Let go


One of the hardest things for me to do when creating is to let go. I’m naturally a control freak, nitpicker, worry wart, overthinker, pedantic pain in the butt. I focus on detail, and despite my skill level being far from being able to create the photographic perfection some artists can manage, it doesn’t stop my brain from trying (whether I want to or not).

For example, I am painting a dragon at the moment. A completely imaginary dragon conjured up in my brain, yet yesterday I spent quite some time discussing with Hubby the differences between pterodactyl, bird and bat wings, trying to find a ‘correct’ structure for my dragon wings.

I find landscapes a challenge because I have the urge to paint every leaf individually, each blade of grass, and each drop of water.

I start abstracts and end up with something more realistic.

What abstracts I do manage to complete are based on colour theory and technique experiments, rather than channelling emotion into the piece.

Before 2010, when I turned my full focus towards my art, my main medium was watercolour pencil – I’m talking metre wide pieces of work detailed in watercolour pencil that took ages to create.

Lotus, watercolour pencil on illustration board

I have far too much left brain at work.

So I sometimes have to work at ‘letting go’.

I was aware of this problem back in 2010 and one of my main aims was to loosen up my art. Prior to 2010, my focus had been my writing and I had managed to loosen that right up. I could write emotion onto the page very successfully and fast. My art was slow and had no flow. I had to fight to get it finished because it would take so long that I would end up hating it – ‘Lotus’ took ten months from beginning to end with about nine and a half of those being procrastination.  And there was no emotion in my art, I’d been told that it had ‘no passion’ in it.

So I had to learn to let go.

I have succeeded somewhat, but I still have a way to go. So I’m still trying.

Green zentangle
Green zentangle – one piece that was totally intuitive, has no meaning, and was a lot of fun to create. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on this one.


Some techniques I use to try and let go and get the art flowing are:

  • Make a mark – don’t worry about what mark, just start.
  • Intuitive painting – just slap some paint on the canvas and see where it takes you.
  • Take a challenge – one of my favourites for sparking inspiration.
  • Force yourself not to worry about how much the art materials cost.
  • If it doesn’t work this time, there can always be a next time. There is always a next time, so don’t worry so much about this time.
  • If this painting isn’t going where you want it to go, turn it into something else.
  • This is not the only painting you will make, there will be others, this one does not have to be the epitome of your career, so don’t wager your soul on it. Care less.
  • So you didn’t finish the last one? Doesn’t mean you won’t finish this one.
  • You can do it, you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the tools, you are an artist, you can do it.
  • Who cares what anyone else thinks.

    Dreams of balloons

  • You may know something is not quite right in the painting, but most other people won’t (unless it is a portrait).
  • You can’t paint like anyone else, but they can’t paint like you either. There is always space in the art world for another artist because each artist is unique and there will be people out there who love your stuff.
  • Try this technique now, another technique in the next one.
  • Experiment…with everything.
  • Listen to music – music can be a great way to keep your workflow steady and focussed in the same zone despite interruptions – just keep the same playlist playing each time you pick up the artwork.
  • Zentangle – otherwise known as doodling, can be a great exercise. Related to intuitive painting, you can be surprised where you end up.
  • Use bigger brushes or soft pastels – you can’t do detail very easily with those. They force you to impressionise.
  • Draw with your non-dominant hand – this one is a recent one for me. I’m guessing drawing with your mouth, feet and elbow might also produce interesting results.
  • If it is not working walk away for a while and come back to it later.
  • Have multiple projects running at once so you can bounce between them according to your mood and success.

And I’m sure there are more, but these are a good chunk of the thoughts and ideas I’ve been using. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Do you have trouble letting go?

Best wishes,