Taming Your Inner Critic

Being a creative type can be a lonely affair as one toils away at their desk and/or in their studio.  To combat the negative, yappy little voices in my head that say “this sucks” I keep a good supply of reading material on hand to feed my “inner cheerleader” so that I may merrily stay the course.  I just finished listening to a very good book that I would recommend to any person that needs to keep their inner critic at bay which is…

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative,   by Danielle Krysa and Martha Rich

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This 136-page gem is packed full of wise advice and anecdotes gleaned from the author’s interviews with other artists and from her own experiences.  She covers such topics such as facing the blank page, dealing with criticism, jealousy, excuses, and blocks with humor and sensitivity.  You’ll get advice on how to navigate through roadblocks with various exercises designed to make you stronger.  Though I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book and will listen again, I will be buying a hard copy so I may mark it up and enjoy the great illustrations by Martha Rich.  Put this one in your toolbox!

 

 

The “Art” of Non-Judgement

mandalas-1485096In meditation the goal is to focus on the breath, observing thoughts with non judgement.  It is an exercise to become aware of one’s inner dialogue without criticism.  According to Yoga International….

” Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself, for letting go of your biases and seeing what is, openly and clearly. It is a way of training the mind so that you are not distracted and caught up in its endless churning. Meditation teaches you to systematically explore your inner dimensions.”

I decided to take the concept of meditation and apply it to my art making, meaning any creative task I undertake.  As a visual artist especially, I’ve noticed that I have a habit of letting a stream of negative judgement runs through my mind as I make art.  My inner critic tells me “this is not good enough” or “if I only I did this – or that” or some such chatter.  This is a perfect recipe for artistic block – and I have been there.

When toddlers begin to walk and fall down, they don’t give up.  They try and fail over and over again.   Parents cheer and don’t discourage.  It’s part of the process of learning. Too bad we give that child-like wonder as adults

As of the New Year I am making art with an attitude of play and experimentation rather than judgement of whether my work is good or bad.  If a piece doesn’t work, so be it.  I have learned from it.   I am mindful to my inner dialogue as I create.  When negative thinking enters my mind I say “You are not welcome here.  Let me play!”

This week I began an online class, Making Monotypes with a Gellatin Plate taught by Linda Germaine. it’s been the perfect opportunity to apply “The art of non-judgement.”

It’s so liberating.  I’m having fun.  I can hardly wait to get back to the studio…..

Experimenting….first try printing with a gelli-plate!

 

Finding Inspiration

I’ve decided for 2018 to quit going upstairs to my studio to make “ART”.  Now I am going upstairs to my studio to PLAY and quit being so serious.  I’m seeing what I can make in an hour.  My best subject matter I’ve decided is my own imagination….

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Thinking “Inside a Box”

cell-1496385_1920Gas molecules will fly all over the place unless held in a container.  That’s what I’m like .  Unless I am contained in a structure, I am all over the map.  As a result, I can feel inefficient and anxious. Ironically it appears that in order for me to “think outside the box”, I need to be in one

For most, they have a structure imposed by a job, school, and/or family responsibilities.  That used to be me but 2 years ago I retired from teaching and now it’s up to me to create my own structure.  In other words, I get to be my own parent.  Scary.chest-2648225_1920

I make several kinds of visual art, play music, sing in a choir, and write, plus take care of an aging farmhouse on rural property.  I’m doing a little of this and a little of that.  As a result, my work is all over the place with no real sense of focus & accomplishment. I am “showing up” but irregularly without a clear set of goals. So after bumbling around for a while in this new found frontier of freedom, I realize that in order to function effectively I need to create my own “box” for myself to save me from chaos.

IMG_1647Recently I sent for books on the subject. Currently, I am reading ,  Goal Setting for People Who Hate to Set  Goals.”   This small book by Keith Ellis is helping me prioritize & set measurable goals step by step.  Today I am going to sit down, write out my goals and create a visual flowchart to follow.  For me, unless I write things down and have a visual posted in a place where I see it consistently, all will be a wash.

Some successes thus far: I have started to get up an hour earlier.  That helps a lot.   I also for some months now have been following a modified version of the house cleaning and organization system on flylady.net.  My house is way more in order and clean than ever before by just following her simple systematic approach.   I function much better in a clean, orderly environment.

If you have any tricks to stay focused and organized, I would love to know!

