Ink & Watercolor in Aquabee 9×12 sketchbook
(To enlarge, click image, select All Sizes)

I woke this morning at the apex of a terrible anxiety dream…but with a slightly different take than usual. First I should say that I have terrible stage fright and cannot sing to save my life. My family used to slam doors shut and turn on the radio to avoid hearing my awful singing along with my pretty bad guitar playing when I was a teen and it never really improved.

I’ve had this dream many times, where I find myself on stage, about to sing or play guitar or both, and realize I’m completely unprepared. In last night’s dream I’d been selected to perform as “Jana and the BlackAttack” and was supposed to be leading some sort of soul/hip-hop group at a very prestigious and large theatre. I was calm and relaxed about the whole thing, trusting that the event organizers knew what they were doing in selecting me. I took a seat in the theatre, watching the opening acts. Then it was time for me to go on stage and the MC was stalling and worried since I hadn’t yet appeared backstage. I walked out onstage, noticing there was a steaming pot of potato-leek soup available for performers and stage hands. I picked up the mike and then…

I realized I didn’t know what songs I was singing, what the tunes or words were, where my band was….basically I realized I was ME. I didn’t want to let the organizer down or ruin my reputation by walking away. Then I realized I had no reputation to lose: I’m not a singer, I’m an artist and I woke up, heart pounding.

Gee, do you think I might be having a little performance anxiety about my painting…(I was struggling with oil painting before I went to bed) or even more likely, about the one-woman show of my watercolors in March that will be held in the lobby cafe of a newly restored art deco THEATRE?!!!! I thought I wasn’t worried about the show but the sleeping mind never lies….or does it?

Cartoon art, Dreams, Life in general, People, Sketchbook Pages, Watercolor

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Wow, what an incredible painting and story. You will have to let us all know when and where your show is.


  2. Oh Jana — I felt like I was having that dream along with you, it was so vivid! I can’t wait to hear where you’ll be doing your show. I’ll certainly be there. (PS: I’m really thrilled to be one up from Nora Ephron on your “interesting reads” — how good is that company!?) Happy New Year, xo, BL


  3. Great drawing! Gosh, I could really feel the terror – I think you analysed that exactly right. No doubt your show will be fabulous and the fear will outweigh the experience! Isn’t it amazing though how the mind works when we are asleep? I sometimes wonder where I get some of my ideas in my dreams because it’s not from me!!


  4. I have a lo tof experience with strange dreams, but not recurrent ones: Please visit http://ufodreams.blogspot.com/, no one does. Ha-ha

    Ok, this is my take on the dream. It seems that the anxiety is about not being good enough as an artist (painter in real life). That probably comes from the real experience with the guitar and your family. We all give a a lot of thought, unconsciously, to eveything our parents said and did about us when we were in our formative years. In the dream you are insecure about yoru talents, that may be the case in your real life, belive it or not. You are one of the bests artists I heave seen in the Internet, the dream depiction was great.


  5. WOW! What a vivid dream and equally vivid painting! I do think there’s a lot to learn about dreams — and perhaps this is simply your way of letting yourself know to be prepared — which you always are! I’ve had recurrent dreams — several in fact — and my own tell me about my own axieties and fears of failure or frustration … they tend to warn me and hence, I take them lightly — but do pay attention. Your artwork, Jana, is incredible — your show will be a fantastic success. As for singing — well, I’m also the one in my family they send across town to sing …. we’ve got spirit — but no tune … ah well! I say, if this is the voice God gave me — I’m giving it back! LOL


  6. Wow, you depicted this dream so realistically I felt a little anxious myself! I think you are just facing your fears and everything will be a piece of cake now! Your art is just to marvelous to let fear stop anything.


  7. Thanks for the great feedback. It’s certainly true that I have fears about my performance as an artist, especially as I experiment with media with which I have no expertise, like oil painting and monotype. But on the other hand, as Monet was quoted in The Impressionists, “More than ever, easy things that come instantly, sicken me.” I always want to be learning and growing, and once something becomes easy it no longer interests me.


  8. Eric Fischl was a visiting artist while I was at school and he said something like “if an artist is not full of anxiety about an upcoming exhibition, then the art would not be risk-taking for them, and they really shouldn’t exhibit it”. A horrid paraphrase, but really an artist should always be anxious before a show, or the work is probably boring and safe.
    Eric is one of my favorite painters. Here’s his website.
    Be glad for the anxiety Jana!


