How To Calm Your Nerves Before a Gig

By Ilea Wakelin

***Note: This was written with Face Painters in mind but could be used by any one***

Have you ever had a shaky hand right before the start of a big event?

By: Roger Hargreaves
By: Roger Hargreaves

You sit down to paint your first customer and ‘you gots a case of tha nerves’! Your hand is shaking or your leg is bouncing and you know if you don’t put a stop to it, that all your lovely line work you are known for is going to look like butt. Worst of all you fear some kid is going to point and yell “That doesn’t look like the picture!”

nailed it line work Nailed it!

Well cool your jets, because worrying about it more will only make it worse. “Well duh” I hear you say to your computer screen, but stay tuned because I have some other tips to steady that painters hand of yours!This still some times happens to me, and I still don’t know what triggers it. I’m a pretty out spoken person and an extrovert, I really don’t get nervous often. But some times at the beginning of a long day of painting I find my hand shaking just a little. “First one is usually the worst” I used to tell myself. Being a bit shaky at the start of a gig is totally normal, even for those of use who have been at this for a long time.Lucky I know how to get rid of it pretty effectively!

Deep Breaths

I know I know, you have already heard this. But do you know why it works? As a child (and still today) I never like to be told ‘because’ as an answer to something, it just doesn’t do it for me. I need to know why something does what it does or is what it is, because I find it helps me understand and my brain accept things better. Deep breathing works because you are giving more oxygen to your blood and letting your brain get more in tune. This then works to calm the whole system. Science! I find it helps when I also say in my head HOW breathing will help with the nerves, as it cements in my mind that this action is just as deliberate as taking a pill and it’s going to work.



If there is no music around to listen too, start humming to yourself. Get a catchy song stuck in your head to keep you going, something that makes your body move or tap your foot. I’ll even make up my own catchy jigs just by going ‘do de do de do’ while I paint. Oddly enough singing is a proven stress reliever and it also totally works as a great distraction from your thoughts! 

Shake it out and Stretch beforehand 


Before I sit down to work I try to remember to stretch a little and shake it off. I flap my hands a bit, do some shoulder shrugs and neck stretches, put my arms way up in the air and stretch, and also twist around a bit to get nice and loose. Some times I might even ‘hop’ once of twice before getting started. This helps keep the blood moving and has the same effect as deep breaths in that manner. I try to always do this before a big event, whether I feel nervous as it’s good not to get too stiff while painting. Loosen up a bit, and flow like water, not molasses. 


Don’t kid yourself, face painting is a type of performance art, so if you feel on the spot jitters before a ‘show’, do as the actors do before going on stage, and shake out the nerves, stretch and take some deep breaths because you are going to rock this! <3 

Leave a Reply