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The Saboteur

by Keith Bond on 10/31/2011 9:27:56 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



Many of us put off doing certain things out of fear.  I’m not talking about putting off menial tasks like cleaning the studio or doing your bookwork.  For most of us, procrastination of those things is not fueled by fear. 


I am talking about ideas or opportunities or projects that have great potential.  It’s not just simple procrastination, though we may blame it on that. It may be the fear of the doing, or it may be the fear of the potential outcome.  Often, the fear creeps in because there is risk.  And risk means that there is potential for failure.  So we put things off.  Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are doing.


For example (okay, here is my confessional):


A few weeks ago I thought to myself, I should do an open studio event.  Or perhaps I should go so far as to have an actual reception/show at my studio showcasing recent works.  I began to get really excited about the prospect.  It has been a long time since I have hosted an open studio.


I looked at the calendar to set a date.  In order to prepare and market effectively, I was looking about 6 to 8 weeks ahead, but realized that it would fall close to Thanksgiving.  As the various dates were considered, I weighed the pros and cons.  There were also pros and cons between holding an open studio vs. an actual reception.


Interestingly, as the cons became identified, little fears began to creep in.  These fueled other fears.  I procrastinated setting a date.  I procrastinated announcing the date.  I made excuses.  After a week or more of this, I was visiting with friend and colleague Charlie Bogusz from Plein Air Magazine.  Somewhere during our conversation, she suggested that I should do an open studio event. 


As I began to vocalize a few of the excuses that I had made to myself in the week or so prior, I realized that they were nothing more than just that – excuses.  I hadn’t even noticed until then.  It was the vocalizing of them that caught me off guard.  Audibly hearing them pierce my ears shook me to realize that, like a saboteur in the night, my fear had quietly crept in to my mind and all but destroyed my excitement for the idea.


Maybe you’ll recognize a few of my excuses:

  • My studio is a mess
  • My studio is in an industrial/warehouse unit and doesn’t have much aesthetic appeal
  • The lighting isn’t very good in the studio
  • I don’t want to spend money fixing up a studio that I am only temporarily renting
  • Parking is a problem
  • I’m not a very good salesman
  • The weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas are busy for everyone
  • It will be a lot of work to get ready for it by then, and I have other commitments
  • Maybe I should put it off until after the holidays


There were a few others, but you get the point.  Key, though, was realizing that these were all just excuses hiding my real fear:


What if nobody shows up?


The realization that my fear was the culprit was a breakthrough.  I began to address my excuses and regained my excitement for having an open studio event.  And as for my big fear of no one showing up – I realized that it wouldn’t really hurt anything other than my ego…and I may have a few hors d’oeuvres left over.


So, I have finally scheduled my open studio event.


There are many other such examples where fear can sabotage what you do.  It might be scheduling a workshop, attending a workshop, starting that blog, entering a show, creating that work of art that is a huge stretch for you – you know the one.  The list goes on and on.


Don’t let fear become the saboteur that hinders your career.  What project are you going to begin that you have been putting off out of fear?


Best Wishes,

Keith Bond


PS  (Shameless self-promotion) You are invited to my open studio.  Attendees will be entered into a drawing.


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Related Posts:

Build Your Faith

Fret None. Dive In. Make Art. Today.

The Event

The Devil at Work in the World

They Can Sense Fear

Topics: art marketing | exposure tips | FineArtViews | inspiration | Keith Bond | sell art 

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Kathleen Krucoff
One of the very important insights you have shared with us is that we need to become aware when fear is affecting our decisions. It can become the great paralyzer.

A number of years ago I read a book about recognizing when fear is taking over our lives. That book helped me and now I can identify fear more quickly to stop its destructive affects.

Thanks for your insights and best of luck with the studio tour!

Hope you have a very successful open studio event! They are a lot of fun to do. As for attendance, yes, it's a fear, but there are so many variables that can affect turn out, such as saturation of open studio events in your region, population density, advertising, competing events, etc. Attendance was disappointing for the 2 studio tours I participated in here in my town, but I still had a great time meeting and visiting with those who did show up and I don't regret having spent the time preparing and having the open studio. Since you doing this solo you can control a lot of the variables yourself. Good luck!

Carol Schmauder
Thanks for the article, Keith. Best of luck on your event.

I have an open house (open studio) on my calendar for November 19. I have held many of these over the years and I no longer worry about nobody showing up. If they don't I have really lost nothing because I am in the comfort of my own home and can do other things as i await the arrival of people.

I do, however, sometimes have fears about starting a new painting when I am attempting something that is new to me. I don't know why I fear this because if the painting doesn't work out I can just dispose of it and no one is the wiser. I paint with watercolor on paper and the expense is minimal.

I am about to start a painting that is a commission and there are some reservations that have kept me from beginning the painting but then I will be out nothing if the woman commissioning it doesn't like it because I will still have the painting in my collection and can offer it for sale.

Fear is useless, unless it keeps us from danger. We all experience it but with a little self talk and focus on the positive I think we can remove the fear from our path and just get on with whatever we need to do.

George De Chiara
Good luck with your open studio Keith! I recently faced my fear of painting a particular scene that I didn't think I'd be able to do. Not only was I able to finish the painting, but I think it's one of the better plein air paintings that I've done. It's good to face those fears and knock them down!

