Why are people scared of making art?

They may have been told they were ‘no good at art’ by an art teacher or they may have secretly dreamed of becoming an artist, but then received very strong cultural messages that told them there was no point trying unless they were a creative genius, unless they were Picasso, that there was no point.

Perhaps they were assigned a different role in the family, told that their sibling was ‘the creative one’ and instead they were the ‘smart’ or ‘sensible’ or ‘practical’ one. So being ‘creative’ then felt off-limits, like it belonged to someone else.

Perhaps they think that they must be an ‘expert’ and the experience of not knowing, being a learner, being a beginner is terrifying. Perhaps staring at the blank page they suddenly feel exposed to criticism, vulnerable to ridicule and shaming if they create something ‘childish’ or ‘bad’.

Perhaps they fear being our of control, or not in control, and the strange images and shapes that emerge unsettle them and threaten their sense of autonomy or self-hood.

Perhaps they have strong values of ‘being useful’ and ‘not wasting materials’, so the very thought of play seems indulgent and wasteful and like they may be punished for it.

All of these are powerful reasons to not make art, and to fear the blank page (/keyboard/ stage/ singing lesson.. etc).

These messages become internalised, until people believe it as a ‘fact’: that they ‘can’t draw’, ‘don’t have a creative bone in my body’, or similar.

And then as a result they don’t ever try – or when they do try they are stilted with fear and horrified at the marks they make, and swear never to do it again – thus creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Helping people become friends again with their creativity is a powerful part of art therapy. We do this by creating a safe space for making, by developing a different story about what art ‘is’ and what it is for, and encouraging a deeply personal and therapuetic relationship with art making.

7 thoughts on “Why are people scared of making art?

  1. This one resonates. My problem is because I’ve not played and touched on my creative works for so long, that when I look at that blank canvas, my mind is blank. It is slow and stilted and stuck in it’s current pattern, so I really struggle to put anything together that means something to my creative juices. It just looks like I drew / glued / scribbled something. I then lose patience and put it away for “another day” (most likely when I’m 80!), and don’t give it the (long) time I need to reconnect with that side of my self. Because “I don’t have time” to keep playing at something 4 or 5 times before I get it and it’s easy. Well, looks like I’m going to have to make the time and accept that it’s a veeerryyy slow process for me. And that’s fine. Thanks for writing this one, Jade.

    • You are exactly right! I have been busy with family and work for so long. Now I am not working and it should be a chance to be in my studio painting but my mind is a blank. The one thing I did start on was coloring in one of those adult coloring books using colored pencils. It’s a start.

  2. So much of this is relatable! I have been painting for about 5 years. Before I first tried, I was convinced my sister had all the artistic talent. After all, she’d taken art classes and had always drawn and painted. I felt like I was lying if I said I was an artist. It took me a little while to get past feeling like a sham. Whenever someone tells me “I wish I could do what you do”, I tell them to simply start. I never thought I could create anything that anyone would ever like. I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears keep me from trying.

  3. I think I have experienced every single one of those reasons and yet I still have some sort of desire now and then (weak at times and strong at others) to create something visual, and I still want to learn about different mediums. I just haven’t found my safe place to explore yet…

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