View Full Version : Newbie Procrastination

07-26-2010, 03:18 PM
I'm scared to death. I am a beginning artist, and as I mentioned in another post, I have been taking pastels lessons for 3 weeks. I've been working on a project, a still life, and I am quite pleased with an apple that I painted. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that it is the best looking apple ever created by human hands:clap: I created it 2 days ago. Now I cannot sit down at my easel and continue with the project. I have a sense of fear that if I work on the remainder of the painting, the whole thing will go to @#$%. I'm so unsure of my ability to continue to do well that I'm cleaning the house, surfing the net, anything to not go in there and face the painting. I'm very excited about it and interested in it. I'm just afraid of it. Do any of you have fear/procrastination problems? I'd like to not feel so alone in my psychosis here. Thank you. Leslie

07-26-2010, 03:59 PM
Hi Leslie

I know exactly how you feel. I think it is quite common, because you think there is no way you will be able to do as well on your next painting. As you say, you just painted "the best looking apple ever created by human hands." :thumbsup:

It took me a long time to get over that feeling. I think by participating in threads like The Spotlight and The Monthly Sketch Thread got me over this feeling. There is no pressure to create masterpieces and both threads have a friendly group of peolpe at all levels of skill.

Another thing to remember is, it is just paper. If you paint a stinker and don't want anyone to see it, just grab another piece of paper and try again. I still sometimes do two or three paintings from one photo.

So, grab a pear and another piece of paper and paint away! Have fun and remember, there is no pressure. Just try painting something every day. Before you know it, you will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Good luck and get dusty.


07-26-2010, 04:06 PM
Oh no, I know that feeling all to well I'm a great procrastinator too have you tried freecell? :lol: darn computer it's too easy. Seriously though you need to work through your fear in order to conquer it. Do not be afraid it is only a drawing and if it's this good so far imagine what you could achieve if you continued go on have a go. :cat:

07-26-2010, 04:14 PM
Ah yes, the fear of destroying that masterpiece! I've been there, done that, and don't want to go back there again! In the past, If I really liked something so much that I was afraid I would destroy it if I continued, I would start something else, and go back to my "masterpiece" later. It sort of calmed me down, took off the pressure, and allowed me to just think. You will definitely get over this, as you start to see that you can indeed produce more than one "masterpiece" - you will, you know. It's just a matter of time before the knowledge and experience kicks in, and the "happy accidents" are more on purpose. Just keep painting, don't stress yourself out about messing things up, and know that you will indeed mess things up just like the rest of us. I now look at a failed painting as a good experience, because I now know "what NOT to do"! Seriously, this is true, and equally as important as knowing what TO DO! Like Doug said,

Another thing to remember is, it is just paper.

Ain't that the truth? So what about the time, it's all about learning anyway, and no one can take that away from you. You'll always have what you've learned right there in your head, at the ready whenever you need it! :thumbsup: You're only going to get better, so keep on painting!

if it's this good so far imagine what you could achieve if you continued go on have a go. :cat:

So true, also. If you don't continue, you'll never know just how good you could have painted it! :D

You're in good company here. I'm sure there are many of us out there that have gone through this cycle, you will survive this!

07-26-2010, 04:31 PM
hey, chill :)
way too self-analytical :)
what if you used some pieces/strips of white paper, to zero in, like improvising a mat to focus on what you like, and look at it again, and if it's good, that's all you need - a cutout = point of reference = focus on an object, nailed it, and then putting together other pieces on a more complex painting - a collage perhaps ?
that's all within Your point of view/method, which is the first and last confidence in yourself
making the mark is the first priority, and a sense of satisfaction does sweeten it.
look forward to seeing your work
:} Ed

07-26-2010, 05:05 PM
Aw, you guys are terrific. Thank you so much for your encouragement and advice.

I looked into the "Goal Post" and "Spotlight" threads. I really enjoyed reading everyone's goals for the month, and I think I will begin to tackle the spotlight projects. This is a great site with great people.

And you're right, I should think that if I have made the most gorgeous apple:cat: now, what will I be able to do with daily practice. It is, as you've said, just a piece of paper, and every project is a learning experience. I'm making the commitment right now, that no matter how nervous I'm feeling, I will face the work. I love it so much, I'm not sure how I have been able to stay away for this long. I guess cowardice is a powerful force.
Thanks again, everyone!!!!!!!

07-26-2010, 05:35 PM
Hi Leslie and Welcome!

I think we have all been where you are! I have been procrastinating for well over 30 years now! :lol:

Since you are just starting in pastels, don't even think about "final results". Everything you are doing at this stage is practice!! Even now, after 30 years of painting, I still approach most pieces with the idea that I'm going to practice something, or try out a new idea, or use a new paper for the first time. It helps take off the pressure. Two years ago, I started a painting merely as an experiment in using a new (for me) underpainting idea. When I was done, the painting was excellent and eventually got into a show! Last year, when I tried doing some paintings specifically for the same show - the paintings didn't come out so well and I was rejected!

