Why I love/hate to paint

Why I love/hate to paint sounds radical to someone that doesn’t paint. Isn’t it just so peaceful and blissful to just sit and paint all day? Can you picture the beautiful open and airy studio overlooking an enchanting garden with soft light, and a bit messy easel and palette with a mesmerizing painting being created effortlessly? Even if you have never painted you can see yourself there. Some people even build the studio but somehow the reality of painting and creating everyday never really fit the romantic image you had.

Or you have this idea that painting and creating is something that has to happen when inspiration strikes and then like a mad scientist you work feverously through the night to collapse into a spent heap sucked dry by the creative energy.

So what is true for you when you create? Are you the quiet romantic or the frenzy painter?

Elizabeth Gilbert posted a blog on the creative process that boiled it down to these six steps:

love/hate to paint

So why do I love to paint? Because I get inspiration and I feel the deep desire to capture it on canvas. Sometimes it’s the light and how it reflects, sometimes it’s a technique I want to try out and see. Sometimes it’s the colour that captures me. Sometimes it’s a feeling I want to portray. This is usually followed by a frenzied time of painting to get the new idea on the canvas as quick as possible.

I then fall into the self-doubt stage of thinking maybe this was not such a good idea. Maybe I can’t make it happen. Maybe it was a bit too much to try. I’ve abandoned many great ideas at this stage. They could have been beautiful artworks but my self-doubt won that round.

Some paintings survive stage 1 and 2 just to enter the most traitorous stages 3 and 4. At this point it’s all about what’s happening in my head and nothing to do with what is happening on the canvas. This is when I hate to paint. When I let my inner demons, insecurities and fears paralyze my creative spirit. When I ask myself: Why the hell am I doing this?

The initial inspiration is long gone and now it’s time to show up. Just show up for your painting and be willing to just paint. Not always easy. Not always as ‘productive’ as we think it to be. But always useful. Each stroke counts.

Can you see yourself in the stage when you avoid your painting? Suddenly lots of other things get prioritized above your painting time. You don’t ‘feel ‘creative so why bother. This is a natural stage of the creative process. Not an easy stage. Sometimes this stage is so overwhelming that paintings get left behind. Like the weaklings that get left behind during the big migration. At this point, all you have to do to survive the migration is to put one foot in front of the other. Just paint. Just get through this stage.

So when you hate to paint what do you do. Just show up. Just be there. The same you do for a friend having a hard time, you show up. Not having all the answers and fixing everything, but just be available to hang out and listen. So be as kind to yourself and your painting as you are to your best friend in need.

Just like a new day brings new hope you will start loving the painting again.

Try doing that next time the “I hate my painting” stage strikes.

And see what unfolds.


  1. mags

    you are so right, those horrible, terrible, awesome, mind blowing stages one goes through. I have always treasured a friends words: at first, you tell the painting what you want and then there comes a time when the painting tells you what it needs. that transition is the crucial time when you want to abandon this child and that is the time it needs you to listen and slowly understand and DO. thanks for that dear friend.


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