Arts & Activities  
      December Student Page      

      Concept, Composition, Confidence, Contrast, Color Harmony, Character, Courage      
      By Dan Bartges      
      Assignment 4 In A Series Of 10: CONFIDENCE, Part I of II      

Why do some paintings hold your attention with such irresistible power? It's because the artist had enough self-confidence and technical skill to express her or his true emotions with a paintbrush. Can a person strengthen his self-confidence to create better art work? The answer is, yes! To help prove it, we'll take a quick look at winning athletes.
Throughout this school year, we're discovering seven key elements of successful paintings and showing you how to use them. This month and next, we're exploring a very special ingredient—self-confidence. So welcome aboard! As our voyage unfolds, you'll begin to see big improvements in your own paintings.

HOW IT WORKS Each month, read about the paintings featured on this Web page. Next, print out the "Quiz Me!" sheet, write in your answers to three short questions, and hand in the sheet to your art teacher. (The correct answers will be shared with you online on the next month's Student Page.)

      CONFIDENCE, PART 1 OF 2      

Do you ever get nervous or scared about painting? Most artists do. But why? A simple answer often given is, "Because I'm afraid I'll mess up." But if you probe a little deeper, you're apt to find an underlying reason: the fear of failure, caused by a lack of self-confidence. Here are three common, confidence-related worries of artists:

• "I worry if I mess up a painting, it'll prove I really don't have much talent."

• "I'm afraid of disappointing my family and friends, who always say I'm such a talented painter."

• "I get nervous people will make fun of my artwork and think less of me."

Lack of self-confidence can inhibit the blossoming of your true artistic ability, and that ability is something extraordinarily valuable inside each one of us. When allowed to blossom, that ability can provide you with a lifetime of immense enjoyment, creativity and satisfaction. Self-confidence is the key. Fortunately, there are several specific steps you can take to boost your self-confidence and help you paint the way you really want to paint.

To find some answers, let's look for a moment to top athletes in most any sport. Many studies have been conducted to figure out how winning athletes consistently achieve victory over other excellent athletes. Time and again, studies conclude superior self-confidence helps raise winning athletes above the rest.

According to the famous sports-performance expert Tim Gallwey, "Self-confidence is the basic but elusive ingredient for all top performances." Australian tennis great, Rod Laver, put it this way: "Confidence is the thing [that] separates athletes of similar ability."

Here's the point: What various sports-performance experts have observed about athletes and self-confidence is also true for artists. As the great French painter Eugene Delacroix once wrote: "Nothing is so rare as the confidence which alone can beget great masterpieces." Undoubtedly, self-confidence enables one to paint better pictures.

Can a person really strengthen her/his self-confidence? Absolutely! This month and next, we're following our compass to discover five very specific confidence-building techniques used by top athletes that can also be used successfully by any painter—from beginners on up.

Here are the first three of five confidence-boosting steps you can take. Next month, we'll review two more.

      Painting can sometimes test an artist's nerve, but there are specific ways to
strengthen one's self confidence. (Dan Bartges, Can of Brushes. Oil.)
      1. Learn the Basics. First and foremost, prepare yourself by learning the fundamentals of painting, which include drawing, brushwork, color mixing, color harmony, perspective and contrast. As your technical know-how increases, so will your self-confidence.

To learn the fundamentals, read some how-to books on those subjects to get basic knowledge. Then, join a studio class, offered by many colleges and art museums, to gain instruction and experience, as well as to observe how others go about developing their paintings. Also, watch videos to see how really good artists paint. When you watch good artists paint, your "inner artist"—your subconscious capability for artistic expression—will store those valuable learning images for later use. I recommend, for example, that you take a look at artist Duane Keiser's excellent YouTube videos.

>> Click Here To View Video <<
      Arranging the paints on your palette in the same order every time will help give you a sense of control over the creative process, as well as save you time when painting.      

2. Develop a Routine. An art routine helps put you in a positive—and productive—mental state, and it gives you a sense of control over the creative process. As best you can, set aside a specific place and time to paint, arrange your paints and brushes in the same order each time, and consistently follow a color-mixing and cleanup routine that works for you. Soon, these will all become familiar cues to your "inner artist" by letting your subconscious know you're ready to focus on artwork, to excel creatively and to have some artistic fun!

      A preliminary study (above) will help boost one's self confidence and improve
the quality of the finished painting (below). Dan Bartges. Deep in the Forest.
Oil; 60" x 35". Oil study and finished painting by Dan Bartges.
      3. Do a Preliminary Study. Every good soccer, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball and football player participates in scrimmages, which are practice plays to prepare for a real game. Scrimmages are vitally important for success because they improve performance by providing players with a vivid mental grasp of the team's coordinated action for every play, and each player's specific role in those plays.

For the painter, the same type of confidence-building scrimmage can be achieved by doing a preliminary study in whatever medium you plan to use, such as oils, acrylics or watercolors. The amazing power of a preliminary study has been recognized and used by artists for hundreds of years, and today, top artists still do preliminary studies in order to harness that power.

What exactly is a preliminary study? It's a quick, sketchy painting in which you test out the basic aspects of the painting you intend to create—things such as your color scheme, composition and contrast. It becomes a quick, very helpful learning experience that prepares you mentally to attack the real painting with much greater determination, conviction and confidence. Why? Because once you've worked out in your preliminary study the basics for the actual painting, your conscious and subconscious mind will be convinced you are fully ready and able to create the actual painting.

For example, here's the preliminary study I did for the commissioned oil painting, Deep in the Forest. How did the preliminary study boost my confidence?

It proved five things to me:

• I could paint sunlight so bright it seemed to dissolve the treetops.

• The analogous color scheme of oranges, yellows and greens would work well for this painting.

• The actual painting would need something extra in the middle ground to make that area more interesting. (I added a deer.)

• In the foreground, the reflections off the water needed to be brighter and more colorful, and the boulder and forest undergrowth needed more oranges to better establish themselves.

• Most importantly, it convinced me I was capable of accomplishing what I envisioned for the painting. Altogether, these realizations created a mental momentum that sustained my self-confidence throughout the painting process.

Before your next painting, try doing a preliminary study first. See what a big difference it makes with your self-confidence and in the quality of your artwork.
      QUIZ ME!
Click here to download December Quiz Me! document
      Author: A full-time artist since 1996, Dan Bartges is the author of the book, "Color Is Everything," and two books on sports, "Winter Olympics Made Simple" and "Spectator Sports Made Simple." Visit his website at      

Museum Connection
To learn more about how artists compose paintings, try this online tool—available on the Smithsonian American Art Museum's website—to learn about linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, pattern and repetition, and figure and ground relationships."Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art":


advertising | articles | A&A Online | back issues | contact us | departments
digital editions | links | reader service | search | subscribe | site map | store | writer's guidelines | home


Arts & Activities is a publication of Publishers Development Corporation.
Copyright © 2015 by Publishers Develoment Corporation. All rights reserved.
Arts & Activities® Magazine is a registered Trademark of Publishers Development Corporation.