The Moment of Flailing Panic

Christopher Moore, Sacré Bleu coverIn the creation of any work of art, there is some point, no matter how much training and experience is brought to bear on the work at hand, when the artist is taken with a feeling of both exhilaration and terror, the Oh shit. What the hell have I gotten myself into! moment of flailing panic, akin to the feeling of falling from a great height.
from the book Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore

Deep Thought Thursday

In your art-making or art business, what makes you ask, “Oh shit. What the hell have I gotten myself into”?

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42 thoughts on “The Moment of Flailing Panic”

  1. We installed the sculpture Swanee yesterday…Well over 75 lbs(guessing) we could barely lift her…(me & Joseph)…I got a Ford Escape from Zipcar, & she just fit in…I absconded with a flatbed dolly from our building maintenance…(It has been returned)…The swan had to be dragged to a far pond & placed on a rock, but 45 minutes NW of the city…It rained intermittently…I had about 4 months of anxiety about delivering her…Oh & she had to be in place before Mother’s Day, but during warm enough weather…

  2. As I’m organising an exhibition with 11 artists in Oxford, UK. Set up and preview are tomorrow. So I’m pretty much in this state all the time at the moment. Don’t think I’ll calm down until it’s all set up any everyone’s happy!
    In a painting it’s usually when I’m putting on the first layers of paint, I use watercolour on large areas to begin with and if I’m too slow the effects don’t work as well.

  3. There’s always a moment in painting/drawing a portrait when it looks a mess. I know I always pull it together in the end, so the panic isn’t usually as bad as it is today. Today I am painting a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, to be presented to the Town Council on June 5th as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Not only that but I decided at the start of this to try a new medium. What was I thinking! Even the colour of the background is becoming a big issue!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Oh, Jen. I can’t wait to see that. How exciting! Please let me know when you share it.

  4. Whenever I begin to think of my almost abandoned art life…I think “oh shit.”
    Whenever I consider all the sketchbooks filled over the last 7 months…”oh shit.”
    Now, am going into an art mini-retreat tonight, tomorrow night, Sat. morning, and Sun. morning. Do I even remember how to paint larger than 8×11? On canvas? Oh, shit….
    The last year & half of my life, in a good way: OH SHIT that was A LOT!
    Couldn’t resist. Thanks for permission to use a particular word…LOL.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      AM: Love it! Yes, I don’t use many “bad” words, but sometimes you just have to say, “What the hell.” 😉

  5. Sacre Bleu! What the hell have I gotten myself into?
    I thought that with my first photo show here recently. I don’t consider myself a pro at photography however, people like my photos and that is what my art group asked me to do for the show.
    Sacre Bleu! When three shows creep up and my creativity tank is running on empty.
    and Oh Crap, the two year old is chasing the dog with my ultramarine blue paint tube…..say I paintin mommy.

  6. Haha! Couldn’t be better timing – like when I announce to the world that I’m going to enter a particular show and haven’t really left myself time enough to complete the work. I think I challenge myself in that way so that I will get something accomplished. Oh shit! Or when I announced that I’ve made the decision to transition from the artisan gallery I run to a one man shop – and now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is – Oh shit! This is what keeps us going – the exhilaration of setting nearly unattainable goals and then achieving them!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lisa: I love it. That’s how I feel.
      I started 3 of my classes back in 2009 without having any content other than the sales pages. I wrote one lesson a day for 3 months. Oh, shit!

  7. Jack Providenti

    I didn’t know this phenomena was a common occurance! I have experienced this mostly while painting murals for someone, usually about halfway through, I would get a realization of some kind where I’m CERTAIN that I don’t know what I’m doing, and wonder how I’ll get out of the situation! That always passes, and to date, all have been successful. These days, I paint mostly canvas art, but there is always a point where I wonder whatever made me think I can do this…and yes, it’s a PANIC!

  8. Lorraine Reynolds

    This is EXACTLY what I was thinking a little under a week ago. I started graduate school, working towards my MFA in Visual Art, this past January. My purpose in this academic endeavor, to push my boundaries and grow as an artist. I am 43 years old and was feeling a little stuck in a rut.
    But, last week when I was out looking at art in some local galleries, I had that PANIC moment. The “oh Sh1t!” moment of what the hell am I doing. “Am I straying too far from the work that was successful and selling?” That moment subsided as the evening wore on, but I still have this queasiness about what I am doing. And I won’t know if where I am pushing my work is going to be profitable. I know it is making me think about art differently. But heck, that is a pretty scary feeling….

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lorraine: Then it must be the right thing. If you didn’t question it, it would be too easy and, therefore, unworthy of your time.
      Congratulations on taking this step.

  9. Yes! Snorting now. As a long time neophyte, I have left huge watercolors for months, paralyzed. Sometimes because they are ecstatically beautiful, but not quite finished, and I can’t risk ruining them yet. Sometimes because they are hideous and I have no clue how to recover. Some are on the wall, thrilling me every time I pass by. Some have become book marks and gift cards on the fly. Thanks for understanding.

