More painted faces ….

The daily portraits continues on and I am loving this practice. As someone who historically has peaks and troughs with my work it is such a motivation to get to the easel every day (or pretty much every day) and do something – having a plan, a ‘thing to do’, a way of practising with no expectations is a key way of making sure I go back day after day.


I sincerely hope I can keep it going and am going to be creating a new challenge for myself every month. With this month being small portraits in acrylic, it has been a challenge as acrylics is one of those mediums that I get very out of practice with very quickly and when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. I don’t often throw things in the bin as I like to keep going and keep going until piece turns that corner from being a mess to being something worth creating (this is more about the process that the finished piece as inevitably some end up more successful than others). But with the focus on completing something every day, some have just become a muddy mess that nothing can save, so in the bin it goes. But that is great! As I keep going, knowing that some will work, others won’t and that knowledge keeps me coming back for more.


I think committing to a daily practice such as this helps me focus on other areas of my life that need work too. I am swimming again which I had not done for over a year. Not the five days a week I was doing before but a more gentle two or three days to allow my poorly back and pelvis to recover in between. But already I am feeling the benefit. Swimming for me is very comparable to painting in a funny way. I suffer major resistance right up until I get in the pool – the getting up early (not the way my body clock works naturally) and the whole rigmarole of getting there and changed whilst my brain is telling me there are other things I should be doing. And then I get in that water and remember why I love swimming – the time to think, feeling that resistance against the water and knowing that it is good for me, mind, body and soul. Why can we be so resistant to the things we love doing? Is it just me?

Actually – even writing that made me Google it to see if I am the only one that feels this way!!  I found this article which completely resonates with me. I have realised recently that I have been suffering from crippling self doubt – in my artwork, in my ability to really focus on what it is that I am trying to do with my paintings and my teaching. About a few different things really and it is a hard thing to admit to myself, let alone anyone else. It is possibly the sort of thing that in the past I would have really kept to myself, torturing myself with all the thoughts that run through my own mind. But perhaps it is time to talk about it, to acknowledge it and to deal with it. I hinted at it in a recent post. It isn’t dependant on anything from the outside – I get good feedback on my courses and lovely comments on my artwork – it is all internal and I have gone through it many times before and likely will many times again.


Of course it comes from fear and all of the ‘what-ifs’ that go with that! I do know though, that whatever I do, I will always put my heart and soul into it – and I guess sometimes that causes me to falter – but I am a plodder. I always have been. If something is not working or is causing me troubles then gradually I will find my way through it. It might take a while, but I will get there! I don’t think there is a magic wand that can be waved – I think it is just a case of continuing to do what I am doing – show up, get the paintbrushes out and keep going – plodding along. I do know I won’t ever give up.

Incidentally, the last three of these portraits from the past week are my favourite. The top right one had me worried and was one that almost went in the bin – but it is also the one that I got to a certain point with and said to myself – ‘time to move on’ – not every one has to work or even be ‘good’.  So the proof is in the pudding as they say – keep going and gradually I will get there.

(PS – all this is a little hard to write about – but I also know that reading about how other artists struggle and how they ultimately work their way through it, is an enormous help to me. So I will keep up with the honesty, in the hope it can be of some use).

x x x

Comments 7

  1. Terri Corona

    You are SO not alone in how you feel, and it’s so brave and generous of you to share your feelings, because if such an inspiring artist as yourself has these issues then I think it makes the rest of us not feel so bad about having them as well. I often feel I can’t really call myself an artist because I go for such long periods just not motivated to do it, I have to exert sheer willpower to get in the studio. Admittedly I work full time, but if it’s something I love why don’t I want to rush home and get in there? When I do it I’m always so happy I did. You have really helped me in that area actually with your writing about it, about creating schedules and daily habits, and when I still don’t manage it I have to try not to judge myself too much. I think self-doubt is just human, and if we don’t let it cripple us can push us forward.

  2. teresacash

    I applaud you loudly for the honestly. Even tho you are and have been struggling, my heart feels for you, while at the same time I appreciate hearing it. The tone of your story is uplifting and encouraging. You are telling your story in a way that peaks my interest. Keep up the good artwork along with sharing yourself because I AM LISTENING!

  3. K brasfeild

    I feel pretty sure that I am descended from tortoises! All my friends are hares, but ya know I am juuuust as happy (if not more so;) going at my own pace!! I think it shows you’re self-awareness to recognize and accept your “way”…and maturity when we embrace it!!! Peace be with you…-k.

  4. Kathie Vezzani

    Thank you for sharing your angst, Gillian. I really appreciate seeing the first picture so large so that I can admire the brush strokes. Always lovely to see your work. Keep swimming!

  5. Carla Woody

    Gillian, I love these portraits. I’m a writer…and intending to make my artwork equally as important. I write…a lot…and when I wrote my last book I made a ritual of it. I remembered Joseph Campbell saying he committed 3 hours each morning to writing. Whether anything showed up or not, there he sat. I took on his ritual and magic happened. The Muse showed up every day. I truly enjoyed the process, not just the end point. Your post here encourages me to extend the ritual to my artwork. Thank you.

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