You may remember a time when monsters under the bed seemed extremely real. Those long moments between the light getting shut off and your eyes finally closing as you drifted off to sleep.

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How does this relate to art-making? I’ll explain in just a moment, but first let’s take a look back…

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… back to your ritual of brushing teeth, putting pajamas on, getting tucked in (some nights as tight as a bug in a rug) and finally having the light switched off.

Then it was just you and the darkness. And whatever else your mind could muster in those long minutes before sleep.

Maybe you begin to think, “What was that noise? Where did it come from? Was that shadow there before?”.

Or “Why is the closet door halfway open? It’s always closed before bed.” Maybe you decide to jump out of bed and make a mad dash across the room to close it.

Carefully, and on the count of three, you leap as far as possible from the edge of my bed, run across the room, slide the door shut and back to your bed with another big leap to avoid anything reaching out from under it.

The noise again…

“Moooom!”

The light switches on. No gremlins or ogres or monsters of any sort. Just your room as it always was… all clear under the bed and in the closet.

So next time you get out of bed in the dark, you step straight down, pause for a moment, and then calmly walk away.

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Even as a kid, you realized that your mind created the fear. In reality there was nothing to be afraid of at all

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So what in the world is stopping you from throwing bright fuschia around those trees in your painting? Or sketching your dog in his favorite coat?

Let’s look at 5 ways fear emerges around art-making:

1. Doubting our skills

We tend to be hardest on ourselves, and often don’t give credit for our talents and abilities. If you’re a beginner, remember everyone has to start somewhere. Even the greats were not-so-great when they began. Be okay with not being great at first. Improvement comes with practice and knowledge.

Keep doing and learning. If you’re unhappy with a piece, throw it away. Nobody says you have to keep the bad stuff… although one or two might be nice to remind you later of how far you’ve come. Celebrate your progress and the ‘aha’ moments when they happen.

2. Other people’s opinions

If this is stopping you, then do your art-making in private. Show what you want, when you want and to who you want. If someone is not supportive, realize that their comments probably have little to do with your art, and more to do with themselves.

Absolutely do not let others discourage you from continuing! Find like-minded and supportive people to share with.

3. Don’t want to waste supplies

Okay, totally understand that the cost of artist supplies can add up, but how in the world do you make a painting with barely enough paint to cover the canvas? Or how can you truly make a charcoal drawing come alive if you’re barely hitting the surface of your paper with it?

There’s a difference between using and wasting. The examples above are like asking someone to bake a cake but with 1/3 of the flour required. It just doesn’t work. (see below for mindset exercise)

4. Shortage of time

I used this excuse a lot until I realized I was actually doubting my skills, plus letting other people’s opinions hold me back.

It’s obviously that some people have more free time than others. What ultimately matters is not the amount of free time you have, but how strong your desire is to honor your artistic side.

If you truly want to create, here are some ideas on finding the time:

  • get up an hour earlier, and go straight to art-making before starting your day
  • switch to a medium with quick setup and cleanup (eg: switch from painting to drawing)
  • have a look at how you spend your week. There’s probably some time you can free up from TV watching, surfing the net, or scrolling through social media.
  • carve out small slots – schedule them, and don’t allow anything/one to disturb you during that time. Even a half hour or an hour uninterrupted, once or twice a week can be enough to keep you moving forward with your art.
5. Not continuing past the “good” stage

Have you ever created a piece that you were really happy with, but knew it wasn’t quite finished? You stepped back, took a look, and were just too afraid to continue for fear of ruining the good work you had already done? I can definitely say I’ve been there.

It’s understandable that you don’t want to mess things up. But how will you ever know if you can make it better if you don’t keep going? And how will you ever push your skills and knowledge past where you are now??

KEEP GOING! There are no guarantees of outcome, but what I’ve found, is even my ‘mistakes’ (which I don’t believe in) eventually turn out positively. Even if it’s 4 layers later… think of all the things you just learned creating those last 4 layers.

If you’re letting fear stop you from pushing past your creative boundaries, remember that those boundaries were created by you.

What an awesome revelation! It means they don’t actually exist. You made those boundaries (or bought into them), and can free yourself from them as well.

You are in charge of your creative destiny. Recognizing and overcoming the habit of boundary-making can be hugely rewarding, not only in art, but in life.

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Next time you catch yourself holding back, take a moment to ask why. Say the reason out loud. Most likely it’s not worth holding onto, and it may not even make sense. Unless it impacts you or your family’s well-being, throw that excuse right out the window!

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At a young age, you conquered your fear of monsters. If you could do it then, you can definitely do it now.

Keep a positive mindset:

If you find yourself saying, “I can’t use more paint because it’s expensive”, simply switch to “I can use as much paint as I’d like. There’s more where that came from”. Then go ahead and paint with the freedom you deserve. If you run out, you’ll find a way to get more.

With a positive mindset, you can attract things into your life in unexpected ways. Maybe an artist friend or relative suddenly decides give you the paints they no longer use. Or maybe you win the monthly draw at your local arts store. I love the way the universe delivers if you simply have faith that it will.

If your mind says “Wow, that drawing I just finished, really sucks”, re-frame it to “Wow, I can’t wait to see my improvement over the next six months”.

If you’re nervous about an artist talk at a solo show that’s soon approaching, brainstorm and prepare like crazy! With practice comes confidence, after 100 rehearsals in front of your mirror, you’ll soon forget that you were nervous at all.

Keep creating! Be brave with your artistic practice and embrace what’s to come.

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