Another thing to perhaps help you out is, when doing a piece, work on the entire piece from the beginning, then progress the entire piece bit by bit. In other words, don't do an apple from start to finish if there are other things in the painting. I know some people work this way, but I wouldn't recommend it, especially since it is so easy to worry that the next part won't be as good as what you have already done. If you finish each part of the painting at roughly the same time, no such anxiety!


07-26-2010, 06:10 PM
Oooooh, Don, working overall is an excellent idea. That will lessen the anxiety. Thanks.

07-27-2010, 04:45 PM
Hi Leslie! You've had some good input here and I can't add much more except to say I've been there too.....and still go there, but not as often.
If you persist to the bitter end with a painting I think you will be as surprised as I was by how few "failures" you get.
Re the apple...finish the painting, it could be brilliant!! If it isn't, crop it, cut it, let that apple BE the painting!

07-27-2010, 05:19 PM
I know that feeling too. Being a real newbie to pastels as well, I feel some anxiety about not getting it right. Many years ago I painted wildlife paintings in oil. Hubby would have to tell me to stop before I ruined the whole painting, because I would keep making changes til someone tied my hands down (almost).
I keep reminding myself that if I painted it once I should be able to do it again..
I have found much more enjoyment from the pastels than I ever had from the oils. I also tried acrylics and watercolor for a very short time. Acrylics were really bad . I liked watercolor pretty well, that was until I picked up my first pastel.. That was the end of the story for me.. I love love love pastels.
I think Don hit the nail on the head. Working the entire painting at once.
Just enjoy the process.

07-27-2010, 08:00 PM
I did it again today!!!!! I went to art school and came straight home, intending to do at least 2 more hours of practice. Then I remembered that I had coupons for the art supply store. So i got dressed again and went to the art store. My coupons totaled %70 percent off, so I bought a set of 60 Rembrandt half sticks and a Roz box. I made out great on that deal, but didn't get any further practice done again today. Blah!!!! I determined to get to some serious work tomorrow!!!!!!

07-27-2010, 08:30 PM
Welcome to the world of pastel addiction. Tomorrow play with your new toys. Oh heck, do it this evening. Paint, paint, paint. You can do it!:thumbsup:


07-28-2010, 03:45 AM
As someone who considers themself a beginner as well, there's a quote I took from Tony Pro in Artist's Magazine a while ago: If you did something right once, you can do it right again.

Couple that with Epicurus quote, "What is no trouble when it arrives is an idle worry in anticipation," and you have the new philosophy I'm working to internalize every day.

Just do something. If it's good, you can do it again. If not, then you learned something.


07-28-2010, 10:25 AM
Thank you, Jon. Great advice. I'm definitely going to write those quotes down and put them in my studio today. They may be just the kick that I need. I cannot continue in this way. It's ridiculous:o

07-28-2010, 07:03 PM
Even the best of artists have been on asking for help with paintings and expressing frustration and anxiety. It happens to all of us not just beginners as you will see if you follow the threads. So hang in there and just paint. Some will be wonderful and some you will hate, some will come easy and some will fight you all the way to the end. The important thing is to paint and have fun. Jen

07-28-2010, 08:52 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, Jen. I did get down to some serious work today in addition to art class. It felt so good to spend hours with my new toys. It is so good to know that you guys have experienced the same things also, and it's not just me.
Thanks, everyone.

07-29-2010, 10:46 AM
I just wanted to say that as someone new to art I completely identify with your procrastination. All my life I believed that I couldn't do art. Just wasn't capable of it. And so of course I never even tried. until recently. And now when I paint or draw something that has even a few elements that work I'm so stunned that it was me who did it that I'm unable to go on. Or start something new. It must have been a fluke! right?

The quotation "If you did something right once, you can do it right again" is something I need to keep repeating because I don't have the confidence that I can do it again. Or even more astonishing, I might even do it better. Thanks for posting that, jon. And good luck, LeslieErica.

07-29-2010, 11:55 AM
Oh, my goodness, Talley. Your story sounds just like mine. I tried drawing (other than when I was a child) in 1999. I had some successes and gave it up, never thinking that I was talented enough to pursue art at all. Since drawing and painting have always been something that I realllllly wanted to do, I decided to try again this year, at age 48. I even figured that I was too old to do well, but I decided to just do art because it feels good and to do it for myself. Once I got started in earnest and began taking lessons, I had several successes and have decided that this is actually something that I am meant to do. And you have chosen the perfect word. "Stunned" is exactly how I feel when something in my art goes well. Thanks for sharing with me, and thanks for wishing me good luck.

