Overcoming fear

Watercolour seahorse with bubbles
Artwork by Jessica Couture

Many people, including my Goddess, Elizabeth Gilbert, say that if you feel fear about something it’s because it’s meaningful to you. And that you should follow your fear like a compass to lead you in the direction should be going. Gilbert actually has a lot to say about fear and you should watch this excellent interview about it! I watch this whenever I’m wearing my scaredy pants.

My recent story of fear was when I was asked to design a tattoo. Yes, a tattoo. Like, a real one. Permanent.

I’ve been regularly sharing my art on Instagram since March of this year when I decided to participate in a month-long doodle challenge as a way to get back into drawing. Before that, I hadn’t drawn consistently since high school, so imagine my shock when a friend of mine approached in May me to design her next tattoo, a seahorse. I was immediately flattered.

“Wow, someone likes my work enough to have it forever on their body?”

And then immediately after I said yes to the project…

“Oh my god, I have to make something that someone will have forever on their body!”

Of course, she could just change her mind if she didn’t like what I made. But who wants that? By accepting this project I had put myself into a situation where my work could be rejected, I could be rejected. A vulnerable position. Also, I had never drawn a seahorse before. What had I gotten myself into!?

My friend had sent me a few reference photos to show me what sort of colours she was interested in and the amount of realism she was looking for. I spent about a week studying so many pictures of seahorses.  I was really scared to start drawing. When I finally did try it was awful, and I felt the fear all over again.

“I can’t do this. Did I actually think I could do this?!”

More studying and several attempts later, something clicked. I’d managed to get the body down in the right shape and proportions and I really liked the result. Once I replicated it on a clean piece of watercolour paper, I felt terrified all over again when it was time to start adding colour.

“I just know I’m going to ruin it.”

But, thankfully I chose watercolour as my medium. It’s a slow process of many light layers so mistakes can be covered if they’re made. I was so careful and took more time and care than I had with any other piece I’ve ever made before. I sent her progress pictures and let her know that I was almost ready to send her my first try (not telling her it was actually far from my first) and when I finally did send the finished piece I fully expected her to have requests for changes. And that would totally be her right to ask since this was going to be on her body forever. She didn’t ask. She loved it, and I was beyond thrilled! My friend is taking that beautiful seahorse for a tattoo consultation in a week!

Fear has kept me from putting myself out there like this in the past. I’ve turned down work thinking that I wasn’t ready or wasn’t good enough. It just took someone who I trusted to make the request, let me leap, and I’m forever grateful to her.

What’s something that you want to do that your fear is holding you back from? What if you did it anyway?

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