I got this great question from Neha yesterday on Instagram that made my heart jump because I still feel it sometimes as well:
“I have this terrible issue with not being able to paint or sketch because I find my sketchbooks too precious…. I know I need to stop this, but I can’t. Any sketchbook or paper you can suggest that can be used to not have that precious feeling…. So I can paint freely? Thanks! (…) Because I feel paralysed thinking I will ruin the paper… That it’s not a good subject to sketch or paint etsc etc. etc…. And this ends up with me not doing anything “”
UGH! That feeling sucks. I still feel it often as well, So I developed some tricks to come over it !
I replied with a tip of good quality paper which isn’t very expensive: Canson “XL” watercolor paper block. But …. sketchbooks are made for sketching ! Canson is good value for money, but don’t go for the cheapest. Buying very cheap bad quality sketchbooks isn’t a solution, because you can’t make good watercolors on bad quality paper! It’s essential to buy good quality paper, at least 140 lb / 300 grams, if you paint very wet… and some decent brushes. Better buy less, but good quality, then a lot of cheap stuff (like for clothes…). Buy the paper that fits your technique: for watercolors you need decent watercolor paper.
Don’t put your nice sketchbooks aside for when you’ll be able to make a “masterpiece“. That’s the perfectionist in you who’s talking! TODAY is the best day to use them !!! Because guess what? The perfectionist in you will never find your art good enough for the sketchbook. So be kind to yourself: you don’t need to make a masterpiece. You’re just sketching and playing and that’s the way to become better and better at your art: day by day, bit by bit. Do it every day a bit at least! Just trick the perfectionist in you and tell him/her: “I’m just going to paint 5 minutes now”…. and before you know it you’ll be painting more than an hour !
So, here are some tricks I developed:
Afraid to ruin the paper? Just start by splashing paint on the paper. So, that’s done : it’s “ruined”. Now start your sketching on the splashes and you’ll end up with a fun, great painting!
Afraid to ruin the sketchbook? Don’t start on the first pages, so it’s less intimidating. I never start on the first page. Usually on the 2nd or even third page, because the perfectionist in me tells me I keep the first page for “something special”…. Well usually on the first page now I sketch my art supplies I’m currently using: my palette, brushes and pencil and ballpoint pen. That’s fun!
Just start in your favorite sketchbook! When I like a type of sketchbook, I buy several of them, so I feel less reluctant to “ruin ” it. I think that fear of ruining the sketchbook will never go away… And you know why you should use your favorite sketchbook? Because you only live once! Tomorrow something terrible might happen like an accident, which will prevent you from painting…. so don’t leave good stuff for later! And another more important reason: using “precious” sketchbooks will make sure you won’t be sloppy and you’ll do your best to improve your drawing and painting skills… If we use cheap stuff, we tend to be sloppy…. So use that damn great sketchbook and make the best out of it!
You don’t know what subject to draw/paint in your sketchbook? Any subject which makes you happy is a great subject! Paint subjects you like and that make you feel good and happy so you’ll enjoy yourself! When you enjoy yourself, your painting will automatically make you happier than if you paint something which doesn’t really make you feel good. There’s no such thing like a “not good enough subject”. Just one thing to keep in mind: if you draw a “weird” subject, your drawing will look weird as well… 😉
And last but not least: be kind to yourself! You’re not making a “masterpiece”. You’re just drawing and painting.
Leave yourself alone. Just play and have fun….
And…. it’s just paper….