The Art of Fear

If there is something I have learnt from my brief time as an artist, it is that fear can be both your greatest ally or your greatest foe. More often it is the latter. But sometimes what you fear can point you in the right direction.

I have always strived for great realism in my art. The more life like a piece I completed appeared, the happier I was. I would agonize over pieces that didn’t look exactly like the reference image, sometimes even painting over them entirely. My mission for accuracy was almost obsessive to a fault. I have since learnt to manage my perfectionist tendency but it takes a conscious effort.

However, in almost amusing contrast, I have always had a deep appreciation and fascination for impressionism.

The movement, feeling, light and colour of the impressionist painting seem to embody such freedom. It’s like the brush simply dances from palette to canvas with intentional grace. When I look at an impressionist piece of art, I can honestly feel something that almost no other style evokes.


I had always marveled at the artists who perform such magic on canvas with great wonder, wishing I could have a taste of the same delight. But because I have always seen myself as a painter of realism, I would brush the dream aside (pun intended). But that’s not all it was. If I even took a second to play with the idea in my head, fear was there in a flash. First observing from the corner, but inevitably taking center stage. I was scared of making a fool of myself imagining that any attempt at impressionism would be the disaster to end my career. I was scared of feeling like an imposter, a fraud. I was scared of wasting money and time on something that I might not like. I was scared that if I did try I wouldn’t choose the correct subject matter, scared people wouldn’t like it. Just scared, scared, scared. So into a dusty old file cabinet my dream of impressionism went. Every now and then I would sneak away to open the cabinet and peer at the file but before I could even turn a page, fear would catch me in my steps and slam the draw shut.


Until one fine day of “painters-block” and watching my third documentary on the Impressionist Art Movement, I decided ‘the heck with it’! I wanted to darn well dance a brush from palette to canvas with intentional grace till the cows came home. So that’s exactly what I did.


I realized that restraining my creativity for the sake of fear was not the artist’s way and wouldn’t get me anywhere closer to my dreams of being a professional artist or even decent human. If it failed so what – I could paint over and start again and if after a few extra attempts I realize it’s not for me then now I know and don’t have to waste my time again. But ‘what if I love it’, ‘what if it’s exactly the thing I need right now. What if it opens up a world of possibility I had never even given a second glance. What if?

Well no “what if’s” here. I made like a Nike tekkie and just did it. Dnd you know what happened? Everything. I have never felt so free. I have never felt such movement and fluidity, I have never seen such light, such colour. And it wasn’t as if I painted a masterpiece, it’s not even to say I will never paint a realist painting again or that this is now my creative style, maybe it will be, I don’t know. It was simply what my heart needed and I’m hungry for more.

How have you overcome fear?

Let me know in the comments below.

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