I’ve recently been welcoming artists into my one-to-one Accelerant Mentoring Programme and it’s interesting to hear a common refrain of frustration: “I have an idea in my head but my painting doesn’t come out anything like it.” This leads me nicely to this week’s studio musing – letting go of the outcome, meaning, letting go of our attachment to the outcome of a painting.

So easy to say, sooooo difficult to do! I mean, we all want our effort to have a great payoff right? 

The 31-pastels-in-31-days (aka 31in31) Annual Challenge has recently ended. I participated and a variety of work appeared on my easel – some fab, some good, some so-so. While creating each piece, letting go of the outcome was my mantra. My intention was to paint the painting and try not to worry about the result. 

Letting go of the outcome - Gail Sibley, “Day’s End,” Sennelier pastels on repurposed UART 600 paper, 5 ½ x 4 in.
Gail Sibley, “Day’s End,” Sennelier pastels on repurposed UART 600 paper, 5 ½ x 4 in. Out of my imagination – following clues I saw in the repurposed paper! Sold

Letting go of the outcome is a powerful mindset that encourages us to surrender the need for every pastel painting to be a masterpiece. In doing so, we open the door to a world of creative freedom.

When you create with the sole intention of enjoying the process, just being in the process of painting, you release the pressure and anxiety often associated with perfectionism. You find yourself fully immersed in the act of creation, and this mindfulness can be therapeutic and deeply satisfying. It’s like a form of meditation, where time seems to stand still, and your worries and stresses melt away for that time.

Moreover, letting go of the outcome paradoxically often leads to better results. When you’re not fixated on achieving perfection, you give your creativity room to breathe and evolve. This sense of freedom can unlock hidden possibilities and inspire unexpected bursts of inspiration. You might find that some of your most remarkable pieces emerge when you least expect them!

Letting go of the outcome allows you to embrace imperfection and enjoy the uncertainty of the journey. This is true whether it’s in your artistic endeavours or any other part of your life. There is a transformative power that comes with nurturing a sense of detachment from the end result. It is the doing, the process of creating art, that brings us joy and fulfilment. Letting go of the outcome of a painting allows us to prioritise those positive emotions.

Gail Sibley, “Cataclysmic Heart,” Unison Colour and Sennelier pastels on repurposed UART 400 paper, 9 x 12 in.
Gail Sibley, “Cataclysmic Heart,” Unison Colour and Sennelier pastels on repurposed UART 400 paper, 9 x 12 in. Distressed as I am with the horrors of the Israel/Hamas confrontation and the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, I decided to express some of my anguish, anger, and sadness into my art. I was thinking of the red of blood and of love and the black of darkness. There was a joy in being able to release my emotions!

Because I use this mantra on letting go, I take more risks and I’m comfortable with uncertainty. Because of this mindset, after the 31in31 Challenge, I ended up with some pieces that will probably be scrubbed and painted over. I also ended up with work that thrilled and surprised me, pieces that went beyond the idea I had in my head. 

Not everything you paint is going to turn out well…and that’s okay! Pastel to paper  – that’s the thing baby! I hope this post inspires you to step into your studio with this mantra in your head – letting go of the outcome can open up possibilities!!

I’ll end with this quote which seems as applicable to art as it does to life:

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”  

~ Joseph Campbell

I’m looking forward to hearing your response to this idea of letting go of the outcome. How well do you manage to do this? How has it helped? Do you struggle with this concept? I’d love to know so be sure to leave a comment!

Until next time!

~ Gail

PS. If you’re interested in purchasing any of these pieces, be sure to email me at gail@howtopastel.com

Letting go of the outcome: Gail Sibley, "Tuscan View with Vineyard,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 6 x 6 in. Available $225.
Gail Sibley, “Tuscan View with Vineyard,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 6 x 6 in. Available $225.

