Drawing My Fears

Some time ago I had the idea of sketching things I’m frightened of. Drawing something makes you understand it much more intimately, and I’m inclined to think that the better I understand, the more I appreciate, the less I’m likely to be frightened.


The easiest thing to start the experiment with was a large spider – not a live one but a specimen in the Cliffe Castle museum. A live one only half this size would have made me feel a lot more uncomfortable, even safely trapped inside an inverted drinking glass, the classic spider-trapping protocol. (I can do this, even with large spiders – just).

During the first few minutes I wasn’t enjoying myself at all, what with the sensation of being close up and sort of connected, even with the glass of the display case between us, but gradually things began to change and I did find myself getting a lot more relaxed and comfortable as I went along.

I don’t know what kind of spider this is or where it came from, as it’s displayed just as a representative of its kind with no specific information, but it’s not native to these parts. What it is, exactly, that scares me is hard to work out but it’s something to do with all those legs, and the unpredictability of how fast and in what direction they’re going to run.

I was seduced, eventually, by the colour and the fur. I have to call it fur, because its legs are covered in what looks like the gingery parts of our cat (who’s a multi-coloured tortoiseshell) and they make it look like – well, a soft stuffed toy. Not cuddly, because something with eight legs can’t be that, can it? But by the time I’d finished I was comfortable. I think that possibly, if the glass had not been between us, I could have touched it……

I may try drawing other things that scare me.


8 thoughts on “Drawing My Fears

  1. Lovely drawing 🙂

    My wife let a Chilean rose tarantula sit in the palm of her hand at a zoo. She was doubtful whether she could do it, but she did it.

    As it sat there, my wife began to look at it in detail and that changed her attitude to it as she examined it closely. By the time she passed it back, she was fond of it.

    From my experience, the corollary to what you say here is also true – that we are interested in and notice the things we love.

    1. Wow – that must have been an amazing experience for your wife! I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to hold a tarantula in my hand though I’d love to be able to. I think feeling the gradual change in yourself from distrust and anxiety or even fear to fondness – or even love – is an extraordinary thing. And you’re so right, that we’re naturally drawn towards what we instinctively love. It’s an interesting subject to explore.

  2. I feel a similar discomfort with spiders. They are extremely fascinating, also symbolically they “weave the web of life” etc, which sounds so powerful, but still… All those legs and the way they move, I don’t trust them… Sounds like I would need to do a similar exercise on spiders, thank you for sharing yours!

    1. A lot of people feel this way about them and it’s a bit irrational I think. My mother was terrified of them when I was little and I think her fear was transmitted to me – but it may be I wiuld have felt like this anyway. Do try drawing some!

  3. Such a lovely drawing, despite the subject matter – drawing objects, whatever they are, can draw you closer, or take away preconceptions. It becomes something you are looking at for shape and form, rather than other inherent qualities. I find drawing cements memories in a way that photos can’t do, and I enjoy drawing things that other people don’t pay attention to, such as dried-up flowers, or small odd objects. I am looking forward to following you (I found you through your comment on Cathe’s blog, one of my favourites!)

  4. As you probably have noticed I’m reading your posts out of order but still they all make me think. I love where you have been going with all of this. The idea of a hairy spider makes me completely uncomfortable but I think I too could warm up to it…I would have a very hard time holding it but who knows…the more you study something the more it interests you. And your sketch is fantastic!

  5. Kudos to you! I am quite unable to set aside my phobias – spiders, wasps, hornets – long enough to study them in adequate detail, let alone to draw them. Add to those phobias a quite literally disabling fear of heights… I cannot even watch a movie where the camera is aimed over a precipice or looking down from the top of a sky scraper.

    1. Thanks ever so much for telling me about your phobias! I can’t find it in me to suggest you give it a go with the fear of heights, because it would be difficult and downright dangerous! That must be really unpleasant at times and hard to handle. But the spiders/wasps/hornets thing – if you ever thought you could try drawing a dead one, you just might find it a surprisingly liberating experience – like I did with this spider. It’s not like just looking at one, which I would have found really difficult, and this is what I found interesting (and helpful) and what I can’t really explain. I really would recommend it as an experiment!

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