Be Not Afraid & What Artists Fear

Be not afraid....Be not afraid.

I've been hearing this in my head for the past several weeks.

As often happens, I rolled the words around in my head for awhile. Then, sometimes, as in this case, I decided to create a piece of art from a phrase.

From these words, I created a design for a hooked rug. I haven't started hooking it yet, but I will!

Be Not Afraid & What Artists Fear

This design includes the phrase "be not afraid" surrounded by one of my favorite flowers, tulips.

Tulips generally signify true, deep love. And, in this case, it is the loving care that I am advising for myself that is signified by the tulips.

As one of the first flowers of spring, tulips herald the coming of rebirth, and young life bursting forth. I think the tulips will be pink, but I'll keep in mind these other associations with colors of tulips:

  • Pink tulips = happiness and confidence.
  • Purple tulips = royalty.
  • Yellow tulips = cheerful thoughts.
  • White tulips = forgiveness.

You may remember another piece of art I created which also presents the sentiment of "be not afraid."

My Joan of Arc rug, "The Truth will Set you Free," features quotes (in Latin) from Joan herself. These include, "I am not afraid, I was born to do this."

The Truth Will Set You Free
The Truth Will Set You Free, rug hooked by Jane M. Mason 2021 (c)

How do I decide to create a rug rather than a painting?

Rug hooking, as with most fiber, textile or "needle arts" such as quilting, knitting, crocheting, or tatting (intricate knot-making), are fine crafts requiring skill, experience, and an unusually long amount of time for completion.

This hooked rug below, designed by Anita White, and hooked my me, took me about 20 hours so far. And, I'm a very fast rug hooker! :-)

It will take another 8-10 hours to finish the binding around the exterior edge of the piece.


I'm holding a rug I hooked from a design by Anita White.
Worked at an Anita White Workshop, 2022.

My Anita White designed rug as a work-in-progress.
My Anita White designed rug as a work-in-progress.

Most of my own hooked rug designs have my inner dialog threaded through them. In some cases, my quest is to create a piece of art that has engaged me for hours. I want to meander through the meanings of a phrase or event I am stitching into the work. At those times I will choose to hook a rug rather than paint a painting.

Fiber arts are a solitary, contemplative, and repetitive art forms. To fiber artists, that is a beauty and reward in working in a "slow-art" such as fiber arts.

JMM Rug Hooking
I'm rug hooking at a daylong event for rug hookers, presented by the Cream City Rug Hooking Guild, WI. I'm working on a series of Square Florals. These colorful florals will probably be finished and framed in time for my next e-letter. I'll let you know when they are posted.

So, when I want to wrestle with a concept or puzzle out a dilemma, I turn to my fiber art projects.

The topic of fear was one of those subjects I wanted to grapple with. Topics like the war in Ukraine, human cruelty, or global climate changes, are each capable of kicking up fear in me. What role can I play in resolving these challenges? And, how can I maintain my happiness as we seek equitable global solutions.

These are the times for me to do needle arts and ponder big issues and big fears.

All True Artists Face Fear

There are fears concerning the external world as discussed above, and fears within the artists' own minds.

Artists confront internal fear every time they pick up a paint brush, or put their art out to be reviewed by critics or onlookers. Artists frequently speak about fear; the fear of creating art, the fear of not creating art; the fear of being a failure, even the fear of being a celebrity.

I'll start with one of my own quotes about fear:

If you don't have a heart-fluttering moment in your painting when your work-in-progress looks horrible and you fear all is lost...then you are not challenging yourself enough. This lowest moment is the instant you squash that critical voice, and forge ahead. Ta-da! Your art magically emerges from the muck like a water lily.That sense of fear, that dread of failure, is the spark to gather your confidence and rev up your creative engines. ​

Jane M. Mason​


Comedy is incredibly hard. You have to be loose. You have to be not afraid to fail.

Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live. American actor, comedian, producer, and writer.


The fact is that blank pages inspire me with terror. What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out?

Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet, novelist, environmental activist, and inventor. Author of Handmaid’s Tale.


The more frightening the world becomes... the more art becomes abstract.

Vasily Kandinsky, Russian painter and one of the founders of the Abstract movement.


Composition 8, Vasily Kandinsky, from the collection of the Guggenheim Museum

Even when I have to write a simple letter I'm scared stiff, as if faced with looming seasickness.

Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter in the Symbolism and Art Nouveau movements. He is most famous for his erotic paintings such as The Kiss, made more sensational with his use of gold in his paintings.



The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, from the collection of the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum

I am the first to be surprised and often terrified by the images that I see appear on my canvas.

Salvador Dali, Spanish surrealist.


In 1969 Dali created a set of illustrations to the Lewis Carroll book, Alice's Adventure in Wonderland.

The image below, The Queen’s Croquet Ground, was created as an illustration for Alice's Adventure in Wonderland.


Art by Salvador Dali as one of twelve illustrations for a 1969 edition of Alice's Adventure in Wonderland.

The "Queen of Hearts" in this story is one of my favorite fictional characters. She could strike fear in the hearts of those around her with her famous, "Off with their heads!" cry. She followed a unique and illogical policy towards justice: conduct the sentence first and then hear the verdict. Yikes!

The illogic and absurdity of Carroll's depiction of Alice is itself a technique for dealing with fear. Although I would be terrified by a "real" Queen of Hearts as a leader, this exaggerated, fictional character amuses me and allows this silly scene to defuse my fear.

Don't get scared. Just stay "unscared." LOL.

Apparently, dealing with fear is a widespread quest.

Google suggests 400,000,000 responses for "Be not afraid." Even more for "don't get scared." There are an astonishing 3,250,000,000 suggested returns for "How to not be scared."

"Be not afraid" or "fear not" appear in the Bible more than 140 times.

We are even advised by the bard himself, William Shakespeare, to avoid fear. Lady Macbeth advises "screw your courage to the sticking place," Act 1, Scene 7, Macbeth. (Although we really don't want to follow Lady Macbeth's advice in family dynamics....)

Basically, we are surrounded by things that can frighten us.

My personal goal in dealing with looming frightening scenarios is simply: be not afraid.

I think at times we each need the reminder to live without succumbing to fear.

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.


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