07-29-2010, 01:22 PM
I may get pummeled by the Pure Pastel People (!) but I ran across that problem the night before last: I did a background for a picture, and it was so "right" I didn't want to spoil it! So I sprayed it with workable fixative, and it turned even "righter"!

My thinking was that with the fixative, even if I Really Blew It, I could just brush off the oops and try it again. And again. And again. Fortunately, the first try at adding worked very nicely.


07-29-2010, 05:20 PM
Lol, Rich. Doesn't it feel so terrific when something turns out very well? Congrats that it all worked out well.

07-30-2010, 03:33 PM
Hi LeslieErica,

I feel exactly the same. When I was a child, I loved drawing. I was not bad. When I grew up, I gave it up. But there was always that need of drawing and painting inside me. Lately, I discoverd soft pastels and I fell in love with that painting medium. I a took beginner lessons and I loved it. But my main problem is that I need to push myself to sit down and paint. I love it, but I'm not confident enough when I hold a pastel stick in my hand, and I'm always afraid I'm gonna do a mess with it. So I often end up surfing on the net to find information about pastels, and during that time I'm not painting... I guess that the more experience we get, the less that we have that fear that stops us sometimes.

I've discovered a nice web site that is very usefull to get some really good advice and practice. So when I'm stuck and I am not sure how to handle a painting, I go there and I get some practice. I cannot post the link as I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I am not allowed to post link. But if you google "landscapesinpastel blogspot deborah secor", you will find it.

It's artist Deborah Secor's blog. She is posting each and every chapters of a very nice pastel book. She shows us how to paint clouds, water, trees etc.

I wish you good luck a don't give up on pastels! It is so great!


07-30-2010, 07:28 PM
Hi LeslieErica. I read through the entire thread to see if anyone else had mentioned what I do when I hit that point with a painting. I do sometimes, even now. What's down is so good and beautiful that I don't want to wreck it.

There's a couple of things I do to deal with that.

One is to back up and do studies of everything else in the painting. Separately, on smaller pieces of paper or in a sketchbook or something. Get so used to all the subjects in it that I've got confidence about it. Also if I didn't do notans and value studies and thumbnails to plan composition, I can back up and do that.

Place the apple in a little scribbled sketch in a sketchbook, much smaller, just denote it with a small simpler version. Sketch these in charcoal, pen or pencil. Then play around with the background and the composition till you get that right. Being aware you can crop it, change this or that about it and otherwise do all the "planning the painting" steps helps with confidence. It may also help the painting.

You can even show these sketches, post them here in Studio and post the painting as a WIP, apple and all. That adds some social pressure to finish it in a big positive way. Everyone else who likes the apple will want to see the finish. Also, more experienced artists may have good suggestions on your planning sketches and everything else that goes in with the apple.

Another thing you can do. Do the apple again as a study. Just the apple. You got it perfect. Prove it to yourself that you can do it again if you goof up the painting.

One thing I had to try in person in order to believe it: pastel is reworkable. I could not believe how completely I could make changes to something on a pastel painting. I did it after a critique by Charlie on one of mine, changed the shape of a tree and moved a shadow and changed some colors.

It worked. It looked as if I'd done it that way in the first place. It completely blew me away. If you mess it up you can brush out the part that didn't work and keep the apple.

So instead of waiting for critique, try that on a study of the apple. Sketch it again, do a background and then deliberately change something in the background. Scrub the dust off with a stiff brush like a dry bristle brush, then pick up as much as you can with a kneaded eraser. Then do the new section. Try putting something else into the background like a second apple behind the first. Once you've proved to yourself than you can do that, even the risk to the paper reduces to something reasonable.

I hope these ideas help. If you're still procrastinatiing, remember something else. Procrastination is rumination. You're learning all the time and sometimes what's learned needs to sink in a bit before it's applied. You could be right on the edge of doing something fantastic with the background. Your painting's like a kitten that's still growing into its ears right now.

It'll grow up if you give it the time and attention - backing up to preliminaries and puttering with it is a good way to find out why you hesitated. You might make that discovery you're on the edge of in just a charcoal value sketch and then the whole painting will come out incredible, better than you ever thought you could do.

Enjoy! And enjoy those new pastels, that's inspirational too. You might not have had the right colors in hand to do the background justice.

08-02-2010, 02:38 PM
I've discovered a nice web site that is very usefull to get some really good advice and practice. So when I'm stuck and I am not sure how to handle a painting, I go there and I get some practice. I cannot post the link as I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I am not allowed to post link. But if you google "landscapesinpastel blogspot deborah secor", you will find it.


Sophie et al., the book is referenced right here! Deborah Secor is a member of Wet Canvas! :thumbsup:


A new chapter comes out each Thursday. :clap: