Here are some wise words from the landscape painter Birge Harrison, about 100 years ago.
But what is fearlessness in painting? Is it the same as courage? It is the opposite of timidity? What fears must each of us overcome? The fear of starting, of finishing, of failing, of not selling?
One thing I tell myself is that I can’t get hurt if I try something bold or different. So what if it doesn’t work out? I won’t sprain a finger. I might just wreck a piece of paper.
Fearlessness comes to mind when I’m working in pen and ink or watercolor. These two media require absolute commitment, or conviction as Harrison might call it. I also think about fearlessness when I’m embarking on a composition, to urge myself to avoid playing it safe--to push things to extremes.
Maybe fearlessness is really another word for letting loose that wild impulse, the artistic imp. We all have it, and it has to be let out of the cage more often, especially if the judicious, analytic part of us is the one usually holding the pencil. But fearlessness isn’t the same as recklessness. Both chaos and control must be at work together.
The excerpt is from Landscape Painting by Birge Harrison, 1910, available as a free PDF on Google Books.
Drawing by J.C. Coll. More about Coll at BPIB.