Do artists really get scared of blank canvases?

Yes – many artists do feel a sort of fear when they begin a new project and find themselves facing a blank canvas. Of course, this doesn’t happen to every artist; even the ones who feel afraid of blank canvases might not feel afraid every time they face one.

What is blank canvas paralysis?

Blank canvas paralysis is a great way of describing the fear that some artists can feel when looking at a blank canvas. The word ‘paralysis’ is very apt, because artists very often feel physically unable to get to work; many often find themselves unable to pick up a paintbrush or mix colours. If this paralysis gets hold of you, it can make you feel frustrated – you want to get to work and have set aside time for it, but something beyond your control makes you unable to actually get to work.

Why do artists get blank canvas paralysis?

There are quite a few reasons why artists look at the blank canvas before them and feel afraid. A blank canvas represents infinite possibilities and infinite choice; sometimes this is too much for artists to handle. How do you decide what to paint when there are so many options? There’s also the problem of not knowing exactly where to start on your painting, even if you have a clear vision of what your finished painting’s going to look like. Finally, there’s the fear that you will fail, that you won’t produce the painting you’ve been imagining and developing in your mind.

How to get over your fear of blank canvases

If you ever find yourself paralysed with fear at the start of a painting project, reassure yourself that there are ways to get over this. The three causes of blank canvas paralysis mentioned above each have simple solutions. If you’re stuck because you have too many options, simply consider which options are the better ones and make a quick decision about which one to go for. If you’re stuck because you don’t know where to start, do some pre-planning, but not too much, as this can make you less likely to come up with new ideas once you’ve started working. Finally, if you’re stuck because you’re scared of failing, don’t ask so much of yourself and have a realistic and humble approach to your work; in other words, the less important you make your painting out to be, the less intimidating it will be.

Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. She specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes and loves capturing the natural beauty of her local countryside. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: Joanne can be found on Facebook

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Categories: painting


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