Blog » When Doubt is Gnawing On Your Creative Confidence (Wednesday, 3 February 2021)

The Silence of Stars is the most recent piece in the Desert Sonnet series, which has been front and centre in my studio practice for a few months now. This one came to life about a month ago, and may be my favourite piece ever. It felt really BIG and IMPORTANT.

I had loads of ideas for what to explore next. A week went by with not a minute spent in the studio, then two weeks and three. I found myself looking around the studio for other art to explore. Then avoiding the studio altogether. It takes a while to realize sometimes, but I know enough to know that I was avoiding going into the studio to work on the next piece in this series. I wasn't stuck - I have roughly sixteen million Desert Sonnet ideas to explore. Inspiration was not the issue. It was doubt.

Somewhere in a dark corner in our minds, doubt is always lurking. Doubt was telling me there wasn't going to be another painting in this series as good at the last one, so why bother? And who knows, that may be true. But I'm never going to know for sure it's true if I don't even try to see what comes next.

Sometimes, we have to coax, cajole and ease ourselves into action when doubt is gnawing away on our confidence. The path that most often works for me, is to sneak into a sketchbook or art journal and tell myself I'll try that idea here, where no one will ever see it, it can be awful and it won't matter. Art made in a sketchbook is safe from other eyes, safe from other judgments - the whole idea of sketchbooks and journals is to explore, to test out ideas and techniques, and to discover what might work and what certainly won't. There is no expectation that what you create will be art with a capital A.

I realized the next idea I was committed to exploring might have some compositional issues, so instead of starting on a canvas, I took to a journal to flesh it out, to see if it does have potential. Doubt was happy - This isn't important, it's just a journal, right? And the Artist was happy, because she was back at work on a series that is filling her up with satisfaction.

Doubt may have been right - there are some compositional considerations, but thanks to some art journal time, I see more clearly how they might be handled now.

When we doubt our capacity to take the next step, we have a few choices. We can hold our breath, white knuckle our way through, feeling stress and anxiousness as we go. We can let Doubt's voice persuade us to stop, turn back and leave this path untrodden. OR, we can take ourselves by the hand and with as much kindness and tenderness as we can muster, gently find a safe way to test the ground beneath our feet. I think this is true for art and for everything else Life brings our way.

Here's a little time lapse video of me 'testing the ground'...


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