Unlock your exclusive 15% off discount code!

The Art of Making a Start

Lee May Foster-Wilson / March 5, 2024

You know how sometimes a little thought comes a niggling and you think “well, I like that idea, perhaps I should investigate it further” and then you don’t really get around to it straight away, but everywhere you turn after that there seems to be pointers reminding you of it?

Well, that’s been happening to me lately and that thought is the title of this blog: The Art of Making a Start.

See, recently I started a new body of work, it’s centred around the coast and as I delve deeper I’m drawn to the little details, shells, seaweeds, fish. But each time I sit down at my desk with a few hours stretching ahead to make the art, a kind of resistance creeps in, procrastination, doing other stuff, busying myself and it takes me a while to actually get around to making the first mark of the day…and even when I am making, until I get into the flow, little distractions creep in, thoughts on things I should look up, other ideas bouncing around that may or may not need researching right then and there.

It’s true what they say, starting is that hardest part, but why?Lee Foster-Wilson in her studio

Me in my studio, not actually doing the work...

The blank page is a scary place, all that possibility, of greatness but also of awfulness, which is hard to push aside…one is stifling (just think what it could become!) the other is the fast road to perceived personal failure, neither of them are very conducive to making any kind of start.

I have been thinking of that push and pull, of making the first mark, getting started and then serendipitously came across the idea of creative resistance from Stephen Pressfield, who outlines creative resistance as a force that stops you from doing the thing you were born to do.

His ideas on it are a lot more nuanced and in depth that the little bit I have heard about and I haven’t yet read any of his books (one arrived in the mail just yesterday and I am ready to read it!) but it came to dawn on me that all of the procrastination we experience when skirting around the edges of actually making the work is this creative resistance…In my as yet limited understanding of it so far, it’s that feeling of fear that I talked about earlier, that it could become something so great we may never be able to make anything of it’s like again (of course that’s not true!) Or it could become something awful and thus reaffirming any self doubt or imposter syndrome that niggles away at I presume, anyone worth their salt. (If it doesn’t then I envy you greatly!).

Also, that sometimes making art is hard, so we put it off, there are always easier things to do instead of putting ourselves in that uncomfortable place of doing the difficult work and risking making a mistake.Lee Foster-Wilson moodboard

Is all this research just another form of resistance?

I have this too, especially when starting new projects or finishing something I am, so far, pleased with. There’s always a dance around making the work, even if I am excited about it. I like to pull together mood boards, make little thumbnails, colour palettes, write list after list after list, it feels creative and productive but it’s still not doing the actual work. Actually getting the paper out to draw on…that is another leap.

After seeing a video on creative resistance and then hearing it a couple of times on podcasts it was like a lightbulb moment, of course that’s what it is. A fear of not knowing what to draw or paint, even when I have done all of my research and know roughly what it is I would like to make art about. It’s a fear that I will get it wrong. That my art won’t look like I envisage, or even that I don’t really have a vision, just a muddled amalgamation of other people’s work mushed together and blobbing around in my head which makes me feel like a phoney.

This is the moment to just start, which sounds easy enough but if you’ve been there, you’ll know that it’s not. There’s a quick scroll of social media to do, or maybe something to list on Vinted, or a window to be stared out of which reminds you, you haven’t fed the birds, and then when you’re out there here’s a few weeds that need seeing to and then suddenly a whole hour has passed and it’s time to do the school run and that’s all your time up for another day and you feel really shit that you still haven’t made any art.

I’ve been there, and each time I start a new piece of art I’m there. Sometime’s the resistance is strong, like the wasted afternoon described above, and sometimes it’s just there in the paper in front of me, goading me for that first mark…don’t get it wrong, Lee!Lee Foster-Wilson work in progress
Making those first marks on the paper...

I think once you can recognise resistance, that thing that steps in your way (yourself and your own fears) it becomes easier to overcome it, tell it to be on it’s way so you can just begin…which is often very stop/start, but often, little by little just keeping on going sets off a chain reaction.

I have found in the past to get properly started on new work that it’s important to let loose of any preconceived ideas of what it should look like and just let it flow, I experiment on cheap paper in a sketchbook and try not be too precious.
Lee Foster-Wilson work in progress
Work in progress

Somehow just beginning breeds more inspiration. It’s like a rolling snowball, picking up speed. Once the work starts, then ideas come, then the world starts to appear in a new way, a place ripe for harvesting. I find I move through it seeking out shapes that I can incorporate, I mostly forget them but the good ones stick and I start to feel excited to get back to my drawing table and get going again. Even though each time I sit down to start there is that resistance served up as hesitation, that I might ruin what I started yesterday or make a mess. I try to remember that most of the time it ends up good enough and unless I am putting anything on that paper, the work won’t be getting done.

Sometimes what appears from the end of my pens and brushes isn’t at all how I imagined it would turn out but that’s ok, I think this is also a key to finding style, but that’s for another time. It’s a work in progress but I am trying to just embrace what happens and own it as mine.
Lee Foster-Wilson fish close up
Fish close up (coming to the shop soon!)

So the art of making a start is really an exercise in overcoming resistance. Recognise it, tell it that actually you really want to make this work, know it will be hard but begin anyway and just keep going. It probably won’t feel all that great to start with but somewhere in there there will be something you like, that excites you and makes you want to make more and then you just have to keep going pulling out the good bits, learning from the bad bits and eventually you’ll find your flow.

Perhaps we separate it from the activity of making art too much, but as difficult as it is sometimes, I think starting is just another part of the process.

Do the work :)


Back to Blog

UNLOCK YOUR EXCLUSIVE 15% OFF DISCOUNT CODE! and join us to be among the first to hear about new releases and subscriber only offers, as well as art chat and other interesting things, straight to your inbox!

What other people have been looking for: