Conquering Your Fears

Conquering your fears requires facing them head on. For most people on the planet, they’d rather not. It’s too scary, takes too much work, too much time, etc. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about full-fledged phobias which require years of patient and skilled therapy. I’m talking about little things that for whatever reason, we become apprehensive about. The first day at a new school or job, trying something new for the first time, anything that might dredge up feelings of “I can’t do that” or “what if I mess up?”

Nobody was born a professional at anything. (Image credit: Ion Chiosea 123RF.com)

It really boils down to the fear of making a mistake or looking foolish. The fact of the matter is that nobody was born a professional at anything. Experts and professionals of every variety went through years of practice, trials and lots of errors. I know this and I preach it all the time when it comes to fitness and art. But somehow, the fear of trying new things in art usually gets me for a good long while before I actually attempt it. It’s silly, I know.

If you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that I’m an animal portrait artist. I’m very comfortable with drawing animals and I’m actually very confident in my skills. I know without a doubt that I can draw animals accurately and very realistically, so much so that most people will confuse my drawings for black and white photos. I can capture the soul of an animal in their eyes and expression. It’s something I can do in my sleep (not really, but you catch my drift). It’s something that I have trouble with when drawing people.

I can get close and it’s a good likeness, but it still looks like a drawing and there’s no soul behind the eyes. Many people who do work on their fears will take things in baby steps, working on improving things in small bite-size chunks that are more manageable and not as scary. But rather than focus on improving that skill, I’ve shied away from doing any human portraits altogether. And I have been quite successful at avoiding them until recently.

Last summer, a friend and repeat customer asked me for a special favor. She knew I avoided drawing people, but she asked me to take a look at a photo and to consider taking a shot at it. No harm in looking, right? Well, I took one look at the picture, my gut sank, and I knew I couldn’t say no. It was a photo of a young girl named Mia, her eyes were cast heavenward, hands together as if in prayer, and…she had no hair. I didn’t need to ask. She had died of pediatric sarcoma rather recently. The portrait was to be a Christmas gift for her father. How could I say no? I couldn’t. There was no way. I had to put my fears aside and try.

Mia Helena Sidaros

I took the project then and there, allowing myself around six months to work on it, knowing I’d need the time just in case she (the portrait) eluded me. As it turned out, I did use all six months, finally finishing it about a week before Christmas. I’m convinced that Mia worked through me, guiding my hand, very much like how my animal subjects do. And in the end, for the first time ever, I was actually happy with how it turned out. There was such a feeling of relief and a huge sense of accomplishment that now, I’m actually not nearly as apprehensive about taking on another human subject.

This must be my time for facing such fears. Another thing that makes me very uncomfortable is working in color. I’ve dabbled at it before and my animal portraits are better than decent, but the soul…the soul isn’t quite there like in my black and whites. Well wouldn’t you know it? Recently, another friend and repeat customer requested a color portrait of her orange tabby cat, Ginger. She had to put Ginger down recently for health issues. Commemorative portraits like that always hit me a bit deeper than other portraits of animals who are still living. I think maybe I feel the loss of the owner and the loss of the furry one’s life. So I will do my best to do Ginger justice.

One of my brand new sets ready to go!

It’s just that there are so many methods of working with color pencil and I haven’t decided on which to use yet. Plus, I’m by no means an expert with color. Color has always freaked me out because there are so many variables. With black and white, you have black and white at the extreme ends and countless shades in between. But with color, you have primary colors, secondary and tertiary colors and a gazillion quadruple gajillion shades and tints for each. It’s so much to consider that it makes my head hurt. Seriously. And do I just use color pencil? Or do I attempt to blend with odorless mineral spirits? I’ve seen fantastic artists who use both methods, but the only way I’ll know which I prefer is to start dabbling with both methods myself.

So it looks like this weekend I will be focusing on experimenting with color pencils. I’ve already got Ginger sketched out and ready to go, but I need to be solidly confident for the most part in how I’m going to do this before I get started on the real deal.

Have you conquered your fears? Do you have any fears that are currently holding you back with your art? I can’t be the only one. Comment below and let me know that I’m not alone.

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Myra Naito

Myra Naito

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Freelance copywriter who is passionate about art and fitness. Check out my art blog at mnatiodesigns.com/blog/ or follow me @mnaito_fineart .