The following is a piece of creative writing I wrote for one of my English GCSE assessments in 2015, when I was still going by my male name Kevin Preston. The question we had to write a piece for was – The Web host of a creative writing website approaches you to submit some writing for it. This month’s theme is colour.

The Blank Canvas, by Kevin Preston

I stare at my blank canvas, shuddering in fear, the pure white of its eyes looking on as if mocking me. “Go on“, I hear it cry, “Put that paintbrush into those freshly squeezed colours and put something on me!“. But where to begin?

Artists are often crippled by the blank canvas, suffering from what is known as ‘blank canvas syndrome’. The pure white colour of that freshly pressed canvas can strike fear in many an Artist, even seasoned veterans, so called masters, are not immune to being left paralysed by the blank canvas.

What if my first stroke goes wrong?
What if I use the wrong colour?
What if I’m not in the right mood?
Where do I even begin?

The voices inside an Artist’s mind can all too quickly begin to run amok, leading to a potential deep dark despair. Indeed, you too may find yourself coming up against this lure of the mind, but be safe in the knowledge that there are ways to be prepared, to stop yourself falling victim to the mind games. It will, however, require bravery and courage.

Why does the white of the blank canvas instil so much fear in many an Artist? Maybe it’s an overwhelming fear of failure, brought about by the pristine and immaculate nature of its pure white appearance, leaving the Artist disturbed at the thought of upsetting it or creating a mess. The truth is, that the white canvas is sterile, stark, empty, isolated and ultimately boring. It is, therefore, our job as the Artist, to adorn the white of the canvas, into colours of joy, love, ecstasy or any of the other human emotions colours can evoke.

So, if you ever find yourself procrastinating for large periods of time before settling down to start a piece of art, it may well be that your mind has been lost to the snowy blizzard of the untouched white canvas. However, the blank canvas shouldn’t be feared, but embraced. For in the colour white, the shade that has both the positive and negative aspects of all the colours in the spectrum, we have the possibility for greatness.

Indeed, the canvas doesn’t want to stay pristine and unblemished. It is waiting and wanting to be set free, to feel our brushes tickling its belly as we let ourselves go with the flow, losing our minds as time seemingly disappears all around us and we get lost in the moment. Joyfully mixing raunchy reds with warm whites, creating pretty pinks that we aim at the canvas in just the right spot. Watching on, they seem to dance to an invisible melody, melting into the beautiful brown branches we intricately placed beforehand, leaving behind the illusion of cherry blossom trees gently blowing in the breeze.

As the petals of the cherry blossom tree slowly begin to scatter across the scene, we lose sight of the blank canvas that once held its grip on us, and in its place we’re greeted by a wonderful vision of inspiration and joy. However, the blank canvas is never truly lost, for it will always exist as the underbelly of yours, and every other Artist’s painting before or since, a constant reminder to never lose focus, to always be on your guard.

While it’s fair to say that white isn’t very stimulating to the senses, it serves as the backdrop for anything the mind can conceive. Meaning, next time you find yourself staring at the blank canvas, crippled with fear, stop. Pick up your paint brush. Silence the voices within by just throwing some colours at the canvas, savouring the unmistakable plopping and swishing sounds the paint makes as it leaves its mark behind.

Don’t fear the blank canvas. Embrace it. Own it. Make it yours! See it for what it really is, the potential for an exciting new beginning, the chance to set the canvas free on its own personal adventure. A journey that will far out seed yours as the creator, but a journey where it may one day find itself sitting proudly in someone’s home, flying across the ocean in a collector’s private jet or in a museum, maybe even in one of the worlds greatest museums, in a giant golden room set aside all to itself. A place where it can peacefully smile away watching passers by staring on in awe, in a state of pure bliss at the emotions radiating from within, a place where it can exist for eternity.

So don’t let the fear take hold, go out there and turn the white of your blank canvas, into colours of greatness.


Thomas Merton