Venturing Out of My Comfort Zone

I don't like venturing out of my comfort zone. No one really does, do they? It's hard. It's scary. And, obviously, it's uncomfortable.

It might sound silly for me to say this considering how many new things I've been trying lately. Fabric design. Teaching video classes (which on the one hand I'm looking at and thinking, What? I'm actually doing that?!). And even before that, venturing into art in the first place. Deciding to upend my lifestyle and move from a big city to a rural area and embrace a simpler way of life (whatever that means -- and whoa boy, has that road been hard and scary and uncomfortable at times).

I guess the reason that I say I don't like venturing out of my comfort zone is that I love the idea of comfort. The dream I have of the future me is cozy and sunny and colorful. It's a small dream. I don't want to be rich and famous. I just want to be comfortable.

fortune cookie, fortunes, dreams, wishes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I hold onto that dream.

But looking back I see that I haven't let it keep me from venturing out of my comfort zone.

When looking for quotes for today's post I cam across one that really resonated with me:

“Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that - that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”
                                                                        --Amy Poehler

You see, that's me. I'm certainly not saying that I'm great, what I mean is that I am constantly doing things before I know I can do them.

There are so many things I want to do and if I waited until I was ready, I'd never do any of them.

Even so, I do find myself dragging my feet when things are difficult. A good example of this is working with gouache. I love the idea of gouache and I love what other artists do with gouache, but I don't yet love working with the medium.

gouache, studio, organization, muffin tin, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I've bought two different sets of gouache with the goal of practicing with it. I bought a sketchbook specifically with the intention of playing with gouache in it. And yet, I drag my feet. Sure I have other things that are keeping me busy, but I could fit in a little sketchbooking. After all, in my classes I advocate fitting short periods of art making into your day. I also advocate experimenting and trying new things.

In truth, my sketchbooks seem to be fairly un-experimental. Most of the time I sketch with black micron. Because for such a long time working in a sketchbook was itself out of my comfort zone, it didn't really matter to me if I was doing the same thing over and over. In fact, doing the same thing over and over -- practice -- is good for your art. But I think we also need to stretch ourselves, continually try things that are more and more difficult or we'll never grow.

I know I did this with my watercolor painting, whether fully conscious of it or not. My subjects, my compositions, have gotten more and more complex as my skills have developed (it's easy to see this when looking at paintings of subjects I've painted multiple times over the years).

watercolor, botanical watercolor, watercolor orchids, orchid paintings, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

So, yes, focus is good. But it's also good to try new things, different things. And it's naive to think that when you're trying those things for the first time (or the second or third or fourth or, or, or) it will be easy or that you'll immediately be successful (ok, sure, there are some people for whom that's the case, but I don't know any of them).

Which brings me to another quote that resonates with me:
"Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction."
                                                                            -- Harry Truman*

Your action will be imperfect at first and that is fine. It's good. It means you're doing something. It's a sign of growth. And it's easy to forget. It's so much easier to avoid the things we're not good at than to embrace the messiness of the beginning.

Sometimes the beginning isn't as messy as you think it will be. This week I've been playing around in my sketchbooks with media I'm not comfortable with. Yes, gouache, but also colored pencil. Oh, how I love the idea of colored pencils. The look of them lined up in their jars, but I never seem to actually get around to using them.

colored pencils, studio, art supplies, organization, jam jars, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

And so wanting to experiment, but not having enough time to wash off my palette, mix colors and experiment with gouache, I grabbed my jars of colored pencils and played with them.

sketchbook, colored pencil, mushrooms, drawing, sketching, mushroom sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm glad I did.

sketchbook, colored pencil, mushrooms, drawing, sketching, mushroom sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm glad I got around to playing with gouache, too, even though it frustrated me.

sketchbook, gouache, floral art, dots, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Frustration is part of growth, too. Frustration has driven me so many times on this journey of mine. It impels me to keep going. To figure things out. To overcome.

And so, my wish for you this weekend is this: get out of your comfort zone; try something new; experiment; play; have fun. You never know where it will lead.

*there is some uncertainty whether Harry Truman actually said this


  1. You work very well out of your comfort zone Anne and produce some wonderful work! Your penciled mushrooms are so interesting in their shapes and choice of colours! I have never used gouache - what do you find challenging about using it? I would like to try it one day but have enough unused art items to open a small shop at the moment! I think it is good to venture out of your comfort zone from time to time and don't think I challenge myself nearly enough. Have a lovely weekend Anne. :)

    1. Thank you, Simone. I've been having such fun with the mushroom sketches. I brought a book of mushrooms from around the world home from the library and have been studying it for ideas of different colors and shapes.

      I'm not used to the texture of gouache and the way it reacts with water and the paper. The consistency takes some getting used to, at least for me.

      I hope you find some fun things to do to challenge yourself, Simone and I hope your weekend was filled with creative joys. Have a great week!

  2. Another great post :-)
    Deciding to try to sell my flowers at the market was my step out of my comfort zone. I did not know anyone, or did I know how the market would work. I took that step, so glad I did. I remember how afraid I was that first Friday market. Wondering if anyone would like my flowers. Wondering if the other vendors would like me, would we be friends?
    Counting $ back ... I stink at it ... but I am getting better.

    Be Brave! My motto :-)

    1. Thank you, Carla! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

      I'm so happy that you stepped out of your comfort zone to start your flower business. Things like that are so scary, but also so worth it.

      I love your motto! :)


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