self care

Art Anxiety? 4 Tips for How to Overcome

I have struggled for a long time with art anxiety – feelings of inadequacy when it comes to making art. (I think everyone probably does, at some point)

For a very long time, I denied myself certain forms of expression because I simply wasn’t good enough (i.e. worthy) at that particular art form. For instance, if I couldn’t paint like Bob Ross, when why the hell would I think I could ever paint period.

However, recently, some kind of switch in my brain flipped and I found myself confronting those low feelings with a screw that mindset. I don’t have to be a professional to draw or paint or sculpt*. I just have to enjoy it – that’s the whole point of creating anyway.

So if you’re in a similar boat, where it’s hard for you to even fathom creating a certain type of art, then I hope these next few tips will help you. (I’m going to talk about my experience in the context of painting for this article)

Watercolor practice - overcoming art anxiety
Watercolor paint – practicing how it blended with different shades and different colors. I used a white crayon to get the designs in before painting.

#1: Start with something you know

I painted with acrylics as a kid, so I went to Michael’s and bought five bottles of acrylic paint: red, blue, yellow, white and black. I’d figure the rest out from there.

Also, I’d recommend getting a small piece of paper to star, having a huge sheet of paper staring at you can be mega intimidating. I like to cut a strip of water-color paper about the width of a bookmark and start with that as a warmup.

#2: Do SOMETHING

I know, I know. “Just do it” sounds like overused and unhelpful advice. And frankly, if you’re trying to be perfect on the first try, it is pretty unhelpful. But that’s really the point, right? It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to do it. Skill comes with practice, as annoying as that can be.

When I tried to start painting I probably sat looking at a blank piece of paper for 15 minutes. what am I supposed to do with that? I wondered. But finally, I took it all in steps. Step-1: put tiny bits of paint on my palette/plate. Step-2: pick a paintbrush at random, because who even knows what I’m doing. Step-3: dip paint brush into paint. And ladies and gentlemen, step-4: put paint on paper.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what you do. Scribble, do long strokes, short strokes, circles, words, just do something. I’ve found that once you’ve broken the initial ahhh-I-can’t-put-anything-on-that-paper-it’s-too-white-and-perfect, the whole process becomes much much easier.

Acrylic tree
Acrylic paint. I free-handed the tree once the background was done and used a stencil for the sun.

#3: Don’t paint a “thing”

One of my favorite things to do is to create multicolored backgrounds and then use black paint (or pens) the create silhouettes. It removes a lot the pressure of having to paint something that looks real or like something else. I could never have painted animals or people to begin with – but black trees on bright backgrounds was doable.

#4: Try something crazy

At this point, you’ve gotten past the initial barrier, now it’s time to start having fun. Do anything you can think of – lots of water on the brush or no water, cut out a stencil from an index card and use it to make shapes on your painting, it doesn’t matter. The act of painting will open up your brain and trigger the creative and emotion release that you need.

Hand-lettered watercolor bookmarks
Watercolors with hand-lettered quotes and poems

I recently got a set of watercolor paints and have been trying to figure out how to even use them. I’m excited to figure it all out since I’ve never used watercolors. It’s also great there’s so much less anxiety about what I’m going to paint or how it’s going to look because I’ve realized that there’s nobody judging me, or waiting to call out my painting as bad. It’s mine.

I hope that these tips have been helpful – let me know in the comments any ways that you have gotten over anxiety over art or creating of any kind.

Happy Making!

 

*Interestingly, another form of expression I denied myself for a long time is writing. I hope you enjoy my continued attempts with this blog to erase anxiety in my life.

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