A welcome wind was grazing my face on a blisteringly hot summer day as I began to scout out my perfect plein air spot for the day. Most importantly, however, it was away from everyone — in a spot so remote that there was no chance anyone would walk by.
I admit it. I have plein air stage fright. At this time last year, I made the same confession in a plein air group on Facebook because it was a problem that was crippling me to the point that I would accidentally self-sabotage my painting or avoid plein air painting altogether.
The response was tremendous. I had no idea that people would react to my little problem the way they did. Within a few hours, I had dozens of responses, varying from advice on not letting my fear get the better of me to helpful tips on how to cope with the issue. Some even admitted that they had been where I was. I was truly touched by the outpouring of support from the group.
I read and re-read every single comment and eventually picked out several that really resonated with me. I jotted them down in my notebook and took it with me the next time I painted. I didn’t necessarily need it to be opened, but in the moment I remembered the words every time doubt came over me. I picked out a spot to paint that compelled me, unpacked my stuff, and set my mind to have a good painting day. My spot must have been pretty alluring because several others came over and plopped right down next to me, really testing my nerves. I calmed myself, re-centered, and began to paint.
It may have very well been one of the most groundbreaking paintings, not because it turned out well (it did not), but because it was the first painting I made where I began to conquer my fears. I accepted that my peers were not there to judge me and that if anyone decided to come by, it was out of natural curiosity. I also learned a bit about myself in that moment and realized I was also lacking confidence. I knew that was something I would only develop with time and lots of practice.
I have been out to paint in groups several times since last year. Each time I get in the frame of mind to set myself up for success as best I can. After locating my spot, I do a quick sketch and note anything I may want to change, always remembering that the first steps are the most crucial, there is no need to rush, and to just gather as much information as I can.
Most importantly I remember that I am out there doing what I love most, and nothing is going to stop me from doing that.