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Diving into a huge project with the naivety of an amateur artist ;)

Taking On a HUGE Art Challenge – Pushing Your Artistic Limits

At the start of this year—and I’m talking, January 1st—I was working for two days straight on the largest canvas I ever painted on by far. It was one heck of an experience; and despite there being many things I would’ve changed in retrospect, I couldn’t be happier that I was given this project.

There aren’t many perks to being an amateur artist; however, it does come with one clear benefit:

An inflated and unearned sense of confidence in your (lack of) abilities.

So when my mom, of all people, asked me to paint a huge “masterpiece” to be hung in our living room, I of course told her that I could handle it.

“It’ll be easy breezy!” I thought. So I went to the nearest Dollarama and picked up a couple of large paintbrushes.

As much as my impatient soul wanted to dive in, I knew that such a large project needed to be approached methodically—besides, I could only waste so much paint before I’d run out completely. So I created a few drafts. And this was one of them:

Keep in mind that my mom was hoping for something nature-related. A nighttime cityscape didn’t exactly fit the bill. So I went back to the drawing board many, many times.

And after scrolling through Pinterest for hours on end, I decided to see if YouTube had anything to offer.

I came across this Paint with Shiba tutorial, and fell in love with the piece. Mainly because it looked easy enough to replicate. Once again, my amateur-induced confidence took the reigns.

Using colors found via Pinterest reference photos, I came up with a palette, and drafted up what I wanted the final piece to resemble:

I was happy with the first draft, but painting in my 7×10″ Canson Mixed Media sketchbook proved to be a much easier experience than tackling the 4×3′ canvas (shocker).

Resisting the urge to dive straight in, I instead penciled in the composition. And once I felt ready, I mixed my Liquitex Basics and Pebeo acrylic paints, and went at it.

At first it was pretty simple—blocking out initial shapes and colors typically is. But eventually, my lack of skill caught up with me. I was stuck. And there were many points throughout the painting where I just needed to take a break because of how overwhelmed I felt.

I knew that I bit off way more than I could chew.

But I also considered that acrylic paint is a very forgiving medium. In the case that I did mess up beyond repair, I could always just restock on supplies and paint over the canvas another time. It’s cliche, but so long as I gave it my all, I figured it would be fine.

In noting my frustrations, my mom told me that it’d be okay if I couldn’t pull it off—also note that the paints and canvas were purchased by me, so yeah, my mom literally had no stakes.

Her telling me that it would be okay if I couldn’t do it was just the push I needed to carry through. It spoke to my middle-child grade stubbornness, and thus, I persisted.

I fought through the painting, stepping away from it on occasion.

Slowly but surely, it started to come together. Although there were points where I was lost in the scope of the project, it turned out how I was generally hoping it would.

Once I deemed it complete, I felt as though something was missing. A je ne sais quoi. So I hauled the canvas outdoors, and threw paint on it. This is what tied it all together, and I couldn’t be happier with the result:

During my art journey, I’ve come to learn one specific thing that has taken my abilities to the next level:

Sometimes, you just need to fight for (and with) your art. Especially when starting out—it’s important not to get lost in the details, or feel discouraged when a piece just doesn’t look right during the in-progress stage. Because the truth is, the last 20% of a piece is what makes it start to come together.

I’m no stranger to giving up well before reaching this point, since it’s easy to believe that, if a piece doesn’t look right in the first 3 stages, there’s no way it’ll look good in the 4th. There have been many, many times where I’ve lost confidence and abandoned art projects because of this.

Of course, when starting out in your art journey, some pieces will be beyond saving; but, other times you have to fight through to see the fruits of your labor. It definitely doesn’t come easily. And in the moments where you decide not to finish an art project, you’ll never know what it can become—or what you’re truly capable of.

So overall, I encourage you to challenge yourselves, and to keep creating art even when it starts to feel impossible.

It took 3 years of learning how to draw and paint from scratch before I gained the confidence to—not come out with something I could be proud of every time, but—understand that making mistakes is part of learning and growing as an artist. It took 3 years, before I stopped beating myself up for crappy work, and instead embrace the process.

So if you’re a beginner artist, know that you will also get to this point one day (and hopefully much sooner than I did).

Best of luck & stay creative,

Juli Rox

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wadzanai


    Sometimes, you just need to fight for (and with) your art.”

    — Ain’t that the truth? I wish I had half of your determination with my art. Well done for finishing the piece your mum wanted you to work on.

    1. admin

      Hi Wadzanai! Thanks for stopping by. It’s an exciting feeling to know that someone out in the world read this post! How long have you been creating art for? Haha, honestly at this point (1.5 years later) I’m surprised I took on a project this large. It was definitely a case of beginner’s confidence lol. I’m not very fond of the piece anymore. It’s still in my living room and I’ve been meaning to paint over it.
      There is a massive benefit to completing something like this with limited experience. Now I feel like no canvas is too large. What really carried me through til the end were the acrylics themselves. If all else fails, you could just paint over any mistakes—I definitely took advantage of this characteristic :p

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