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Overthinking My Art?

(Originally posted Feb. 3 to my Artful Buddhist blog on Substack)


On New Year’s Eve at 10pm, I grabbed my new art crayons, and started a figure drawing. I used all my new colors, some water, and just went a bit wild:


· I made sweeping, bold gestures.

· I used my arm, not my hand.

· I connected to a figure that was entirely imaginary.

· I experimented.


[Image: “2020 Survivor” — 22x30, 31 December, 2020, @jeffbrackettart]


What was so different about that approach?


I stopped thinking.


· About what the finished piece would look like.

· About what others’ might think of my work.

· About my insecurities surrounding my skills.

· About being a perfectionist.


The result was a drawing was full of energy, lively lines, and bold colors.

I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone:


· Laying down colors I would never use together;

· Putting marks in places I might otherwise question;

· Leaving as-is distorted proportions; and

· Using art crayons I’d just opened.


All of these actions challenged by my precise-line-drawing-mojo of my Power Lines drawings.

I channeled studio art professors encouraging me to just see where the process takes me.

I allowed myself to ask, “What if?”


· I stopped getting in my own way?

· I drew without fear?

· I just let go?

· I felt the experience rather than analyzed it?


Fear is common among artists, and Aspies (like me, at least) like:


· Repetition.

· Patterns.

· Predictability.

· Stability.


Hence, my “Power Lines” make even more sense now.


[Image: “Dukkha” — 36x60, Summer 2020 @jeffbrackettart]


My New Year’s Resolution is to push myself out of my comfort zone by working with more color. When I work with color, I can become fearless – I will try just about anything, which is quite unlike my approach to the Power Lines drawings.


I’m often pleasantly surprised by the results, too. So why don’t I just approach every piece that way, with no thought and just letting myself “go wild”?


It’s just a piece of paper. It’s not precious.


Last night, however, I couldn’t bring myself to add color to my latest drawing, which has been on my desk for weeks. This one just feels like it’s going to be a breakthrough piece for me.


But, setting these lofty goals has the effect of increasing the very fear and overthinking I’m trying to overcome.


It was fear, really, that held me back.


· Fear that I would mess up what looks to be a promising new piece.

· Fear that my new blocks of colored graphite wouldn’t quite “do” what I want.

· Fear that the drawing wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

· Fear that I had to stop thinking.


All of this, in spite of what I experienced on New Year’s Eve. I tend to fight my artistic fears by diving right in, but not last night.


How do you respond to overthinking or fear? Does it slow your work down? What is the overall impact? Does it overwhelm you? Or, do you thrive under such pressure?


Some of you may have already seen these next pieces, all done since the start of the year. Each one was highly experimental, playful, and made in response to my New Year’s Resolution.


[Image: “Mixed Media #1, 2021” — 9x12, @jeffbrackettart]


[Image: “Mixed Media #2, 2021” — 9x12 @jeffbrackettart]


[Image: “Mixed Media #3, 2021” — 9x12 @jeffbrackettart]


What if I started a whole series of drawings with some “wild” gestural lines?


Or, what if someone else put down the first few lines?


· I wouldn’t have to fear the first move.

· I could just respond to what’s in front of me.

· And maybe the fear due to overthinking would dissipate.

· Maybe, I would enjoy the process, fearlessly, without overthinking.

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