Resistance is in every artist’s life.

 In art, Blog, Painting, tips

Hello resistance, my old friend.

At the studio, we make sure to bring to everyone’s attention what resistance is, how to spot it, and how to overcome it. We all know the word – when it’s said, where does your mind first go? The office? Working out at the gym? Finishing the art piece you’ve been putting off? But what really is resistance, and where is it hiding?

You know how everyone has an angel on one shoulder, and the devil on another? Resistance is that smart, little devil. He pretends to be your friend, whispering the “truth” into your ears. “You got a degree in engineering, go and use it!” “Sleep in today, it’s okay to miss one class.” It sounds like it makes sense, until you realize who’s behind the grand scheme of things. Resistance is not your friend. It will try to take you away from your dreams and aspirations, hiding it behind lies like “artists don’t make money.” Turns out, resistance is hiding in plain sight.

How to spot our “friend”:

Scenario 1: You have an amazing series you just thought of, but you keep remembering all of these chores you have to do. By the time you look at the clock, it’s time to sleep. Resistance shows up here as procrastination. You would rather wash dishes than paint.

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance.” –Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Scenario 2: You finish copying a portrait. You proudly put it at a distance to admire it and realize it looks like chewbacca, not the beautiful model you were trying to draw. You decide to throw it away and stop drawing forever. Resistance stopped you from practicing until you got it right. You would rather not do it at all, then do it poorly.

The only way to get through resistance is to go head to head with it. When you do this, resistance is going to scream. The devil will throw a fit, trying to convince you in any way it can. “It’s tax season! The dogs need a bath! The grass hasn’t been mowed in a week! Your art is horrible! You’re never going to make it! Stop now and save yourself the grief!” If you don’t listen to resistance, it will go away. For a bit. That’s why we have students do projects they’re not comfortable with; we train artists to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

A student of ours, Kay, hated Picasso. When we heard that, one of our instructors proposed that she paint one of his paintings in large format. However much Kay wanted to resist, she painted it anyways and hated every second of it. Resistance would’ve gotten the best of her if it weren’t for the encouragement from the instructors. She despised it until she finished. The tables had turned, she absolutely fell in love with Picasso. So much so, she copied another Picasso. Funny how that works.

The sad truth? Resistance will never go away. It’ll come back in one way or another, coming up with great, believable excuses as to why you don’t need to continue. It’s quick, and offers a comfortable way out of things – but don’t fall for it! The good thing is that there is a way to get along with resistance, to tame the wild beast. Use it as fuel, as another reason to continue on your path. Let resistance be the fire that’s lit under your butt. The road won’t be easy, but it’s going to be a heck of a ride. 


If you want a great read about resistance, we highly recommend The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The War of Art is motivational, brilliant, and all in all a fantastic read. We recommend The War of Art to our students, and it’s a required read for our teachers in training. You’ll see why.


Recommended Posts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start typing and press Enter to search

Robert Smyth's PaintingAn instructor and a student discussing art.