Fear of Failure

Hello Friends!

This happens to me often. I get a beautiful textural background going on a painting, and then I don’t know what to do with it. I’m afraid to make a move, because I don’t want to ruin it.

Here’s the latest example of this quagmire. This painting is 20 x 20 inches.

Cassandra Tondro Art

It’s pretty, but it’s busy, and there’s no focus. It needs to be simplified.

My strategy in this situation is to try different things and see what works. Sometimes I stumble onto something interesting, and sometimes not. I have to risk ruining the painting in order to learn from it.

For this piece, I decided to mask some stripes and apply paint to the unmasked areas with a scraper.

Cassandra Tondro Art

Not exactly what I was hoping for, so I sanded down the stripes, which left ghost stripes.

Then I decided to mask a circle in the center, and apply paint to the rest of the piece, again with the scraper.

Cassandra Tondro Art

A little heavy handed, so back to work with the sandpaper. I also added some graphite lines and writing, and I’m calling it done. For now. Until I decide to work on it some more.

Cassandra Tondro Art

Truth be told, I feel uncomfortable when I don’t know what I’m doing and where I’m going. It takes me a while to loosen up and let go of preconceived ideas. This may not be my best work.

But I can’t judge myself too harshly, because I’m in the game, and I’m learning. It helps to remember that this piece doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m working on being kind to myself and queting the inner critic that wants to tear me apart.

Where do you feel stuck in your life, and how do you get unstuck? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.



  1. Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your posts. Have been reading them over 6 months and thought it was time I tell you that! I dabble in textile art and often feel stuck in the process or the progress or in knowing if it’s any “good” and when to stop. When you are selling your work I find it’s even more complicated. In the end it’s just a judgement call. Often the very thing I think wasn’t very good is the first thing to sell. I’ve decided the most important thing is that I have enjoyed the process along the way. Thanks

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this! I’ve had that same experience, where the work that I think isn’t very good is the first to sell. I recently made the decision to make art for myself. If I like it, other people will probably like it. And I can’t figure other people out, anyway! But then I was surprised to discover how difficult it can be to decide what type of art I like! Oh boy. It never ends.

  2. Wow, I loved your finished art piece. I loved going though the process with you. I was getting hung up on perfection of my art. I will now feel free to risk ruining it to learn. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Terry. Yes, it really helps me to know that I can play around and try things, and not every piece has to be my best. Some can be downright awful! It’s OK. That’s how we learn. A really awful painting is freeing, because then you can do anything to it, and it can’t get worse. It might even get better. It’s these ones that are kind of nice but need something more that freeze me up. I’ve put so much work into it, and then I don’t want to ruin it. That paralyzes me. I have about a dozen of those hanging out in my studio right now!

  3. I also enjoy your newsletters; I have declined most others. There is always food for thought and reflection in our own art. I understand explicitly, this hesitation with moving forward on a peice, often it is best to step back before we are given clarity and direction. At other times we must experiment until we land the feeling of connection with our work. At this point, I like to let go and proceed with the next!

    1. Good idea, Janis! Sometimes I never get clarity, and then I have to just jump in. I posted this painting a while ago on social media, and many people said it was finished as it was. But to my eye it didn’t look right, and I’m the one who has to decide. I think I’m going to do some more work on it. I want to change the off-white background to a dark color and see how that looks. The off-white color kind of bothers me. To be continued!

  4. Your post was a very good read! Your work is always open & inspiring.

    You & I both work in color, but mine is much smaller…often post card size.

    Since I teach, we sometimes utilize Procreate or make a physical color copy & play with options. These copies give the students a safe place to ‘explore’ changes & then discuss the effects in a critique. This helps develop a better eye AND to critique with kindness.

    There is fear in stepping out, wanting to SEE something more, different, exciting, quieter, whatever….you can fill in the blank. The ‘copies’ provide a safe place to built confidence. Eventually, the work must be to ‘the real’ one. The mini-exercises give confidence.
    In my personal pieces, I, too, enjoy the ‘options’ clause. Eventually, we find techniques we feel work for us. The process is always growth.
    Looking forward to your next post

    1. What a good idea, Patsy! I could use Photoshop to do mock ups of the changes, but then I get lazy and impatient to see it in real life. I probably need to slow down and take more time before acting. Good lesson for me!

Leave a Reply