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How to overcome a fear of blank paper

How to overcome a fear of blank paper

Question from Abiona

“Most times when I get the inspiration to draw, I usually procrastinate out of fear of the blank white paper before me.

How do I overcome this artist block every time I’m faced with it?”

Feedback from Vladimir London, Drawing Academy tutor

Hi Abiona,

Many thanks for your question.

I have never had such fear.

Drawing is a visual language of communication. If you get an inspiration but have nothing to say, you keep silent; this is not a block or procrastination.

A good artwork doesn’t start with blank paper, out of nothing. It is first conceived in artist’s head as an idea. Then this idea gets scribbled in multiple small sketches, where it takes visual shape. Then there might be a stage of an extensive research of cultural things like architecture, clothes, man-made items, or natural scenery like landscapes, seascapes, sky, rivers, trees, flowers, and so on.

For figurative artworks, an artist might work hard on preparatory life sketches, looking for a particular model and making multiple studies, drawing poses and portraits. With enough reference materials collected, sketched and thoroughly studied, it all comes together once again in a fine-tuned composition, which can be re-worked many times.

With this preparatory work done, an artist can finally begin an artwork on blank support with intention to remake such drawing or painting as many times as needed to achieve the result wanted.

How-to-overcome-a-fear-of-blank-paper_watercolor-by-Vladimir-London
Watercolor by Vladimir London

watercolor-by-Vladimir-London
Watercolor by Vladimir London (fragment)

I’m failing to see how a fear can stop anyone after all these steps are put in place.

The most common reason for fearing blank paper is lack of strong art skills, which results in subconscious anticipation that an artwork will not turn out as well as intended.

This is a very good indication that you need to learn proficient art skills.

Learning to draw is not a project, it is a life-long process. That is why we give life-long memberships in our art courses.

Kind regards,

Vladimir London
Drawing Academy tutor

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ann Marie Soranno says:

    Hi Abiona,

    I’m just going to say it “There is no such thing as artist block”. It is just another way of saying “I don’t know how to draw what I am thinking.” Of course this is my opinion. Before I took the Drawing Academy course I would feel the same way as you. I would have an idea but I wouldn’t know how to sketch out my idea. It was very frustrating. Now that I understand and practice constructive drawing techniques, I never experienced “artist block”.

    Vladimir,
    I love your watercolor artwork, they are beautiful. If you ever create a watercolor online course I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    Ann Marie

  2. Karen T. says:

    I vehemently disagree with your assertion that if you fear the white paper you have nothing to say. You say you’ve never faced this which is a very telling statement that you don’t understand the problem. How could you if you’ve never faced it?

    Speaking from experience, I know the origin of my fear of the blank page comes from fear of failure not from having nothing to say. It would be much more helpful to Albiona if you would have addressed that. Perhaps she/he needs to ask another artist who truly understands her problem. I surely don’t have the answer.

    • Sam J.M. says:

      Hi Karen, have you read this article to the end?

      If you did, how your statement “my fear of the blank page comes from fear of failure” differs from the following message in the article?

      “The most common reason for fearing blank paper is lack of strong art skills, which results in subconscious anticipation that an artwork will not turn out as well as intended.”

      How could you “vehemently disagree” if you are saying exactly the same thing?

      Also, if you don’t have the answer, how your comment helps Abiona?

      Speaking from my personal experience, which comes from working with adult art students, in every single case when an artist self-sabotages oneself, such an “artist block” comes from a fear of making an inferior artwork that he or she has in mind.

      With such low level of art education they have in contemporary art colleges, no wonder why “fear of blank paper” is so common these days.

      I think the author has nailed the answer – learn good art skills to fear not.

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