The Heartbreak

I may have made this clear, but I have a love/hate relationship with being an artist. I love everything about it, except what I hate.

I love the people. After art school, unless you are in the city I suppose, there are no pretentious hipsters. Everyone I’ve met from the art world is cool. Chill. You do you, man. Even when they aren’t. We can all be a little snobby, but we respect other’s creativeness.

I love seeing my finished work. I love talking about my work. I love sharing my work. I love knowing I did “that.” I so love being inspired by other people’s work. I love talking about other people’s work.

I really hate painting.

I love it. But I hate it.

I love starting a painting and being excited about it. I love finishing it and being excited about it.

I hate the ugly phase. I hate feeling insecure and unsatisfied.

I constantly feel uncomfortable. Not just any uncomfortable, but the “OMG, like, I totally just told that boy I liked him and he didn’t say anything, what do I do?” uncomfortable.

I don’t know why I feel this way. It isn’t like if I do a bad painting I will never be allowed to paint again. It isn’t as if I haven’t done a bad painting before and 1. gone on to do my best work to date right after or 2. ended up loving the painting a few months later.

It isn’t even as though most of my paintings since I’ve graduated, have been good.

I just feel like at any moment painting is going to break up with me. It’s going to realize I’m not cool enough.

It’s taken me a long time to paint through that intense fear/anxiety. I’m constantly looking for ways to “fix” it. To enjoy the process anyway. I’m not always successful. I’m also a perfectionist by nature so I’ve had to work on just letting go of the end result.

Here are a few of the ways I work through this fear:

  • I don’t hide from it. Once it is there, I let it sit. Meditation has really helped with this.  “Oh, hi anxiety. Have a seat, I am just getting started.”
  • I surround myself with inspiring people or objects. I look for things that get me excited about art instead of afraid of it. I love books on tape for this or blogs. Getting pumped up about art (or life) leaves no room for anxiety. This is also where talking to other artists comes in.
  • I don’t beat myself up for it. I’m kind and gentle. If I could help it, I would and I am. No reason to get testy.
  • I focus on getting “a thousand bad paintings” out of my system. If I know I need to do a thousand bad paintings, it doesn’t matter if they are good. I just have to do them. (This is the hardest.)
  • I distract myself. Podcasts or music mostly.
  • I like the saying from working out, “Get moving before your mind knows what your body is doing.”  Yes. Just jump in and start creating. Even when the feeling creeps up, I’m already going. I may take more breaks as it gets worse. I may have to focus on the one area I know I can do something with instead of the whole thing because it’s manageable. Tiny steps are still steps.
  • As much as I hate to say it, painting small and having a set stopping point has helped the most. I know if I really hate it, I can do something else the next day. I only have x number of hours to work on it so I can either focus on the anxiety or get moving. There’s no big investment or commitment.


I am not 100% cured by any means, but this year has been the most productive, art-wise, of my life. I’ve finished and sold more paintings than I have in past years combined. I don’t enjoy the process, yet, but I’m getting there.  My goal this year is to love the process. I’ve made great strides.

I don’t think I’ll ever like this feeling or become comfortable. I just have to realize, it doesn’t matter. The feeling isn’t important. The work is important.

About Elisha

Elisha Dasenbrock is an award winning, international watercolor artist. She paints with a limited palette on claybord. Dasenbrock graduated from the American Academy of Art in 2009 and has been painting professionally ever since.