  10. Pretty much every piece, when it starts to come together but isn’t right yet — will it ever be? Why is it so boring — what’s gonna give it zip? What if I never find the key? (each piece has a key to it). And then if there’s a learning curve, the panic is greater. Working with a new material –like metal, or oil sticks on fabric, or a new substrate — I start out so excited, and then that panicky moment hits! I’m glad to know now that it does usually pass. And if not, time to get some distance and come back later. Sorry/happy to see so many others deal with the same!

    1. Christine Sauer

      Ditto! I feel the same….that oh s… feeling is usually just past the midpoint of a new work…not sure if I am able to make a piece come together without it looking overworked!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I’d love to see your videos, Robin. Somehow I haven’t. Can you share?

  11. Sacre Blue too!
    I’m painting a large canvas for my daughter for her college graduation. I would not be so mired in fear if it was for an exhibit…and I’m avoiding it like the Plague! I’m one of those who never gives up on a piece of work. I can almost always bring it around to something that I want to sign my name to. But for some reason this very personal gift has me saying “Oh Sh*t!”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      What is it, Shelly? That you want it to be perfect? Perhaps it’s TOO personal. My painting teacher said that to me one time when I was trying to paint something related to my cousin’s death. He said it might be too close at that time.

  12. That moment hits me usually about three months prior to the opening date for a solo show, especially if the work isn’t complete or I’ve been struggling with it.
    The good thing is, it usually spurs me into overdrive and I push to get the pieces finished or corrected. So far this has worked…

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Funny how that happens, Robert. For me, nothing motivates like a deadline.

  13. Recently, as the result of a successful art show in a local museum, I was invited to be one of 10 artists, and the only fiber artist, to participate in a gala fund raising show for a Women’s Club about 70 miles from home – “An Evening of Art and Wine” with 3000 people paying $30/head just to attend! An honor? of course? Oh, shit, what have I gotten into? How much inventory do I need? Will my friend be able to help me (all artists were encouraged to have help.) How far will I have to lug my gridwall? Panic does not come close to what I was feeling! And where is the Wal-Mart when my garment rack broke during set-up?
    The organization could not have been more lovely, more accomodating, and I did $1500+ in 3 hours of sales, to probably more like 1000 guests – still that is a LOT of scarves! (And I have enough inventory to cover the next couple of shows.) And I hope they invite me back in 3 years!

  14. Ah yes, I know this feeling well. I think the best example was in the fall when I showed my 8′ x 8′ x 8′ installation piece “Temporary Shelter” in 5 venues over the course of 1.5 months. As I took it down from the first site, packed it up, moved it to the second, and realized how many more times this had to happen, I asked myself “What was I thinking?!”
    Of course, now that the memory has faded a bit and it’s 4 months later, I’m seeking more venues for the piece so I can do it again. Soon, I’ll be asking the same question once again!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Heather: You just know better now than to do 5 venues in such a short time span. Like I know not to do 4 big workshops in 5 weeks.

  15. That moment happens every single day, when I put on my Marketing Hat.
    Creating has remained almost second nature, easy, free, sometimes wild, for as long as I can remember. Sales on the other hand feel like the polar opposite.

  16. I definitely have these thoughts about 2/3 through my more creative projects. When designing a piece of clothing or an intricate necklace there is just too much “almost” and not enough complete. In the past I’d left projects in this state for years but lately I am able to pull through this tough phase of the creative process. I’m learning the bigger the “oh shit” moment the greater potential the piece has to be exceptional. It’s not until you go out on a limb that you can surprise yourself.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Oooo. I like that, Julia! Look for HUGE “oh shit” moments and then you’ll know you’re getting somewhere.

  17. Oh my goodness, I have to say for me it was the process of getting a license to sell online. It’s so unclear (in my city) what exactly I was expected to do and just trying to figure out how to fill out the application was a nightmare. And then finding out the annual cost of such a thing (and how it’s much more than I will actually earn through sales) was also depressing. But it’s either give the government all of my money or sell illegally. What choice is there? Sometimes I feel like I should have just quit painting.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Melissa: Why do you need a license to sell online?
      Or are you talking about a sales tax license?

  18. For me, that moment comes every time I show a new piece. In my mind, I’m always living the nightmare where everyone laughs or they all cover their mouths and whisper something to the person beside them. That moment always passes, however. I do rely on the compassion of the human spirit and have faith that people are too polite to bring that nightmare to life.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post… Lou

  19. In the middle of a commission — When I am painting a portrait of someone’s home and am about halfway through the porch railing or decorative woodwork… Or when I volunteer to organize the first ever group show in our studio building’s lobby (the place hadn’t even been swept for a year)… or when I volunteered to organize (or “herd”) the 80 artists in our building for Open Studios only five months after I moved in when I didn’t know anyone and had never even participated in the event before…. but how else to we get to know people and stretch our minds and grow our drawing skills and learn more about spreadsheets ;P?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      My deepest regrets usually involve the V word. But you’re right about stretching.

  20. Over and over I read that most artists have that moment of panic halfway through a painting, even Monet in his prime!
    So now, each time, I pat myself on the shoulder and say soothingly, “Good, Sylvia, this is right where you are supposed to be. Now make another stroke….”

  21. Alyson Stanfield

    I’m giggling at those here who couldn’t write out the word “shit.” Mostly because that’s exactly how I do it in all of my posts – disguising the bad word. I decided to be bold with this one!

  22. Pingback: A Month of Flailing Panic « juliadziuba

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