  9. Dee, Eric Fischl was one of my favorite painters back in the early 80s but I’d lost track of him in recent years. I still have a postcard from a show of his at SF MOMA back then. The postcard is of a nude woman and her huge dog in bed and I’ve always loved that evocative image. Thanks so much for the link to his website and current work. I’m excited to see that he hasn’t lost his edginess. The Kreffield Project images are amazing–sort of Hopperesque but with in your face nudity. I love the barrel-chested short man in the pics. Thanks also for sharing his words about showing. I think they apply really well to painting in general too. If I’m not growing and challenging myself and exploring something new then there’s no excitement (or anxiety) and it’s boring.


  10. Oh Jana I saw this on Flickr last night – but it was playing up and wouldn’t let me comment – I’m glad now though because I got to read the whole story. It really made me smile. It’s so cute! Reading about the dream I immeadiatley thought of your one-woman show. You may be having the same dream a lot more in the months ahead. Love the picture and I’m sure I’ve said it before but you’re very brave to bare your soul on this blog. Happy New Year Jana.


  11. I understand the anxiety but to me you have no need to worry, I always find your paintings delightful.


  12. Maybe you woke up a bit too soon – if you had just stayed asleep a little longer you might have seen yourself say “before you all think I’m going to sing, let me assure you I certainly am not – I am here to give you – all you lovely EDMers – a personal invitation to my art show at the Salon de … and there would be thunderous applause and endless rustling as everyone got out their diaries and wrote down the details… maybe πŸ™‚ This lovely painting also reminds me of a computer adventure game the kids used to play – you have to click on lots of things in the picture and they come in useful or help you in surprising ways – maybe you should click on the soup, and the closed cupboard, and some of the faces in the crowd…


  13. This is one more thing i like about your blog: you let us in on your intimate concerns, and your anxiety-induced dreams. Now, personally, i think a crazy dream could have been triggered by food. πŸ™‚


  14. Jana- You have such an intense imagination…it is no wonder you are such a talented artist. I wonder what you were like as a little girl…I can only begin to imagine the things you did with cardboard boxes!


  15. Alison, I love the idea of clicking on various things to get (as I remember from my kids’ video games) more power, more “lives”, weapons, food for strength, etc. I also loved imagining saying those very empowering words and shall take that further as a visualization, picturing just that!


  16. I ran off stage twice, in school, both times I forgot my lines for an inter house elocution competition!! The second time it was pure fright as my friend fainted and fell at my feet through the curtain while I was waiting my turn behind it! I was pushed on stage by my house mistress and I just couldnt remember the lines. Your post reminded me of those days πŸ˜€

    Thank you for all the encouragement and for the wonderful artwork and interesting posts that have me coming back for more. Happy New Year!


  17. i thought that i acually had that dream you are so amazing, the picture….. its brillient


  18. Performance anxiety, or stage fright, or fear of public speaking or whatever you want to call it, happens to a lot of really famous people too.

    Some years ago, I was asked to be master of ceremonies at a dinner in which legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was to give the keynote address. It was a fairly small gathering of about 300 people at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

    Landry is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he played and coached in some of the biggest games in the history of the NFL. Not only that, but as a 20-year-old bomber pilot during World War II, but he flew missions over Germany. He had been shot at. Now that can scare you!

    As he delivered his speech, I was privileged to sit directly next to the podium.

    What I saw really surprised me.

    Tom Landry was speaking to an audience that admired and probably even idolized him. There was no reason to be nervous in the least. In their eyes, he could do no wrong.

    Yet, from my seat less than three feet away, I could see Tom Landry palms sweating and his hands trembling as he read from a stack of index cards containing his notes. He was literally shaking.

    Like millions of other people, it seems Tom Landry was not immune to stage fright, or halophobia.

    After the dinner ended, I got up some courage and approached him. “Coach,” I said, “would you mind if I asked you a question about your speech?”

    “That’s fine,” he replied.

    “Do you get nervous when you have to make a speech.”

    Landry smiled. “Almost every time,” he replied

    “How do you overcome it” I asked.

    His response was memorable.

    “I remind myself of what I often told my players,” he said. “Walk through your fear with faith. And you never let the fear of failure become the cause of failure.”

    That’s certainly great advice from a great man for anyone who has to deal with a fear of public speaking.

    And by the way, next time you get a little nervous because you have to make a speech, remind yourself that if someone like Tom Landry can get stage fright, or halophobia, the rest of us certainly shouldn’t be ashamed if we do too.

    Best wishes…george


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