The small hands of anxiety

This is about the part of my process in which I have no idea where I’m going with a drawing.

I’ve had enough time most days the past couple of weeks to spend 2-3 hours on a drawing. There are at least 4 in the past couple of weeks where I spent much of that time trying to push in and pull out an image that I felt was finished enough to post.

I have been playing with variations of layering on and scraping off wax and ink. To make a really strong and successful drawing of this type, it really helps to have a plan from the very first mark. This is at odds with my stated intention, of approaching the blank page in an open state. Sometimes I get a really clear vision right off the bat, but a lot of the time I just start making marks and hope that my intuitive visual mind knows what the heck it’s doing. Then, the whole process turns into a kind of conversation between my analytical mind which wants there to be recognizable forms, and the part of me that just wants to play in the mud and look for pretty rocks.

This back-and-forth makes an opening for a different kind of inner critic that the ones I’ve mentioned before. This one is a quiet but persistent anxiety. She doesn’t speak loudly, in fact hardly at all. But since she’s so quiet, I sometimes forget to send her off to that other room while I draw. I hardly notice that I’m not experiencing the joy of making, but rather a kind of muted dread that it’s not going well.


I started writing this post and wasn’t able to finish it the same day. That evening I made the above drawing (1/12/17). I tried to really get a look at this particular personal bugbear. I was feeling the wringing hands and hidden face. I found it amusing and revealing that I’d drawn the hands so small in proportion to the face. That somehow seems correct, though I would never have thought to do it on purpose.

This is part of what I like about the unplanned process I’m using. There have been many times when I learned something about the way I’m thinking or feeling as a result of something I drew. It might be something I never would have thought to say, or even knew that I was thinking. But once it shows up on the paper I may begin to tell myself a story about it, and learn something that a part of me already knew, and just hadn’t articulated yet.

But it’s not always that deep. Sometimes it’s no more than a visual song, with lines and colors that captivate my eye and tug at my feelings. Maybe that little Anxiety critic needs a hug more than banishment. Maybe then she would become a good playmate. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a critical edge focused as you work, as long as it doesn’t drain you of the pleasure.


Here are the drawings I posted since my last studio blog:

3 thoughts on “The small hands of anxiety”

Leave a Reply to pidgies Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.