Bonnie Samuel
This hits home, Keith. Good piece, but the PS is the best....and if it weren't so far I'd come! Then there's the airfare. When I got to your town, maybe I wouldn't be able to find your studio. Maybe.....

Marsha Hamby Savage
Keith, what good advice! And I am glad you scheduled the studio tour. I am in the process of scheduling and getting artists to give me their information for one -- Carol -- same day, Nov. 19 as yours. Why not? No matter how many people do or do not show up. I am in my studio! We are starting small to work out all the kinks this year.

Fear is also knocking at my door about something new in my painting I want to try. So, thanks Keith for helping by saying it is only my fear of "whatever" that is keeping me from forging ahead.

Donald Fox
Doubt, uncertainty, indecision, procrastination, or other inaction can all be the result of fear. We all know these feelings and can attest to their consequences. Your post is a good reminder, and the process you share clearly illustrates the positive outcome when a fear is faced. Someone once said that fear is an arrow pointing to power. I also like Emerson's statement: "Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain." Thanks for the post.

Esther J. Williams
It seems November 19th is a good day to have an art event. I will be appearing with a large single work of my art at a large fundraiser on that evening. I still need to start that painting. I have been going through all the fears of which scene to choose, landscape or seascape, how big, what location... All this indecision has been driving me mad, I need to just start Sometimes I think we throw stuff in the way to avoid the ultimate challenge. I wrote down in my journal awhile back that I need to stop avoiding my challenges, remove the fences and take the leap over the hills and through the woods. Not to worry about failures along the way. Coming out of the woods is so refreshing. There is light on the other side when we remove the fears.
Best of luck to you all on your art events!

Cathy de Lorimier
Hi Keith,
Fear is a perfect topic for this article posted on Halloween. We celebrate with scary masks, music, and ghosts to face our fears during this holiday, and we artists should follow suit and face our own fears, whether large or small. My biggest fear right now is tackling a larger pastel than I am accustomed to doing. There, I said it aloud. Now it just seems ridiculous. I have nothing to lose except a little time and perhaps a wounded ego if my fear of not doing a great painting turns out to be true. If it does turn out well, it will give me all the more courage to try it again and again. Now, please excuse me while I go carve a scary pumpkin.

Great luck to you during your open studio Keith, and let us know how it goes in a follow up!

jack white
One of my favorite saying is, "You miss all the shots you don't take."

I once did a show, when I was at the prime of my career. I catered the show and had three people to serve the public. About 9:30 or 10:00 that evening not one person had showed up. I asked the helpers to take the food home to their families. I went home realizing not one person came to my show.

I felt like I had struck out all four times at the plate. The next day I took my place again at the plate and began hitting again.

I used to tell my sons, they figure the batting average at the end of the season. Thank the Lord our year is not one show, but the body of work we do in a year.

You will be successful. Go for it and have fun.


Donna Robillard
I remember I once did something in a painting I had never done before, and honestly did not how to really approach it. But I went for it and it turned out pretty well. Not long ago I was asked to do a painting that took some of those skills I had to use in the previous painting and I knew how to go about it easier. One thing about painting is there are no two paintings in which you do the very same thing. Each one is a stepping stone to something else.

Jo Allebach
Thanks for the reminder. I do have a tendency to put off what I fear. I am learning more and more every day and just need to DO IT!

Best wishes for your event, Keith and everybody else having some kind of art gathering.

Marian Fortunati
Wow... Your comments are so close to home you could be talking about me... Only I'm worse.

Brian Sherwin
Good article. Not taking action due to the fear of failure is a form of failure in itself. We sometimes forget that when avoiding risks. We can learn from the risks we take.

Brian Sherwin
Good article. Not taking action due to the fear of failure is a form of failure in itself. We sometimes forget that when avoiding risks. We can learn from the risks we take.

Hey all of us could benefit from this easy read"The War of Art" Steven Pressfield. We are our own worst enemies. And what a great Idea for an open house. It is absolutely the right time.
Good luck, Artliveslong D

Sharon Weaver
This made me realize that I may actually need a studio instead of painting on my back porch. Maybe I should take over the dining room after the holidays. I was recently in a fellow artists home and she has taken over the living room as her studio. Nice. Maybe I could redo the garage? More work less time to paint. Maybe my studio is the open spaces outside painting plein air.

Carol Schmauder
Sharon: I paint on my table, as I lost my studio when we moved to a smaller house. I have to drag everything out when I paint but it works okay. For my open house I am going to have my jewelry on the table and my paintings in the living area. I put off doing an open house for the first six years we lived here and then I thought "why not give it a try". It works out better than I would have expected. And I guess I can live without an actual studio. Someone in my past said your studio is wherever you do your work.

Brian Sherwin
My advice is to convert your garage into a studio if you don't have one and are really not in need of a garage space. I suggest that for the simple fact that often artists don't fully understand the chemical factor of the mediums they work with.

In a living area people within the household are more apt to 'pick' some of it up -- which can lead to it being consumed in small traces... which can add up negatively as time goes on. Fumes from materials that we are either used to -- or are simply not that traceable -- can react to other fumes... such as those from cleaning agents.

The main thing is to know what you are working with and how it will react with other things if you decide to have a studio space in your home.

Sorry... had to be a health-nut after reading a few comments. :)


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