The Terrible Whiteness

I think all creatives run into this at one point in time or another. Some of us (like me)may run into it almost on a quarterly basis – which means I’m due.

It is this weird fear that I have of  ruining the perfect white canvas.  Writers probably fear the blinking cursor or the white page, sculptors fear the beautiful large block of marble and potters … well they probably don’t fear anything because they can just crush something that isn’t working and start again with the clay.

Or it could just be me.


but  I don’t think it is.

There is something beautiful and pristine and intrinsically valueable (at least to me) about a blank canvas. Good canvas is never cheap and the larger it is the more it cost. And at the heart of it… I love a beautiful canvas, coloured or not.

Blank canvas is where I imagine all my ideas in perfection. This canvas could be “the perfect painting”.

I could prove my skills on this canvas.

This canvas could come together perfectly.

This canvas could be the painting I create that is universally adored.



this canvas can remind me of my failure to solve its problems.

this canvas could be the start of an epic battle…

I could fight with this canvas for the next 6  months before stashing it in a drawer somewhere never to see the light of day again…. hopefully.

I could give you lots of excuses for why I have not been in my studio, some of them family obligations, or time schedule changes or other things that are pretty mundane.

But the end of it all is that too much time away from my studio leaves room for the old fears to creep in  and start gunking up the gears.


I personally like the image of the “bohemian artist” minus the dreadlocks and doo-rags (I totally could not pull that off).  Sleeping in til noon, doing whatever “creative/wierd” thing I felt like, daisy chains and Tuscan breezes. Backpacking around the world… no shred of structure or daily routine to hold the artist back…

But I’ve discovered I would be a very broke and very uncreative person without structures, routine, and discipline. Its the boundaries of the box that make creativity possible for me.

So this week is back to the studio for me. What about for you?


6 responses to “The Terrible Whiteness”

  1. Hi Laura,
    This Terrible Whiteness image is a very familiar one! For me, the fear is made worse the longer I have this perfect image in my mind of what I want to paint. Really well thought out pieces are a nightmare to get on canvas!
    I just keep trying to tell myself that I can paint more versions if it doesn’t work out. After all, you see that in the works of well known painters – they sometimes seem to ‘practice’ pieces in various forms before hitting on THE final piece. Well, not sure if it’s entirely true but it helps me to think that anyway.
    By the way, I love your artwork. Powerful pieces. And very warm, strong colours in some of them. great stuff!

    • Thank you so much! Its nice to know that I’m not alone at facing repeat fears =)

  2. Have you ever centered “fear” as the subject for a painting? To say: “With this canvas I AM going to paint FEAR. My fear as an artist. My fear of imperfection. In short, a portrait of the art. ME.)

    It would be a challenge. But sometimes facing a challenge straight on can open a new door.

  3. I had never thought of using “Fear” as a subject of a painting, but you are right it presents an interesting Challenge for sure…. My first inclination was to take it to my sketchbook and start thinking it out – but part of the fear that goes into the work is that the elements of a piece will be difficult to resolve/unite … so if I plan/sketch it out I would be avoiding part of my own fear…

    I am definitely going to think about that further and see what comes out of it. Thanks for the idea!

  4. That’s an interesting idea Ralph! My initial reaction would be that I’d deliberately have to ‘ruin’ a canvas to represent the fear. But this definitely deserves more thought. Thanks – a very thought-provoking idea indeed!

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