Are you afraid of the big bad canvas?


Last night I wanted to start working on paper collages again, after not doing for months. But I felt scared from the blank canvas. I always feel a little intimidated by a blank surface, always pristine and full with possibilities, but I enjoy starting something new and then the surface becomes my creation, and I own it.

But last night it felt different, like getting on a bike after tumbling down, or driving after being in a crash. I could not put myself to drawing on the canvas so I covered them with the background papers instead to ease my mind, but that's as far as I go. After not painting for so long I feel like I am never going to be able to paint something again. I know it's just a phase and that it will go away as soon as I dare to draw the first line, but I feel like I haven't got the courage to take the first step.

This is a new feeling for me, I did not fear my canvases before. Have you ever felt like this? How did you over come it?

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Hi Danita, I totally agree with Sue. I think it’s important to try and play and have fun with it! and as she said… You can absolutely paint over the piece if you don’t like how it looks. I know I can get caught up in the perfectionist bit and worry about the outcome of a piece and that very quickly ruins one’s confidence and I shut down, too. Not to worry This will pass! Sometimes I try little exercises to help get myself to lighten up and become more playful. What about trying the scribble exercise. Take a marker or pen – put one in each hand, put a large piece of paper on the table, put some fun music on and start scribbling with both hands. Do this for several songs. Allow yourself to really get into the music, toes tapping, head swaying. Maybe even close your eyes and just have fun with it!! Flora Bowley, the creator of the Bloom True Workshop does a wonderful exercise were she has you stand in front of your large canvas that’s hanging on the wall, you blindfold yourself, you put on some great music and then you use your hands and dip your finger tips into the paint and then using your fingers (covered in paint) you start moving the paint all over your canvas while feeling the music you are playing. It’s really wonderful, it helps you loosen up and become more playful! Your moving your whole body instead of painting with a paint brush and doing little micro movements from your wrist. Sometimes I put a silly hat on (or a holiday themed headband, you can buy them at the dollar store or craft stores – like reindeer antlers with little Christmas bells that jingle and jangle when your moves) and I find this helpful as it gets me out of my uptight perfectionist mode and into the fun, playful child part of me, that is there simply to have fun, be silly and isn’t worried about making a perfect painting/masterpiece. Also, what about creating with your kids. Do a collaborative art piece with them and tap into their wonderful chlidlike qualities. Artist – Alisa Burke does this with her daughter Lucy on her blog Redefine Creativity. Here’s a link… There is also a wonderful children’s book called – Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg. It’s about a life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: That it’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. Every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful… and don’t forget “Mistakes are proof that we are trying!” and please Remember … Creativity takes courage! Somedays more courage than others… So when it comes to creating maybe think about what you would say to your chlidren or one of your students – as we tend to be very hard on ourselves. What kind of advice would you give them?… Perhaps something like… Try to be gentle with yourself! and try and tap into your playful side and most importantly try and have some fun! Danita I just want to say – I love your work!! I have purchased many of your pieces (art work and jewelry) and taken your wonderful online classes and I promise this will pass… and good for you for having the courage to put the paper on the canvas boards! Baby steps! Baby steps! It all counts! and if you feel you’ve made a mistake, remember it’s no big deal, it’s all good! It’s all part of the process, and some of the best ideas/results have come from mistakes. Plus this business of being afraid to make mistakes are often tied up with old messages we received (or interpreted) as children that somehow we weren’t good enough or trying hard enough, etc. I think if it comes from your heart it isn’t a mistake! You can do this! All the best Paula :)


I think that’s natural for every artist, from time to time, Danita! Once you just start to PLAY and not expect anything from the outcome – I think it’ll go away! It does for me!! :) Even if you have to gesso over your PLAY piece afterward! :) Good Luck and Have Fun!!

Sue Allemand

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