Why you should do something which terrifies you.
If you write the above sentence into google, you will find a number of articles on this theme and most of them are worth a quick read if you are considering doing something which frightens you too.
There are some that advocate doing this daily, but in my case, as an artist, this isn’t practical, what is, is accepting challenges when they are given to you. In this sense I rarely say ‘no’ but saying ‘yes’ to an 8½ft by 4ft canvas was frightening.
Once over that hurdle the next frightening, no terrifying, step was the subject. The client wanted a semi-abstract piece of London and had sent a picture of something they liked as an example. Not something that I found particularly inspiring and I had already said that I would not copy anyone else’s work.
So, I came up with some ideas using a map of the River Thames and one of the versions was selected.
But Oh S**t! How am I going to get a map of the Thames onto a canvas that size and have the river be accurate. My overhead projector wasn’t going to work.
At this point I have said yes, and I am feeling sick. What am I going to do? Add to that, the client wanted it in two colours. Not a problem on a small piece but the exact same two colours across the piece, I was worried that it would look a bit boring. But back to getting the image up there first.
I am fortunate that my husband is an engineer and is also very good at helping me problem solve, when I get myself into these tricky situations.
So, with the use of a lap top and a computer projector he helped me set up the canvas in our conservatory, he wasn’t happy as he thinks I have taken over the whole house with my art stuff. I haven’t. None of my stuff is in his office, but I do love to spread out around the rest of the house.
The first thing I did was cover the entire canvas in orange.
Yes, orange was one of the colours. But I didn’t just use one colour. Using a small roller and three different oranges I covered the canvas in a haphazard way to give some interest.
Next, I stood the canvas up and projected the image onto it. It was a beautiful sunny day in January. One of those days you really shouldn’t complain about, but I couldn’t see the image. There was too much light. This really was not going my way. So once the day was over and there was no outside light I tried again. Talk about working in the dark but thankfully this was successful.
Having started at one end of the canvas and it being such a large canvas, it had to been done over a number of days. Overcast days worked best but unbeknownst to me, the laptop image started moving. That wouldn’t have mattered except I decided to start at one end and put the river and the bridges in. Some adjustments had to be done for the piece to make sense to me, but I also had to keep reminding myself that I was not producing an accurate reference of the map but my semi-abstracted version of it.
The second colour used is blue. Now many of you will know that blue and orange are opposite colours on the colour wheel and sit very well together. That said one colour blue and one colour orange wasn’t going to work for me, so I used a number of different blues to give more interest to the finished piece.
As I write the piece is sitting in my conservatory waiting for the next layers of protection to be put on and next week it is being collected.
I am excited to see what it will look like in the basement room of the client’s home, they have already seen it, and love it, phew, but I am most pleased that I stepped up to the challenge, frightened the life out of myself and proved to myself, that I could do it.
Ok, so job done, what’s the next challenge?
Just a footnote on the whole ‘do something which frightens you’ approach. It is only the fear which holds you back and the only way to lose the fear is to face it. This could be anything from fear of spiders to fear of flying, learning to swim to fighting injustice. The fear of failure is what stops us from even trying and trust me I am still working on the spider bit.
But that canvas when it was delivered literally made me feel sick. I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to come through with something the client would be happy with, I was frightened of ‘not being good enough’ I was frightened of failing. Most of my friends think I am mad. But I did it. It is not in the league of some of the world’s greatest painters, past and present, probably, but I am proud I what I have achieved, I am very happy with the finished piece and I know that I can conquer those fears and come out triumphant.
Oh and did I say, the client LOVES it!