Painting and Self Doubt

Making Art Mental Health Perfectionism

Watercolor painting

I've been listening to a lot of The Jealous Curator's podcast and it's nice to know that all artists feel self doubt – no matter how young, old, experienced, whatever. I have a couple stories about this yucky emotion that I've experienced myself with my paintings. Both occurred in the last month and carry a valuable message – try and trust yourself.

designlovefest wallpapers: I've always loved the blog of Bri Emery, also known as designlovefest. She is a designer and art director whose blog is full of design-y things like DIYs, recipes, fashion and art. She has a section called Dress Your Tech that I've always gone to for funky, unique desktop wallpapers. About a month ago, my friend Nikole suggested I submit my work to Dress Your Tech. My immediate thought was "no way, that's for real artists" but quickly followed up with "why not, it can't hurt."

So I did. I sent a folder of my Ponnopozz sketchbook paintings over, most of which I had photographed and shared on Instagram at some point or another. I heard back within a week – they liked my work and wanted a series done based off a painting I did of nude, pink and blue squares. I marinated on this for a few days before realizing what they liked most was the interesting color combination coupled with the geometric nature of the shapes. I was set to go to Tampa that following week, so I made sure to bring my painting supplies.

Watercolor painting

Tampa in March is a lot different than Chicago in March so I spent a lot of time painting outside. The first few paintings I did weren't acceptable. The squares were too close together, too busy. designlovefest had said to keep the paintings minimal so people could still see folders on their desktops. I trashed the first 3 or 4 and tried making the next couple a bit more "zoomed in." This seemed to solve the problem so from then on, I painted my squares minimally. Color was another important point. I wanted the palettes to be neutral with pops of color. Too much color = too busy so I had to be careful not to cross that line. I trashed a few more, left and came back to some, and nailed others on the first try. By the time my vacation was up, I had ten paintings that I felt good about and I flew home to Chicago.

Painting a watercolor in a sketchbook

Once back home, doubt crept in. I looked at the paintings and suddenly, I didn't like them anymore. They weren't good enough to be featured, they weren't what the client wanted, they were too amateur. The thoughts got louder: I suck at painting, where is painting even leading me, this doesn't make any money, I'm not a real artist. I decided to paint a few more – maybe I could make them better, good enough.

Fear wouldn't let me, though, and I procrastinated on this task of re-doing what I'd already done. Another week went by and I heard from designlovefest, asking how things were going and did I have those desktop wallpapers ready yet?


Then and there, I had a decision. 1) Reply that I'd have the art ready by week's end and get to work redoing everything or 2) send what I had already done. You see, two weeks ago, I felt good about my work. I had selected the best ten paintings of the bunch and they were working as a collection. Why, suddenly, was I backpedaling on my instincts? So I sent what I had. I knew my intuition was right even though I felt it wasn't in that moment.

Lo and behold, my work was featured! designlovefest was excited about what I had sent and featured six of my designs in Dress Your Tech #229! I couldn't believe that I was really being featured after all those years of downloading others' designs. And it taught me a pretty valuable lesson for my Year of Creativity – take risks, you're good enough, and most importantly, you ARE an artist.






Large canvas painting: I picked up some large canvases recently, but they'd been sitting blank in my studio for weeks. There is a fear that comes with a big, blank canvas – shitttttt, so much space to mess up! After a particularly good #100DayProject painting, I decided to start on one of the big guys. I set it up and painted several large strokes – the beginning of a tall cactus in one corner, and some rays of sunshine in the other. It sat like that for a week. I worked on it some more, eventually, adding washes of pale blue, purple, gold and painting additional cacti arrangements. The negative space was working in my favor, the movement was good and the colors on point. I knew it wasn't done but I didn't want to mess it up so I left it alone again.

Large, blank canvas

half finished painting

This time, nearly two weeks went by before I could bring myself to touch it again. I was soooo fucking scared of messing it up and not having the "perfect" end product. Yesterday, I used my dope Tarot deck to do a reading on my career path as of late and the resulting spread was phenomenal. I pulled the Chariot card, the two of Cups, the Empress and the six of Wands - together, a powerful show of determination, creativity and victory. It nudged me to finish the painting, so I did. And, I like it. No, I love it! Lesson learned: Push through the fear. If you fuck it up bad enough, there's always gesso ;-)

Finished painting of cacti

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