I’m scared that the painting will suck.
I’m scared that I’ll screw up.
I’m probably not supposed to tell you I am scared. I’m probably supposed to be mysterious and aloof and confident. But I want to be true to myself, so I will tell you that, when I paint, a part of me is always scared.
This portrait is for Amy. It takes me twice as many hours to complete it than I budgeted, and I email to ask for more time. Thankfully, she doesn’t need the portrait until November. She doesn’t mind. I can slow down. I paint carefully and methodically. I add layer upon layer of translucent color.
Painting Big intimidates me. When I add color to a tiny face, there isn’t much room for complexity; it’s as simple for me as filling in a coloring book. However, the people in this portrait are large enough that each face is a canvas all its own. Each face is like a sky at sunset, warm hues melting into each other, sliding over the shadows and disappearing behind a horizon of hair.
The portrait is now complete. It turned out pretty amazing. You might laugh at this, but my favorite part of it is the mother’s arm and collarbone. It’s hard to see in a photograph, but the paint blends and blots in just the right way to give a soft, realistic impression of her skin.
I don’t know why I was scared of screwing it up. If I wasn’t proud of my work, I would have repainted it. I tell people I won’t do this, but sometimes I do it anyways.
Now on to the next commission. And the next. And the next. And always I’m wrestling with fears.
While I paint, I hold my breath. I forget to eat. I lose track of time. When I paint—in that moment—the only thing that exists is the art. And me. Each new portrait requires all of me. It makes me feel so alive. But what if, one day, I am not enough?
Perhaps that’s what scares me most of all.
Final painting measures 15 x 22 inches. Watercolor and ink on watercolor paper.