I’ve Got a Bad Case of Stage Fright

After my big revelation of a few days ago that I would be returning to painting, I sat down in front of small canvas to begin sketching the “bones” of the painting.

I sat there quite a while.

Nothing. The blazing white of its gesso-primed face glared back at me. Ordinarily, I would find a blank canvas inviting and inspirational. But not this time. No ideas were forthcoming. I began sketching, then erasing, sketching some more, erasing even more so.

Finally, it occurred to me that I was just plain scared. After all, I had put myself “out there” on this blog declaring that I was going to start painting again after so many years, blah, blah, blah, yaddity, yaddity. And now I was going to have to live up to this expectation that I laid on myself.

What I have, it seems, is  a bad case of stage fright.

So what’s up with that? Anybody who has been around the SFC blogs long enough knows that I don’t cringe about putting up the good, the bad, and the truly terrible. 

This morning I was reading chapter 9 in Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves.  She writes that oftentimes women have had some sort of “theft” occur in the lives that leaves this psychically disconected from themselves.  It leaves them “homeless” in a way.    I think in my case the thing that has been stolen from me is “confidence.”   Recently, I have started to muse upon what my life would been like  if I had had mentors earlier in my life.   Instead I was surrounded by naysayers who said, to the effect, that “artists are lazy, artists are weird, artists don’t amount to anything in life even if they are good, and you, by the way, are not a good artist.”    With a healthy confidence in myself and my abilities, where would I have ended up?  Is it too late to develop it?   Can I find my way “home” to a safe place where I can develop that confidence that was stolen from me? 

This is worth exploring more.  At the moment, though, I have a canvas that needs attention.  Back to it.

L. Gloyd (c) 2009

11 responses

  1. Starting something new is always scary and wonderful. I admire your fortitude. I like to play music really loud that drowns the voice of doubt out with my ipod.

    Luna 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you posted this Lori. I’m working my way through Ch. 9 of WWRWW too and have come across some blocks of my own. I felt the urge to put them into words on this site but wasn’t sure if that was ok with group. Your unburdening has given me confidence to do the same.

    Oh the dreaded white canvas syndrome – one of my art teachers used to paint all her canvases blue before she could start. I used to roll on layers of tinted gesso with a print making brayer. It gives texture and somehow breaks through that pristine whiteness enough for ideas to emerge. Using acrylic paint as a watercolour style wash can also help. Good luck. Like I said before – I haven’t been brave enough to buy a canvas yet!

  3. A wise mentor said to me “listen to your picture”–put three strokes of color and see what they tell you, love and best wishes, Fran


    Your post caused me to take pause and think about the last time I had self-confidence. I think it was in fourth grade. I had an extremely strong sense of self back then and would love to get it back!

    I have just recently started painting and experimenting with different mediums. I decided to do more despite my lack of confidence as I went to a street fair and saw what was out there. I don’t know how some people call their stuff “art” but I figured I could do better. We shall see…

  5. I always told my students, when they said that they could not think of anything to write, that thinking was dangerous. I still adhere to this view. Personally I think that writing graffiti on your canvas, ready to be washed over with more paint when inspiration arrives, is brilliant.

    1. Well, actually, Heather, the image of the graffiti on the canvas is a purely digital creation. I seem to have a lot of confidence when it comes to pixels, but not with paint. LOL!

      But as I type this I am waiting for some gesso to dry on the real canvas. I have an idea, finally!

      Thanks for the words of confidence.

  6. ooh the “homeless” word – sends shivers of recognition down my spine. seems our thresholds as a group are, perhaps not so, startlingly similar

  7. Like you, Lori, my early life was shaped by naysayers and I didn’t know better then that I was who I was and be damned. Instead of saying I’m going to paint, say I am painting.and go sit down and paint. I know that’s easier said than done, but you are so talented and with such talent comes confidence, which I think you have anyway.


  8. ah yes, this is very familiar. when i started school, i excelled at art, but it was not considered important enough to spend time exploring by my parents so i continued playing with it, but only on my own time. it was relegated to the sidelines. and it could NEVER be considered a true profession. the same was true for writing. the only acceptable profession was something having to do with science. i promised myself that whatever my children wanted to do would be the thing i supported. so my daughter excels at science and math and writing and baking/decorating cakes. my son excels at math and physics and photography and being a chef. whatever they end up doing is perfectly fine with me and all are equally important.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing the stage fright idea Lori, it does indeed seem to happen to all of us, and to find that space where we can just creat, and enjoy it, and know it is a calling –thanks for being inspiring.

  10. I always have to scribble on the first page of a journal to overcome the first jitters of starting something that, I now have determined, does NOT have to be perfection. Much easier after that.

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