The Art of Not Immediately Stopping

I used to have this annoying habit when it came to anything creative. I would wait till the mood struck me, gather my supplies, turn on the right music, sit down to draw and…

immediately stop. 

Maybe I would get a few lines onto the paper or paint a swatch of color. But that was nearly always directly followed by a voice inside my head.

“That line isn’t in the right place.”

“That color is too vivid.”

“Is this paper too small?”

I would erase my starting point, crumple the paper, or sometimes set the work aside and leave to do something entirely. 

My practice of art has been focused around taming these voices, ignoring them kindly and pushing through. These kinds of blocks come up multiple times at the beginning of working on a piece of artwork for a reason, and it’s actually sweet. Putting your creative idea onto the canvas in front of you involves a level of vulnerability which is rather confrontational. My work never looks the way I imagine it. And the process of accepting that it won’t look a certain way is both uncomfortable and the actual crux of creativity. That’s when art surprises you and if you can allow your guard to drop, something brand new is born between the internal vision and what your hands actually do.

How do you get to that point, though? It’s difficult to ignore these voices - so much so that many folks who talk to me about art say, “I’m not an artist. I could never do that.” I believe that we are all capable of really anything, it just depends on how we spend our time and if we listen to the impulses that urge us to quit. 

I believe that I have no natural talent for art. A few years ago, I decided to devote most of my time to drawing and painting and it turned out to be confrontational as hell. These voices came up constantly throughout the day telling me to stop again and again and each time, I had to work on allowing myself to calmly ignore them. I still experience them today, although they are much quieter and dismissing them is second nature. With anything, consistency is key. So don’t listen to the urges. Whatever it is that you want to do, that you’re nervous to do, do it anyway and see what happens.

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grace engel