View Full Version : anxiety about creating

12-04-2002, 11:30 AM
Hi, I'm new here...sorry if I don't know any rules or anything, but I wanted to post a question.
What do you do when you feel nervous making art? So nervous that you can't concentrate properly? :crying:

12-04-2002, 01:09 PM
Hi Talamasca

I seldom get nervous but if I am feeling a 'bit off' I make a coffee and have a walk around the garden that usually works for me.
I don't know what sort of art you do, but I learned years ago that it's not worth getting nervous about it. For example, if it's an oil painting on canvas and you hate it...scrape it off and start again. If it is a drawing, throw it in the bin...or save it for future years and see how much you improved. Or even be brave and post it here...you will get some good advise.
Relax and enjoy it!:) :)

12-04-2002, 02:57 PM
Thanks. I need to chill regarding just about everything. :cool:

12-04-2002, 03:59 PM
There is nothing to be nervous about, just create what you see, or to some it is better said "create what you feel". The role of an artist is to capture a feeling, expression, or point in time, however you see it is fine, don't be surprised if others "SEE" something different than you felt. What one sees in a piece is often what one needs to see. You are capturing an expression that allows others to look, only in the direction that you pointed to, not to see what you see. So art becomes both a guide and a release for both the artist and the viewer. I've done abstracts to landscapes and very seldom have done it from a picture or tried to replicate an actual scene, I simple put down on paper, canvas, or what ever I'm working with, what I "FEEL", then what you or anyone else sees in it is great, bottom line is I've expressed myself and you saw something that's it.
Let me know if you'd like to see some of my art. I try not to just post it for no reason.
I hope this simplification of things helps, I've stated it in almost an "Over" simplified way, just to get you to relax and just let things flow. Blair

12-04-2002, 05:53 PM
Hi Talamasca! Being nervous sometimes has to do with fears. Can come from differant places. Sometimes I walk away for awhile while I tell myself to get realistic because the fears are overblown....like this one:

"I'm gonna paint something TERRIBLE and the WHOLE WORLD will know it."

So if I get this one, I start telling myself...'First off, even good pieces rarely get more than a little bit of attention. The WHOLE WORLD isn't gonna know nothing.' Then I tell myself, so what if its terrible? Sometimes you gotta do the terrible stuff to break thru to the good stuff and I might as well get going and start burning off those terrible paintings by doing them and getting them out of my system. If I stall, its just gonna take longer.

Stuff like that...I try to figure out what the fear is and work with it. Besides, once you get going, lots of times it goes better than you think it will. Creative tension is there for a reason. Good Luck!


Ron van den Boogaard
12-05-2002, 10:40 AM
I hate to sound like a broken record: read The Artist Way by Julia Cameron, see the specified forum of that,

secondly: when last spring the portait of Gauguin by van Gogh was discovered the curator of the van Gogh museum commented: "just goes to show you that even van Gogh had an off-day once in awhile"

Art you only create for yourself, what happens after that and what people think is another thing alltogether when it's finished.

One of the things that helped me along greatly is a quote by Miles Davis (also in Julia Cameron's book):"Do not fear mistakes, there are none."

And then there is anxiety and excitement, somehow they physically tend to feel the same, but when paying attention after awhile you'll know the difference.

Then there is the white canvas, which can be quite threatening. I have two ways of solving this:
a) I randomly smear some paint on it, sometimes it will lead me to the painting, sometimes it get's overpainted and the original plan gets executed. At least it has lost it's virginity. Or
b) I prepare the canvas to the max. 7-12 coats of gesso and titanium white. That way the canvas and I grow together (do I make sense?) and I have been painting on the canvas for two days and then it's a small step to start working with colour.

Ron vdB

12-05-2002, 08:08 PM
you have nothing to fear but fear itself.
we all procrastinate, and Ive found the only way to get past it is to start.
Like Ron I take a blank canvas and sometimes I paint a symbol on it. Too me its like kinda blessing it. Then from there ususally I let the canvas direct me and tell me what it wants to be.
Not always the ones where I am in control aren't usually my favorites. the ones where I let the paint flow seem to be my better work.
When it comes to my art, I do not ask for imput or critiques from my family. They know I only create for myself, I am the only one who knows if my painting is finished. If they dont understand....... cant help it my art is not about them. They have finally come to understand that part, at one time I wouldnt even let them watch me paint. I was too self absorbed to have anyone else in the room. My kids couldnt live with that, hate me being behind a closed door. So I had to get over that. Im better now. Its good therapy :-)

12-06-2002, 07:16 PM
Decide that you are going to throw it away before you start. Show no respect at all and just plunge in. "I am going to torch you - ha".

You probably end up defending you piece when its time is up...

12-06-2002, 08:42 PM
go ahead and paint if you don't like it paint over it, remember each one that you paint is one step forward and you learn something new each time. get up take a walk, put on headphones and listen to music and chill its you painting do what you want

12-06-2002, 10:33 PM
From Julia Camerons book 'The Artsits Way': "What would i accomplish if i didn't have to do it perfectly?... Probably a great deal more!!!! " :) Paintings that don't work out to our satisfaction are nothing more than road maps to the next and more successful piece. You HAVE to make what you may regard as mistakes in order to learn. Don't look at them as mistakes, but rather as lessons, for that's what they are. Enjoy the entire process, not just the end results but the entire experience of creating art and do it for yourself. Relax, enjoy. :) It's OK.


P.S. It's ok to laugh at yourself once in a while too! Joy and freedom show in your work.

12-07-2002, 08:21 AM
TAW is the first word that came to mind. Absolutly!