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18 thoughts on “Letting Go Of The Outcome”

  1. I’ve had a couple of discoveries in the three years I’ve been using pastels. I learned early on to embrace the experience and lessons and not worry about the outcome. Often when I finish a piece (or think it is finished) I discover with fresh eyes that it is better than I thought, and also that a few more finishing touches improve it more. Also it has been so important for me to not pressure myself to sell anything, to just do it for the learning and pleasure it gives me.

    That Joseph Campbell quote is new to me but the truth of it is not. It’s so important to let go of my human need to control and see what options are right in front of me…very good practice for painting as well as life. Thank you for your thoughts and openness.

    1. Many thanks Ardys for sharing your discoveries. It’s good to know these things intellectually – harder to actually put into practice! So good for you!!

      Glad the quote resonated with you and again, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Yes, I struggle with this. And yes, this does help. Thank you for letting us see your 31 in 31…wow, so good! After reading this blog and pondering this concept, “Day’s End” says it all for me.

  3. This Letting Go struck a (can’t think what it was, but not nerve!) I struggle with getting past the ugly stage. So often I start and I’m happily going along and then get to a point where I can’t see where I’m going or it just looks so bad that it’s not worth finishing. Forcing myself to do something every day sorta pushed me past that point.. That made me happy! Also, I decided to use a Mixed Media notebook and that solved the problem of what to do with them all afterward. That makes me happy too.
    So…the notebook was 9×12. What I don’t understand is how do you create such wonderful little paintings on 5 inch panels!!

    1. Hey Char…I think its a chord – strike a chord…and I’m happy to hear that! I’m also happy to hear you’ve found out how to work your way past the messy/ugly stage of a painting. And good your you doing something each day – that is where progress is made…as well as learning and implementing that learning!
      Love the idea of the notebook – does that mean you attach your work into it? I’d love you to share more about that.
      As to those small pieces I do…? Practice lol!

    1. Thank so much Eileen!
      One thing to try is to stop early, that is, at a place where you feel the painting isn’t finished. Then walk away and leave it alone. Actually, first take a photo of it. Then walk away for a day or two or longer. Look at the photo the next day – how does it feel to you now?
      I frequently look at progression photos and think, gosh Gail, you could have stopped there!

  4. The 31-Pastels-in-31-Days Challenge helped me so much. I was stuck, frozen by my need for perfection, (You see? You were reading my mind!) and I didn’t manage all 31, but I did a lot. And, after months of creative desert, that tasted so sweet. So, I had a bad day yesterday did a painting and hated it but, I painted it. And, because I hated it I’ve already prepped the paper for another go today because doing nothing, being frozen achieved nothing. My new goal is merely to increase my ‘feeling happy-ish with it’ rate. To keep going because keeping going works.

    1. Rod this is sooooooo good to hear!! Progress not perfection! LOVE your new goal and love your mantra – “Keep going because keeping going works.” 👏

      I can very much relate to the awful feeling of being frozen, of not getting to the work. (I wrote this blog that you may relate to!)

  5. Always so inspiring, Gail! I’m glad I read this one. I really need to get back in to the “pastel to paper” habit!! I love all your little paintings and especially the variety. So many ideas! (And my pareidoliac tendency must tell you that there’s a cute alien bug face in your scooter! With antenna! 😆🤩)

    1. Always lovely to hear from you Rita! I’m surprised to hear to say you need to get back to the “pastel to paper” habit! Aren’t you doing that all the time??
      I love that there’s actually a name (that’s a mouthful!) to describe seeing things (faces) where supposedly there is none. Love the bug face in the scooter!

  6. Your cataclysmic heart. Did you mean to have the beautiful horses head to the right and the cat like creature to the left I assume not but loved it, unintentional things are a treasure to find . First time I’ve ever sent in a comment!

    1. Ohhhhhh…you are correct in thinking that the horse and cat are unintentional Fiona! Love that you found these treasures and thank you for sharing them. AND, THANK YOU for your first comment!!🥳 May there be many more 😊

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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