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5 random considerations to overcome performance anxiety in drawing

Giving up for fear of disappointment

Too often I hear people say "I don't draw because I'm not good", or even worse "I like to draw, but my drawings are ugly, so I don't do it". You convince yourself that you are not good, and then you give up.

Like the fox that doesn't reach the grapes: she gives up, and prefers to say that she didn't really want it at all. 

It happens to everyone, even me or other good and famous artists, to look at one's drawing and not be satisfied with it. Sometimes we are even disappointed, because the result is far from what we had imagined. 

However, this is just a very normal reaction, stemming from the desire to improve, which should not be an excuse not to draw!

I have decided to collect here, in no particular order, some considerations I have made over the years, and which I will never tire of repeating to everyone (yes, even to myself): 


1. Focus on the moment, on the goal

If drawing is a pleasurable activity, it is a great pity to give it up just for fear of the end result... don't you think? Focusing on "while drawing" helps to remember to enjoy while doing the action. To use a metaphor:

The important thing is the journey and not the destination. 

What is your goal? Why are you drawing?
If the answer is "because I like it and enjoy/relax", then you are on the right track. 

You are not taking an exam, nor are you creating an illustration for which someone might be disappointed: you are drawing for you, to spend this time peacefully. 


performance anxiety and drawing


2. Choose an undemanding technique 

If I decide to go for a walk in the mountains, I will not start with a climb on the Everest, but with something simpler!

The same should apply to drawing: if I am novice or out of practice, I will not start a photorealistic portrait project with oil paintings on canvas! 

Better to play it smart by choosing a simple technique: start with the basics, with something that does not require years of training: 

  • coloured or graphite pencils
  • felt-tip pens
  • ballpoint pens 

The tool that reassures me most of all is a small black ink pen, with a somewhat coarse tip: the thick stroke prevents one from being able to be particularly accurate or detailed, forcing the drawing to be a little rough, almost coarse... but no less pleasant. 

performance anxiety and drawing

3. Choosing low-value materials

It often happens that I buy, or am given as a present, spectacular sketchbooks: well bound and with a fantastic paper feel, which also cost a considerable amount of money. Then I open it, get ready to draw... and the anxiety rises! What if I ruin this beautiful new notebook? When in doubt, I just give up using it to wait for that famous 'genius project' that will evidently never arrive.

Over the years I have found a sketchbook that is perfect: 

  • being a notebook and not flyers sheets, I keep all the drawings and sketches collected in a kind of publication. I can also divide them up by subject if I really feel the need.
  • the right size: neither too small to be inconvenient, nor too big to be cumbersome
  • with the right paper: nice and pleasant to use, but fine enough to look cheap
  • the right price: not expensive, but also not that bad quality feeling that detracts from the designs

It seems impossible, but it is also from a very famous brand: Moleskine. In this version, it does not give the impression of a "fine sketchbook", but gladly accepts the right amount of carelessness that makes drawing an enjoyable activity. 

performance anxiety and drawing

4. Draw often, even a little, but every day

As for point 2, if I find myself doing an activity that I do not do often I will be undertrained, increasing the risk of being disappointed by the result, thus increasing fears and insecurities.

If I do a little drawing every day, on the other hand, I will more easily accept a possible disappointment: no harm if I am disappointed today, I will do better tomorrow. 


5. Use dissatisfaction to improve

Being disappointed seems, at first glance, to be a bad thing... but it doesn't have to be: feeling dissatisfied means wanting to improve. Instead of looking at the negative sides of the picture, it is better to try to see how you can do better next time. 


The mental attitude to change the perception of an activity

We cannot change the way we draw, at least not overnight (we can do it with dedication and training, tenacity in studying and deepening techniques). But we can change our mental attitude towards drawing: by relieving tension with small tricks, we can enjoy this relaxing and meditative activity more. 

Debora has a degree in Visual Communication and works as a UX Designer. Raised as a self-taught artist, she has always made drawing her most enjoyable pastime, giving birth to the collection of "iCosini." Completing her great passions are glider flying and mountains.