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  • Writer's pictureShawn Dell Joyce artist

Doing things that scare the hell out of you artistically!

(Like starting a new class where you feel over your head, and out of your league)

We all feel scared and overwhelmed at some point-if you don't, then you are really not challenging yourself or maybe that ego needs to be reeled in a bit! :)

I regularly look for opportunities to scare the hell out of myself artistically. Its good for your growth. It may sound weird, but when you reach for something that is slightly above your ability, you push yourself, and you grow until it is within reach.

Here's some examples (remember these may not sound so scary to you, but they are my own personal hell!)

  • I'm doing a live demonstration through ZOOM on Monday at 7pm for more than 200 people! This scares the hell out of me because I am really introverted. In my head I am a nerdy artist who would be perfectly happy sitting alone in a room and painting all day every day. In reality, you have to do things like this when you are a professional. (link to watch!

  • I'm challenging myself in Plein Air Adventure class to use more wildly Impressionistic color like the Barbizon School of plein air painting (this is scary if you are Hudson River School at heart).

  • I'm teaching a 5 day workshop in a resort/workshop venue next Spring at Hudson River Valley Workshops on plein air pastel. This is terrifying to me. I have to spend 5 very intimate days with people (its all-inclusive so meals and lodging are in the same place) and divulge every secret and technique I know to the people attending. It's like standing naked on a stage.

Your idea of scary may be a bit different, but no less terrifying for you. If you are registered for a beginner's class in any medium, like the beginning painting class (Classical Training for Artists) then you are seeing some of the biggest names in art history, their greatest accomplishments, and then YOU have to paint. Pretty scary!

demo painting from Classical Training for Artists

If you are trying pastel techniques then you are being challenged to draw and paint from direct observation when you are probably used to working from photo references. This is also pretty scary!

Demo painting from Pastel Techniques

In Plein Air Adventure class we often start the season by issuing ourselves a challenge-which is usually something we find personally scary. Carol is incorporating a figure in all of her landscape paintings this year. Robin is sticking to her value sketch and using a more limited palette. Sherry is painting larger than she is comfortable with in order to challenge herself to paint more loosely.

The lovely, talented and very brave Sherry painting fearlessly in Plein Air Adventure class

Many first time portrait artists are joining me in a challenging online portrait class where we are learning three totally different approaches to portrait painting. All three require a degree of drawing ability and painting color choices that would challenge anyone. One of the participants confided in me that portraits "scare the hell out of her," and yet she signed up and is doing it anyway.

Demo painting for Pastel Portraits Online Class

This week in all my classes we went over the keystone art concept of values. How to see and identify 5 values in particular and the difference between a value sketch and a Notan. I've written other blogs on these topics so I won't bore you with a repeat, but I will challenge you to come up with something that scares the hell out of you artistically.

Difference between a Notan (top) and Value Sketch (bottom)

Think about what scares the hell out of you artistically. Challenge yourself to do something thats WAY outside your comfort zone. Commit to doing a large-scale multi-figure painting, or giving all your relatives portraits of Grandma for Christmas, whatever your own personal fear is, face it.

Demo sketch from Beginning Drawing class

When you set a goal for yourself that is fear-based, your fear is surmounted. Your courage grows along with your artistic ability. This confidence booster affects you in all aspects of your life, not just your art practice.

When you achieve one goal, overcome one fear, your strokes get bolder, your darks get darker, your painting quicker and more accurately, your growing. You may also find yourself walking a little taller, feeling a bit more excited about life, and energized. Like when you lose 10lbs and all your clothes feel loose again.

My demo painting from Plein Air Adventure class. I feel like I succeeded in painting looser and more colorful with this one!

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