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Just Show Up

wrecker-2061697_1920No matter what rut you’re in, creative or otherwise, the only way to escape is by momentum.  Whether it be a running start with or without an external assist (think tow truck) as in a class.  Here is a free tow truck- watch the Mel Robbins’ Ted Talk.  She is a good motivator.

IMG_1551After a bit of a dry spell this summer (literally and figuratively), I decided to take the sage wisdom of other creatives and just SHOW-UP.  Anything is better than being miserable. So I have been just showing up to my studio with no great inspiration, choosing to do whatever caught my fancy.  “Junk collage” started me off, then I joined an informal mosaic group on Monday mornings that a friend of mine started.  ThenIMG_1549 there is nothing like SIGNING UP.  I have a couple of holiday shows now I need to create for.  Deadlines are a great motivator.  I bought a new bag of clay and I’m ready to go.

IMG_1547Creative dry spells are no fun.  There is a certain desperation and despair about these times.  But just like being physically out of shape, the only way to get in creative shape is to start moving.  It’s uncomfortable at first and discouraging to begin again.  Creative muscles get sore too.   That means baby steps.  Show up 10 minutes a day if that’s all you have in you and work up to more.

I’m not making masterpieces here, but I am making, and making is when I’m happiest.

 

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A Time for Play

I’m in between right now.  That means I am in a lull between past projects and ones yet to be revealed.  This is a perfect opportunity for play which often leads to inspiration. One of my guilty pleasures is taking a selection of cast off junk and combining it into something artsy.  It’s akin to child’s play- no expectations, just fun.

I’ve been eyeing an round, rusty old grill on an equally rusty burn barrel at the back fence line of my property.  Last week I decided to see what I could do with it.

3 tone Plate2I was especially happy that I could incorporate the pieces of a favorite ceramic plate that I made years ago and then recently broke.  Also included are some old springs, washers, a silver bracelet, a hawk feather, jute, a scrap of copper & a couple of glass moonstones for eyes.  It’s now hanging on the outside of my studio. I call it ‘Grateful God.”

A BLESSING

May the light of your soul guide you

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do, the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do

May you never become lost in bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find you awake and alert,

Approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected

May your soul calm console, and renew you.

John o’Donoghue

Anam Cara

 

Why I Write As a Visual Artist

d73458fbbe781b9b5b5e94dede7541f3-writing-help-on-writingI’ve kept a journal off and on since I was a junior in high school.  It was an assignment in my English class.  Long after the assignment was over, I kept on as I found it to be a way to clarify my thoughts and anchor myself quelling my teenage anxiety.

Away at college, I added to my journaling by writing letters to friends, often 3 to 4 double-sided pages.  I poured out my hopes and fears as a young adult on yellow lined legal pads. Never during that time did I consider my writing to have any type of creative value. My major was in the natural sciences and didn’t give language arts much if any thought.

Fast forward 40 odd years to my 60’s, now a retired middle school science teacher and a practicing artist, piles of journals stored in boxes in my attic.  Then, last fall I picked up a pencil and started reading & writing poetry every morning as an alternative to reading and listening to the news.  The 2016 election was driving me crazy.  Much to my surprise,035572205f481fafaa1112f666ff3c24 poetry started emanating from me.  Not only was the process satisfying creatively, it started becoming food for my visual artwork.  As time passed, my writing has continued to rescue me from the darkness of the world events. (I choose not to write about them either).

In January of this year, my blog followed the poetry.  Originally it was going to be a way to document my visual art processes, but it has turned into a platform to showcase my writing, photography as well as my artwork.  Again as with poetry, the satisfaction of writing a blog surprised me.

Julie Cameron of the Artist’s Way series suggests writing 3 full pages every morning.  She calls them “Morning Pages.”  Years back for a while I tried to do that.  Though I did receive plenty of insights, the 3 full pages exercise were just too prescriptive and forced to me and I began to avoid the process.

quotes-writing-william-h-gass-600x411Now I believe just write- daily in whatever form suits you.  For me sometimes that can be a few lines, an entire poem or just editing something I’ve written the day before. Anything to tame the squirrels running loose in my brain. It’s a creative act that can be achieved with the immediacy of pencil and paper. You don’t need paint, canvas, a studio, clay or kiln.  It’s a relatively quick process. Paint pictures with letters, words, and sentences.  When you aren’t inspired visually, find inspiration & clarity in your written expression. Free your psyche to give your visual art more direction than it’s ever had before.