12-07-2002, 11:49 AM
I am my own little Laurel & Hardy comedy hour....the first to laugh at myself and the last...everyones advice here is great...take it to heart...ultimately you are the one doing the creating...

Take everyones advice, jump right in, splash around, laugh and have fun!

cinnamon girl
12-11-2002, 03:41 PM
Here's another good read for the jitters:

"Art and Fear"

I don't know who wrote it, but I remember that it's great!

The more prolifically (sp?) you paint, the less disasters you'll have. GUARANTEED!

12-12-2002, 02:23 AM

I'm new to this site - all of these posts are great. I just happened to know who wrote Art & Fear and thought to share. It was given to me in class by one of the authors; he taught at my school. Great book - short and very to the point.

Art & Fear
David Bayles & Ted Orland
Capra Press, Santa Barbara

I know that I often spend more time avoiding my art than making it - this helps.

Good luck,


12-12-2002, 09:05 PM
Well fear (and loathing) kept me from making art for 3 years.
Don't let it get to you, just make art.

01-05-2003, 12:21 AM
Hi, I'm new here too and I hope you all don't mind my throwing my two cents in. When I'm afraid to start (which is every single time) I remember reading that Robert Bateman is always afraid to start a new picture too. If Robert Bateman is afraid, who am I to think I can get by without feeling fear? Clearly there's no way out of it. So I just go ahead. I've been enjoying reading everyone's posts for a while now, so I'm looking forward to participating in the forums but I am a computer ignoramus with much to learn, so I hope I've done it right.


01-05-2003, 11:13 AM
I havn't been here in a while (bad me :p ) but wow, I'm so glad to see so many responces! It looks like anxiety really does happen to everyone, and it also seems like it's a kind of anxiety that can occur in anyone's life, no matter what they do, be it creative or not. I was going through some problems when I posted that question, and after several weeks I have a new perspective on it. I feel like I've healed a lot.
One thing I've found that helps you to "see" again if you feel like you can't is Betty Edwards's "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." I'm currently reading another one of her books called "Drawing on the Artist Within."
Thanks for all your help! :)

Mary Riggs
01-06-2003, 04:05 PM
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."..................Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of my favorite quotes of all time. I typed it up using large font, then printed it out as a poster which hangs in my studio. It keeps me focused on "doing my own thing" and not duplicating what others think is important in art.

Hope this helps!


01-06-2003, 07:21 PM
I allowed anxiety and a lack of confidence keep me from even trying painting for too many years. It was only a few months ago that I decided that my inability to draw well was a really stupid reason to hold myself back.

I believe you have to be willing to put in the work and you have to keep your mind open. So you paint something and you think it's horrible. Why do you think it's horrible? What lessons can you take away from that experience? Alternatively, if you paint something amazing, make note of why you think it's amazing. Keep trying and learning and trying and learning...

On New Year's Day I was joking with a friend of mine that one of my short-term (3-6 month) goals was to suck at drawing. Because at least then I'd be drawing and not using my sketch pads/diaries to take phone messages and keep grocery lists.:p I was laughing when he phoned me because I had done the first pre-lesson in "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" and was laughing at my self-portrait because I drew myself looking like a St. Bernard dog! (My friend's quip: "I sense self-esteem issues...")

Just keep at it...and remember that you should be doing this to add to your life. Pander only to yourself, not to someone else's idea of what your art should be. ;)

01-07-2003, 02:04 AM
Anxiety? Only if other people see it...lol.

All kidding aside though, when it comes to creating art I actually feel a calm as I start. I would almost be willing to wager that my heart rate actually drops, lol. A white canvas is nothing to fear, you just kinda have to open yourself up to the endless possibilities when it comes to how you want to express yourself or your subject. I love the feeling I get when I first put my brush on the canvas and apply even a dab of my liquid therapy...lol.

I recently had a point where I was working on something that really didn't work out too well. After cruising the boards here for maybe half an hour and looking at images of paintings I adore, I went to bed. I drifted off and actually began to feel my painting, then I began to see and live it. Odd thing about this...I just laid there and kind of mentally explored the new vision for what was probably hours...I couldn't fall asleep because I was so excited about how I was seeing things. Now I have some fear...lol...the image in my head is so powerful to me that it illicits an immediate emotional response within me. I want to convey that image to the viewer, now the question is...can I?

I guess my relative lack of fear probably stems from the fact I was never trained a lick formally as an artist, but have long loved the striking images of Dali and Picasso. I think this gives me two ends of the modern art spectrum to draw from, each with it's virtues and pitfalls. I even once *ahem* attempted a mix of surrealism and cubism briefly, that didn't translate well at all.

While I never fear starting a project, sometimes I fear the end result of what may be days or weeks of hard work...lol.

Now I am breaking from most modern art and starting to look to the days that were so long ago for inspiration. The paintings of Vermeer and Titian are really pulling me in now. This, I believe, will finally begin to help me more with my compositional problems I have had in the past (and present) and perhaps start me on my way to being the artist I think I am capable of being.

Just remember one thing, in the end a bad painting can't leap off the easel and kill you, you control it...scrape away and call it a mulligan.

Persistence is Key, with persistence you can do just about anything within the realm of reason.

01-10-2003, 11:41 PM
I just discovered this channel great stuff!

i get hesitant about finishing - often. When it's to a certain point I can't always bring myself to finish for days. - And sometimes, while i wait, I come up with a great detail or something that makes it special .

So sometimes it's good to listen and wait......... but usually, for me - its fear of messing up! :( That keeps me from starting, or finishing, . As for procrastinating at sketching- pure laziness on my part.

All these posts are right on, and inspiring - I'll have to refer myself here next time i get anxious
[like tommorrow :rolleyes: ]