Ten Tips for Painting Without Fear

"In Absence" 24"x18" oil and pencil on panel
Avaliable at www.KimVanDerHoek.com

Control. We all want it. We all believe we have it.

So many aspects of painting are about control because we artists are trying really hard to create a decent painting. Control is difficult to let go of.

As a teacher I see control ruin a lot of good paintings. I've seen control ruin a lot of my own paintings.

Where does it come from and why is it difficult to let go of? The short answer - fear. Fear of ruining a good area in a painting, fear of completely failing and creating something that will go straight into the trash. Fear of negative comments about the painting (or a lack of "likes" on social media). Fear of rejection.

Fear ruins paintings too. Fear is always there whispering in my ear. I believe it shouts in my student's ears when they are in my class.

My 6 year old daughter is fearless. She creates anything she thinks of with complete abandon and has absolutely no regard for what anyone else thinks about her creation. She creates to please herself.

Here are a few tips I use to shut the fear up -

1) Remember, it's just a painting. No ones life hangs in the balance if it doesn't turn out well.

2) You paint because you enjoy it. If it isn't fun find another profession that you enjoy because it will probably have a better health plan and a 401k.

3) Start your painting with a plan and then be open to things that happen spontaneously. They might just be the best part of the whole piece.

4) Listen to your instinct. If your gut says, "add blue," then add blue!

5) Remember, you're not working in permanent marker, you can always make changes.

6) Intentionally ruin an area you like (I bet the fear just screamed, "NO!").  Sometimes the most interesting things happen when you destroy an area you really like.

7) If the painting sucks, no one ever has to know.

8) Paint another one. Stop beating yourself up about the failed painting and paint something else. The next one could be the best painting you've ever created because of what you learned from the failed piece.

9) Break the rules. We are artists, it's our job to break the rules, even our own rules. Isn't it written in the handbook somewhere?

10) Paint what you feel like painting. Want to paint a chair because it speaks to you? Don't overthink it and worry if anyone will like it or buy it. Paint the chair.

That said - this is one in a series of chair paintings I've been working one lately. In this group of work I've experimented with different color palettes, edge treatments, texture and larger panels (at least for me). You can see I even scratched into the paint with a pencil to indicate the shapes on the ground. I've been using photo references only as a starting point in the painting process. At a certain stage it's best to put the reference away and only respond to the needs of the painting or what my instincts tell me to do.

There are more in this series of chairs. I find the implied meaning about waiting, loss and potential in an empty chair interesting.

I hope you are out there fearlessly doing what you love!


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