will be the best thing I have done. Expectation that I will learn much while doing it. Expectation that I will love it. Expectation that others will love it. Expectation that I will fail.

Yes, you read that last one correctly. I feel more and more that I will lose my skill or never achieve the painting caliber and style that I want. I know that it is holding me back. It doesn’t help that I have invested more money into better paper and paints, and I just picked up a decent #6 round the other day. In fact, the better materials put more pressure on me. The cost is higher if I fail.

It is tough to start anything with that in mind, so I found that I have delved more into my watercolor instruction books, and have started a few tutorials. It isn’t that I feel a loss of confidence – in fact I feel more confident than ever! I believe that with the increased understanding of the medium follows an understanding of how badly things can go. It is almost as if I have learned too much and now know what is good, what is bad in a painting. It’s a regular Pandora’s box, all this information I have gathered.

However, I am heartened by the fact that I cannot stop. If I do, I will NEVER improve. I must practice. And moving to worse materials and supplies just defeats the purpose of gathering better ones. The better ones are easier to work with, produce deeper hues and richer colors and tones. Why go back?

I think everyone is challenged by these things. Feelings of inadequacy and lacking the support from others, who think everything you do is good and nice, but the voice inside your head tells you that it is because they don’t know so much about art. It is an awful little voice. It doesn’t help that I am a good listener, too.

But you know what, I have to keep going. I just feel hindered by everyday tasks and school and work and the looming threat of examinations and such that seem to eat away at my time. I worry sometimes about my own worrying, and that consumes creative energies. (Just look at this post! I guess I had more to say about this than I thought! This is catharsis!)

It is a terrible thing to find something you are passionate about, because every time you think you have completed something, or exhausted a subject, you find that the well of possibilities has deepened further. There is even more you can do – so much that you haven’t tried.

So after wallowing a bit, and shying from the task, I find that I DO have the determination to go on. My work is improving steadily, though I tend to see its shortcomings without giving myself due credit for the things that actually went well. In fact, I have to make more of an effort to give due diligence to the things that I have accomplished in each painting without focusing solely on what I could have improved. Those things are good to keep in mind, as well, but not solely to focus on.

What I wanted to share in this post is that inspiration is something that flows from around us and from within us, and once you open that door, it never really locks behind you. Keep moving forward. Have a plan before painting. Don’t have a plan before painting. It doesn’t really matter. But take away the pressure from yourself and loosen up, because you are making something that would bring you pleasure into something you avoid.

I’ll conclude with some words of wisdom:

  • “Just keep swimming.” – Dory
  • “Start at SquareOne.” – Me 🙂
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