Confession Time

Inspired by this starkly honest post by an artist after my own heart, Valeria Chua, I’ve decided it’s confession time.

Sometimes, I struggle with painting so much I don’t enjoy it.

Then, I feel guilty about not enjoying it.Bee and Balloon Drawing

I wonder when the day will come that I can consistently pull-off paintings without major learning curves to climb.

I wonder how much more progress other artists would have made given the same amount of time that I’ve had to develop my skills.

In the same breath I admonish myself for not simply enjoying the process with no thought for the final product, and then wonder how anyone can make anything of quality this way.

I worry about how much paint I’m going through without results.

Valerie talked about being fixated on being best at what she’d decided to be best in yet realising that she wants a simple life. That she doesn’t really want a name, or to be great. That she just wants to be happy.

I don’t know how I feel about that but I do know that I don’t want my happiness to be contingent upon how well I smeared some paint onto canvas on any given day. I want to be able to laugh it off, learn something, and carry on. I need to disentangle my sense of self-worth from skills I have mastered (or am yet to master).

Upon the advice of a much trusted artist friend, I’ve started reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I’ve only read the introduction and already I’m thinking, “I need some of what this guy’s got going on”. He says that at the end of the day he doesn’t even think about whether or not the work he’s produced is any good!

If you can relate to any of this, maybe you’d like to read “The War of Art” along with me. If not, do share your secret in the comments!

7 Comments Confession Time

  1. Mikeachim

    Pressfield has also released a sequel, entitled “Do The Work” (, which is a less philosophical, more hands-on approach to hammering through the Resistance barrier. Good stuff.

    “I wonder when the day will come that I can consistently pull-off paintings without major learning curves to climb.”

    As terrifying/annoying an answer as it is, I reckon…if you stay on the right track, you’ll never pull off paintings without major learning curves. ;)

    Fact is, really good work usually seems to feel like hell when it’s coming out of us. It’s meant to be difficult. It’s meant to make us feel like we don’t really know what the hell we’re doing, and then later, retrospectively, look like we did. And that’s frustrating as hell. We can’t stop feeling amateurish. (By “we”, I really mean “I”, but I also think it’s a common feeling).

    The weird thing about looking at the advice of so-called ‘successful’ artists of all kinds (now there’s a definition that requires a good argument around it) is that they never find it easier. The ones that do find it easier – well, it’s possible we don’t hear about them as much because they don’t become successful. I read somewhere that Henry Fonda (I think) was still throwing up before he went on stage in the last decade of his career. He was still under assault from Resistance, every single time. It was still just as tough for him. And that’s Henry Fonda. :)

    It’s a war indeed.

    1. Katherine

      Thanks Mike, I’ll absolutely check that out once I’ve read “The War of Art”.

      You’re definitely onto something about the learning curves thing. I think I’m equating being good at something with finding that thing easy. Sounds kind of dumb when I “say it out loud”.

      1. Mikeachim

        Not dumb at all. It’s counter-intuitive to think otherwise, I reckon. The more you do something, the harder you struggle with it? That’s CRAZYTALK. ;) But I think it’s kinda true when it comes to creativity. The more you’re capable of, the wider you can cast your net and the more of a catch you have to pull in. Which is an awful metaphor, but I haven’t had enough coffee and that’s my excuse, kthxbai.

        1. Katherine

          Yes, that’s it! It reminds me of when a teacher looked deeply, deeply disappointed in me when he asked me why I was enjoying whatever type of maths we were working on at the time and I said, “because it’s easy”. A better student would have craved something more challenging. So I guess the moral of this story is, I’m still a bad student. Dang.

  2. Keith

    This artist friend wouldn’t happen to be Mike Sowden, would it? He’s like Steven Pressfield’s personal assistant :) I also read it on his recommendation and it’s a motivational book.

    1. Katherine

      Actually no it wasn’t, but now it’s got even more weight behind it! You and Mike and Tara, oh my! That’s like a super-group, right there.


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