The most tremendous obstacle that an artist may have to overcome, in order to start any project, is fear.  The fear of your own perfection and your own expectations, the fear of other people’s expectations, the fear of failing, the fear of success and the trail that you must create to withstand the journey, the fear of not completing anything and the simultaneous fear of completing something so that people may critique you and everything that you are.  An artist’s fears can be the endless fog that hides them from the world and buries their creativity in the catacombs of their mind.

I unveiled a graveyard of petrified oil paints from my last canvas painting in 2002.

The last time I touched a paint brush to a canvas was fourteen years ago.  The last time I finished a personal art project was when I graduated from college nine years ago, and most of my portfolio was dictated by classroom requirements.  I knew my capabilities and I knew my weaknesses and strengths in art, but the last time I gave myself the chance to create anything for myself was in high school.

The enemy that I had learned to kill, and would continue to kill, day after day was my pre-perfectionism.  It made up the stitches that held my procrastination together.  Instead of diving into a project, I would busy myself by making plans for the next project; I would sketch out an abundance of nonsense while brainstorming, I would try to pinpoint the perfect medium for the perfect project, and calculate the perfect size canvas.  I would fail to see any of my brainstorming make it to a canvas.  There was always something else to do and something else to finalize before creating the final piece.  There was fear that my own standard would not live up to my expectations; it turned into a vicious circle of doubt that looked like a snake eating its own tail.

A rough pencil to pen landscape sketch of my work-in-progress children’s picture book.

Two years ago, I started to write the first draft of a children’s picture book.  I wanted to find a way to promote my artwork and maybe dive into writing.  I got stuck in the swamp of the writing process, and I am still stuck.  Instead of waiting for a “good enough” draft to round itself out, I decided to sketch out the world where my story took place.  I had a lot more experience in art than I did in writing.  I only began writing when I was about nine and I have just dabbled in it from time to time.   It made sense to start in a place that was familiar to me.

I started watching Bob Ross on Netflix, a few weeks ago.  He was mesmerizing and it was helpful to absorb his laid-back mindset when it came to painting.  Landscapes were a great place to start because, unlike painting people or animals, the artist could make up things as they went and “happy accidents” could easily turn into the most surprising details of a painting.  Nothing had to be planned out and nothing had to be perfect.  Three days later, I retreated to my room to paint, and everything went wrong.

My messy pallet for this painting.

The wet-on-wet painting technique that Mr. Ross used was a medium founded in oil paint and not the acrylic paint that I sprawled on my canvas.  At first, my sunset had been dancing around with its bright colors and buttery yellow had started blending into creamsicle orange and blushing rose.  After five minutes, the paint and retardant that I had prepped on the canvas, had started to dry, and my pink haze turned into a streak-infested, blood-soaked, disgusting mess that looked like a massacre.

It was around that moment that my mom hollered at me from the bottom of the stairs and said “Are you painting, Erika?!  Can I see what you are doing?!”

Horror, dread, doubt, and fear took over every millimeter of my face and body.  I took a deep breath, “Uhhh.  Not right now!  I’ll show you in a little bit.”  Happy accidents, happy accidents, happy accidents…

I stepped back and took it all in.  “The Massacre”.  I was going to fix it.  I threw blue and white onto the canvas to see if the sky was even salvageable.  Everything happens for a reason.  In hindsight, a sunset in the sky would have been too overbearing above the colors of the bright flowers that had scattered themselves along the grass and the hills.

16×20 acrylic on canvas – June 16, 2016

Two hours later, the flowers bloomed on the canvas.  A little beehive from my would-be-children’s-book made a home on an unassuming tree branch, next to a little stream.

The cute little beehive

This was my first acrylic painting, so I had to give myself credit for that.  After two and a half hours, I had created a landscape that I was proud of.  After a fourteen year absence from painting on canvas, this was the result.  It didn’t have to be perfect.  I had fun.  And the most important thing was that I was happy with it.  Onward!