The Inner Critic

 

White Poppy Duo
White Poppy Duo, a Joyful Brush online lesson, 20X20, oil

 

Last week was super busy in Flower Mound Studio, with four video shoots and two live events for my students. The most challenging thing I do is paint in front of a camera, where the pressure to produce at the highest level is unrelenting. One thing artists are consistently good at is feeding the flames of the inner critic. Not every painting is going to be a masterpiece, but we flagellate ourselves with gusto and enthusiasm any time we fall short of producing an opus.

Are you also super skilled at pinpointing those things you think are wrong with every painting you complete?

It took me years to realize that I had to apply the same attitude toward painting on camera that I do alone each day in my own studio. Instead of considering every painting a final destination, the pinnacle of all I have learned, I now see each painting as a study. Before I begin, I stare down that intimidating white surface and tell it sternly, “You’re Just A Study.” Just for good measure, I announce it again, when the painting is done. (Yes, I’m talking to myself in the studio.) Sometimes I’m overjoyed with the finished work and, sometimes, I am not. I have quite the pile of discards, enough to shingle a few roofs.

The purpose of being a daily painter is not to arrive at some mythical pinnacle, but to always be working toward the next painting. It’s a journey, not a destination. The day you think you have nothing else to learn, is the day the progress ends.

Granted, it takes lots of deep breaths to embrace a Zen type state and a “let it be” attitude. The key is to get out of my own head and give the brush the lead. This is a lot harder than it sounds. Painting and studying daily is important, because it involves analyzing, measuring, and assessing your progress and growth. It’s a tricky balance to let intuition play a role when you’ve got your calipers and value viewer out. To allow yourself to fail and to forgive yourself for that failure, no matter how many times it happens, is what divides the pack. Will you keep going or will you quit?

I watched a student cry when she completed a painting last spring in the Texas Hill Country, she was so excited and delighted by what she had created. Her painting was not a masterpiece by today’s measure, but, for her, it was an awakening. As I learned later, she was painting again as a result of the dying wish of her sister, who knew that creating color on canvas was an important part of how she would find happiness again after they said their goodbyes.

Once we find a way to redirect our vulnerable side, and be kinder in our own self critiques, we are allowing a doorway for joy to become a part of the daily process. Art is healing, and it’s also rewarding. It’s okay not to be perfect and it’s also okay not to paint to someone else’s exacting standards. If painting makes you happy and gives you fulfillment, you won’t stop. The only failure in this story would be walking away from the brush forever.

 

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Nancy Medina

Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1500 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

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Comments

  1. Well said Nancy!
    I sometimes get myself in such a state that it is very uncomfortable and exhausting to paint. And then I spend hours staring at it, loving it one minute and wondering why I’m painting the next- I’m going to try to adopt a new and improved attitude going forward because I know it is suppose to be enjoyable. And not the sum total of my worth as an artist
    Betsy

  2. Betsy I think we all share those same highs and lows. I’m so glad you keep moving forward in your gorgeous art journey!

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