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The "F" words will improve your painting - tips for intermediate artists

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Using pencils after years of drawing, drawing, drawing.

Using pencils after years of drawing, drawing, drawing.

What are the "F" words

I decided to write this series of articles about things I wish I had known and embraced earlier in my art journey. There are several words that evoke strong emotions and can haunt us all along our journey. If we conquer and control the first two, it certainly brings the second two into play and will help us take our art to the next level.

Fear

Failure

Fun

Fulfillment

Writing them down doesn't look menacing but letting them run around in your brain can hinder or help you create.

Oh no, paper warped and wrinkled - throw it away??  No, mindset change, just use it anyway, adds to aged look

Oh no, paper warped and wrinkled - throw it away?? No, mindset change, just use it anyway, adds to aged look

Fear

The dictionary says fears means - an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Fear is necessary as it helps us to survive and keeps us safe. What do you think is on the other side of art fears? The answer is nothing.

As an artist though, we have all kinds of fears. Both our conscious and subconscious can work overtime to stop us from progressing in our artistic endeavors. Attempting to draw or paint, trying new things, ugly outcomes, showing work, finding ideas, etc., the list of fears is endless. The more they swirl around in our brains the bigger and more elaborate they become.

As artists there are two types of fears we must face, pre-fear and the after effects. The pre-fear often prevents us from even making an attempt. That little voice inside your head convinces you that you can't, won't, or even be happy with what you do. So you are shut down before you even attempt to creatively fly.

That little voice, that big mouthed inner critic, takes the after effects of your first drawings/paintings and tells you very convincingly that you just confirmed that you couldn't, wouldn't and just plain made something ugly. So you are shut down from ever trying again for fear of the same result.

If you want a really in-depth discussion on fears and how to silence them, listen to the Savvy Painter Podcast, Office Hours Understanding our fear of failure, with Antrese Wood.

Head floating on paint-stained journal page, added gelli printed paper collage to cover, add color and give her some substance

Head floating on paint-stained journal page, added gelli printed paper collage to cover, add color and give her some substance

Failure

Failure is defined as an absence or lack of success. But in order to learn and grow we need to fail. However, we can and usually do take even small failures and manage to build them up into monumental proportions. We make assumptions that we can't paint, we will never learn, never do it correctly, never make those paintings we see in our mind. After one adult painting many never attempt another because they made what they perceived as a mess.

Failure has made many of us think and say things to ourselves that we would never say to a friend. We unleash the negativity in bucket loads. And it continues to fester. But, I ask you, by painting one ugly picture what was the worst that happened to you? The world didn't end, you didn't have to get CPR, you still have your home, family, and friends. What you might have lost was some time, a pencil, a little paint and either paper or canvas, both of which can be painted over ready to try again.

Failure by definition is an absence of something. If you made a recipe and it failed wouldn't you check the ingredient list rather than say you can't cook or bake? If you failed to lift 300 pounds the first time wouldn't you go to the gym and start lifting 50 pounds and work up to 300?

Failure really is a blessing in disguise, it is a clue and can send you in the right or a new direction on your art journey. Usually if you try something in art and it doesn't work you remember that lesson and don't attempt to do it again. It forces you to find a new solution. So use failure to keep you learning, questioning, trying and growing. Using failure, controlling failure, that will motivate and get you to the next level.

Stencils, modeling paste, pastel, acrylics - throw on and see what happens

Stencils, modeling paste, pastel, acrylics - throw on and see what happens

Fun

It has taken me a really long time to learn to experiment, play and have fun with working in art. For so many years it has been all about learning: how to deal with different types of media, using techniques, mixing colors, applying paint, and drawing, basically being a technician. I had a perfectionist, careful, tentative approach that everything had to be beautiful, a stunning success.

It has only been recently that I started what I called, to myself, experimenting and playing. What was really happening was I was psyching my head out that this painting really wasn't important and so my inner critic didn't bother to set unrealistic expectations. I not only enjoyed the time in the art space more but the results were much better. The pressure was taken off as I had no expectations except it was ok to make a mess.

When I started experimenting my learning increased at a faster pace because there were no rules. Since I didn't expect a wonderful result, if I didn't get it, I considered it a gift because now I knew what I didn't want to do. In other words I gave myself permission to fail. If it failed, just turn the page over or paint on another layer and go at it again and see if with the changes you just learned, you got a different result. Playing allowed me to learn about mixed media. Mixed media gives you the ability to correct any mistake, ugly result or missed direction. You can always paint, glue or draw over anything and it is ok. Matter of fact, sometimes it looks a whole lot more interesting and better than just using one traditional media.

Working on adding emotion and energy to paintings

Working on adding emotion and energy to paintings

Fulfillment

Learning to get the fear under control and managing my definition of failure really helped me to get into a flow of having fun when creating art. Because I wasn't constantly trying to think my way through not failing I was able to get freer and more intuitive in how I work. This has helped create looser paintings, more emotion and stories within the paintings themselves. Not saying you won't ever come out frustrated from your art time, we all seem to have that inner drive to create that next masterpiece, but you won't feel so devastated you won't come back ready to learn and try more art.

Comments

Nelvia (author) from Atlanta on January 18, 2021:

Seems we all have to deal with this in some manner and unfortunately it just doesn't ever learn us. Even those with great creative confidence and success deal with over their career. Guess it is because we put so much of ourselves out there in our work. Thanks Robbie!

Robie Benve from Ohio on January 17, 2021:

Ahah, I love your sense of humor Nelvia! And yes, that never-ending duel between fear and failure trying to block the fun and fulfilment of making art, I totally agree. Overcoming them is a journey, and I always find them lurking around the corner every time I try something new. Being aware and ready to "fight" is what helps me continue to experiment. Thanks for sharing.

Nelvia (author) from Atlanta on January 16, 2021:

Thanks for looking at it quickly

Ivana Divac from Serbia on January 16, 2021:

I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you so much for sharing!

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