Get over the Fear of the Blank Canvas

Ok, so we’ve all been there; when you have your canvas in front of you, your paint all set up, but then you draw a blank and have no idea what to paint. This is called studio block, or the fear of the blank canvas.

The main reason why this happens is because we fear something and this causes us to procrastinate.

Get over the Fear of the Blank Canvas

Different types of fear that causes us to procrastinate

Fear of Failure– This is probably the most common one we all face. Changing my viewpoint on failure helped me a lot. I decided to start looking at it as something that is inevitable and to use it as a means to learn something. Learning to fail faster through taking action can actually be very beneficial to any project you take on.

Fear of the unknown – It can be daunting to start a new painting when you dont know what challenged lie ahead. Try replacing this fear with curiosity and a sense of adventure instead. Don’t take life so seriously.

Fear of Criticism or rejection – A lot of us are scared of what others will say or think about our work. Instead of taking criticism personally, try looking at your artwork as something that can be even better through the help of others. In doing so it kind of becomes this fun challenge, which actually connect you to people, since it feels like you guys are working in a team to problem solve.

How to Get over the Fear of the Blank Canvas

Just Start

You’ll often hear me tell my students “paint with your left hand” to which I usually receive an amused chuckle as reply. I find that the quickest way to solve the blank canvas dilemma is to just make a random mark on the canvas. I say left hand, because we have less control over our non dominant hand. This helps to create beautiful brush strokes which we will not be able to achieve with our right hand, since we will tend to overthink the mark when we use our dominant hand.

In my article why children make better abstract artists than adults, I mention that kids enjoy the journey way more than adults, because they aren’t scared of how it turns out. This results in them creating beautiful abstract paintings which adults find difficult to produce.

Take a break

Have you ever studied so much that it really doesn’t matter what you read, you just wont absorb any more information? Well same goes for painting. Give yourself a break when you feel like you cant think anymore. If you have a steep commission deadline, try going for a walk and not think about painting for an hour or so.

Focus on the process and not the end product

Try not to focus so much on how you are hoping for the painting to come out. I find that at some point the painting tells you what it needs anyway, so it doesn’t ever quite come out exactly how you expect. Not for me anyway.

Experiment in a journal

If you find yourself too scared to make a mistake on your canvas, why not loosen up a little by experimenting in a journal? It helps to tell yourself that no one will see it and if you end up hating it, you can always just flip the page or tear it out. Who knows, you might just come up with a new technique that inspires a brand new painting.

Get rid of distractions

Put that load of laundry in before you start painting! (I am so guilty of this). A way we procrastinate is to end up doing a bunch of other things that can actually wait till later. If you do find that your mind runs off to doing chores and other things, try setting up a to do list instead. Complete what you feel is most important and then get back to painting.

Have a designated painting area

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t really read in bed when you have trouble sleeping? This is because your brain usually gets trained to do a certain task in a certain setting at a certain time. Your creative process might very well work the same way. Create a place in your house that is just meant for painting. You’ll find that your creative juices will soon start flowing once your brain realises ”when we sit here, we are creative”.

Get over the Fear of the Blank Canvas

Get inspired

Go on Instagram and Pinterest and check out other artist’s work or go visit some art galleries to see what’s out there.

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