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Monday, May 9, 2016

Fear of Failure

It's easy to fall into a creative rut. It happens when you do the same thing over and over, and over, and over…  Any form of repetition (subject matter, technique, color…) can be the kiss of death to creativity. If you're worried about painting a “winner” every time you’ll quit If you quit stretching you’ll quit growing. Life is too short not to get a few stretch marks! 

If you want to grow it means you have to take a risk. The risk can be large or small but without the risk there is no challenge, without a challenge you become bored, and your work lacks excitement. Before too long you’ll lose interest in your own work because….YOU ARE BORED! If you find yourself in a rut, GET OUT! The fastest way to pull yourself out of a rut is shake things up! This week do something that  #!*!#+ scares you. Do it for you. Find out what you're capable of. Push the limits of your ability. Did you know adrenaline heightens your senses?

Does working through fear come easy for me…nope! I know more about fear than I’d like to admit. Unfortunately, I let fear rob me of my life for too many years…it paralyzed me! It robbed me of my potential personally and creatively. It’s okay to be afraid but don’t let the fear control you…DO IT ANYWAY! 

Try something this week that takes you out of your comfort zone. Here a few suggestions: 
Drawing Tools: pencil, bamboo pen, soluble ink, waterproof ink, markers
Brushes:  Flat, LARGE round
Technique: watercolor, collage, pen & ink
Surfaces: tinted paper, Japanese paper, slick paper, rough paper
Size: Do something BIG, miniature
Subject: landscape, nudes, old trucks, portraits, street scenes
View: from above (birds view), from below (worms view)
Atmosphere: sunny, foggy, rainy
Lighting: soft or sharp, warm or cool
Plein Air: Working outdoors

Recently I challenged myself. I wanted to see if I could do a pen and ink with watercolor on a larger scale, 22x30. I knew my ink lines had to be bigger. How was I going to do it? I started looking around and decided my largest Bamboo pens were perfect. I liked the width and slight irregularity of the lines would add to the sketchy feeling. No pre-drawing with pencil. It was wonderfully freeing to let the ink lines wiggle, blob and splatter ink. I wasn't out to create perfection I was having fun...and it wasn't so scary after all. 

used Noodler’s Ink, Polar Brown (waterproof), Bockingford watercolor paper 22x30, 140lbs cold press and Daniel Smith Watercolor.

 I wanted the finished piece to feel "sketchy". I resisted the temptation to refine things too much.  I wanted the look of a large sketch. Which brings up a good question...what exactly is a sketch? Is it the size? The approach? The materials used? I don't have a good answer. I love to play and push the boundaries of ink and watercolor and that's all that matters to me. I'll let others worry about definitions and I'll keep sketching and painting.

Happy Painting!

Man of Volterra, Italy


  1. Thanks so much for this encouragement to fear not!! and risk!!
    This weekend was looking through your books - "Steps to Success" and "Watercolour Journal Keeping" - I love how your paintings are realistic yet not photographic - I try too much to paint as I see it... need to take more artistic, editorial freedom - thanks for inspiring / teaching me!

  2. Inspiring! thank you. love your work <3

  3. Brenda - I so appreciate your sharing/teaching regarding fear and taking risks. Plus your painting is just beautiful. This winter into spring I've had a lot of down-time with a bad back and so have been "forced" into daily watercolor journaling - wow, talk about a silver lining! I've been sketching with a fountain pen without drawing first - it's exciting actually and forces me to become very focused and present since there's no erasing possible. I've mostly played with watersoluble inks which have been a lot of fun. And now I'm going to try the waterproof variety and just received a brown, De Atrmentis Document Brown. I feel so encouraged by your posting today - thank you! I love your work and value your writing/teaching.

    1. Mary,
      I am touched to know my words, teaching and art have inspired you. Thank you!
      I hope your back is doing better and soon you'll be taking your sketching with you out into the world. ~Hugs

  4. I'd seen this on Facebook earlier, didn't realize how large it was... I am so inspired by your work and will endeavor to stretch out too... and what is it I fear really? It's just paper and paint and if it really sucks I don't have to show it to anyone.

    1. It's fun to stretch and go big...even if no one ever sees it but me =)

  5. Debbie MegginsonMay 9, 2016 at 5:08 PM

    Thank you, Brenda, for this inspiring post. You have a winner with this lovely warm painting!

  6. Wow! I had forgotten that you didn't use pencil to pre-draw this one! Even more exciting! I do love this painting!

  7. i love the color washes you have in this painting. loved it when i saw it on instagram. thanks for the inside look at how you did it.

  8. Thank you for this post! Most excellent! I like the white's in your new image.

  9. Absolutely GORGEOUS piece! And I needed this message right now. Thank you!

  10. I love how you pushed yourself beyond the "usual sketchbook size" and used a full sheet of watercolor paper. I'm sure it gave you so much more freedom to dance those beautiful colors all over the buildings etc. It looks like so much fun--I am going to have to be brave and give this a try!

    1. Annie,
      I hope you'll give it a try...have courage =)

  11. Thanks for this inspiring post!

  12. The piece is definitely alive. I live the sketchy lines and loose watercolour.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement ! Love your work !

  14. Thanks for the encouragement ! Love your work !

  15. Thanks for the encouragement ! Love your work !


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