One of my HowToPastel subscribers recently reached out to me. She’d been invited to demo in an open space, with COVID-19 precautions in place, but was feeling too afraid to do it. (Her fears weren’t related to the pandemic.) Because I’d recently demoed at Peninsula Gallery where my mini solo show was hanging, I knew something about the fears she was feeling. So, a question: Are you afraid of putting yourself out there? Are you afraid of painting in public? If yes, then why do you think that is?
Are you afraid of making a rubbish painting (in front of an audience)?
Are you afraid of making a fool of yourself? Of people laughing at you (especially behind your back)?
Are you afraid of not being good enough to take this scary thing on?
Are you afraid of people seeing you sweat? (“Never let them see you sweat”)
Are you afraid of failing?
Are you unsure of what you’ll say if someone actually speaks to you or asks a question?
Are you afraid of being judged unworthy?
We’re ALL afraid of demoing in public at first! We all worry about these things…at first. But like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you are with doing it, the less afraid you feel, the more your fears won’t hold you back which means you’re more able to step into your bigger shoes!
The fears never fully go away. But if you don’t take a chance at putting yourself out there, at being vulnerable and open no matter what others may think or say about you, you’ll never have that, “YES! I did it” feeling, and you won’t use the opportunity to grow as a human being. It takes courage and determination to move beyond your fears. And I want to encourage you to say YES!
And how do you do this?
The answer is to let go. I’m not saying it will be easy. Oh no. (I mean, if it was easy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right?!)
I’ll admit that the silence of people watching as you work can be deafening. And sweat-provoking. Your mind runs riot imagining what’s going on in their thoughts: that looks awful; why did she make that mark – she just ruined it; she doesn’t really know what she’s doing does she; why did they ask him to demonstrate?; and on and on. And gosh, cn you tell me why we alwyas seem to default to the negative possibilities??
How about the possibility of these type of thoughts coming from your audience: it’s magic what she does; I wouldn’t have thought of using that colour but wow look what just happened; I don’t know how he can get such detail using such big pastels; she’s so brave putting herself out there with all of us watching.
So if you get an invitation to paint somewhere in public:
- note the immediate excitement before it dissolves into fear
- be aware that it’s normal to have fears
- acknowledge your fears and know that yes, it can be scary
- know that the first time is always the hardest so get it under your belt
- consider what’s the worst thing that can happen (really happen)
- take a leap and say YES!
Putting yourself out there and demoing in public is an opportunity. It’s a chance for you:
- to share your process – to show what working in pastel is all about
- to educate others about pastels, about you and your work
- to inspire others to pick up soft pastels
- to grow as a person by jumping into something that may induce anxiety
Right, now that I’ve encouraged you to paint in public and show off you and your painting process, let me take you through the painting I created while demoing at the Peninsula Gallery a couple of weeks ago. One of my favourite subjects to paint is people looking at art. In my demo, I painted a woman in front of a John Singer Sargent portrait in the Seattle Art Museum.
There’s a bit of a leap between this image and the next as I was in the flow, absorbed by the work, and forgot to take more progress photos! I spent quite a bit of time trying to get the face of the portrait as close to the original as I could without getting hung up on the fact that it wasn’t the same face. You can see where I also worked quite a bit on the hand, balancing between fingers as bananas and fingers barely visible.
I also decided to play up the connection between the red of his lips and the red flowers on her blouse. And did you notice the dash of red on his cravat where there is none in the original Sargent painting? Artistic license 😀
And that’s my effort painting under the scrutiny of an everchanging audience! I did have opportunity to chat to people about soft pastels and where they could find more info (ie HERE!). All in all, an enjoyable experience. This included time spent chatting with with owner Vivian Chen and framer Mitchell Jones.
So are you going to grab the next opportunity to put yourself out there in the public eye? Don’t let the fear of what MIGHT happen hold you back from becoming more of who you are!
That’s all for now. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this topic so please leave a comment 😀
Until next time,
PS. BIG THANKS to my brother Brett for helping me come up with a title for the pastel 🙂