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on attitude and intention: 5 tips to exercise artistic muscle and quiet your inner critic

I’m learning that attitude and intention can turn almost any situation on its ear. Let’s take one example from my recent history and see how an attitude adjustment helped me grow:

Drawing does not come easily to me. I don’t want to say that I can’t draw, because I probably could if I practiced. A more accurate statement is that I don’t have a natural talent for drawing. It isn’t an area of strength for me.

I used to believe that this limitation was an obstacle to making art, but I came to understand that I made a choice to let that belief distract me from making art. Ha! If I can’t make art then I don’t have to flirt with rejection, right? However, the other side of rejection is opportunity and my negative attitude was locking me out of opportunities. Hmmm…what is THAT about? And where is my therapist when I need her?

Does any of this resonate with you? Do you hear your inner critic talking too? Here’s what I did – these tips should give you a few ideas to help move your attitude and intention in a direction that serves you:

1. Make friends with your limitations. Once I realized that my limitations can actually help rather than hurt me the game was on! Instead of letting myself get stuck because I don’t draw well, I learned to embrace my ability to recognize a great image – in nature, in art, in day-to-day mundane objects. I found that there are different ways to incorporate those images in my work that didn’t include drawing. Without a natural ability for drawing I learned to utilize other skills, expanding my artistic vocabulary. [see #2!]

2. Make better friends with your skills. I want to use imagery in my art to help tell the story. How can I do that if I can’t draw? I love image transfers and I do them well. Image transfers of copyright free art, a photo from my growing collection, a doodle (remember the zentangle?). I am also good at making a collage that tells a story, and I love to scan my collages and print them to use as image transfers. I also carve stamps using line images from copyright-free sources and create scenes or textiles that I use for the image transfers. There are so many ways to do this. Again, I’m capitalizing on my ability to recognize a great image and using some of my other skills that don’t involve drawing. Do you see what I mean?

3. Read a book or take a class about something completely different from the medium that you work with now. I make it a point to take a class that has nothing to do with polymer clay. When I study other art media/techniques, it helps me think about my chosen medium differently, often resulting in my art reaching a higher level.

4. Step outside of your comfort zone and s–t–r–e–t–c–h that artistic muscle. I find that making art that is just for me…just for the sake of making art helps to pull me out of the deeply grooved trough we (I) often live in. We get very caught up in judging our art, in wanting/needing it to be good. Too often we color inside the lines just to make sure we do it ‘right’. I make goofy, crazy stuff that doesn’t even remotely resemble my ‘real’ work. Make something crazy, out-of-the-box. Just do it!

5. Get physical. Exercising your artistic muscle also involves exercising the muscles of your body. I take yoga classes and I walk almost every day (almost…). It gives me clarity of mind, stamina, physical and emotional energy and it makes a difference in my art. It doesn’t matter what you do, but as much as my dear friend Alison likes to say ‘get your butt in the chair’ (love you A.), I’m telling you to get up out of that chair, get out of your house and get moving!

Make a few subtle shifts in attitude and intention and you will see the inner critic fall away… don’t be surprised by the treasures you will unlock.

I took these pictures on a recent walk through the gardens at the Vanderbilt mansion. I’m new to photography – something I’m dabbling in because it has nothing to do with my clay. These are untouched. Raw. Loving it!

How do you deal with your artistic limitations? What do you do to keep your inner critic quiet?

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8 Responses to on attitude and intention: 5 tips to exercise artistic muscle and quiet your inner critic

  1. Alison – as always you make me chuckle!

    Witchylana – and you give me hope!

    Deirdre – I can’t tell you how many people have told me the same thing about ‘ruining’ materials…funny ducks, aren’t we?

    Deborah – I often have to remind myself to keep things in perspective. Good to see that I’m not alone!

    Patti & Dot – thank you…thank you…thank you!

  2. “…I learned to embrace my ability to recognize a great image – in nature, in art, in day-to-day mundane objects.”

    That’s one of the reasons why this site is so great! And I love your photos too.

  3. Hey, learning to recognise good images, and being able to articulate what makes them ‘good’, are the two most important parts of the process of learning to create them yourself.
    The rest is just motor control. 🙂

    Oh, and beating the inner critic into a shape that works for you helps too. Mine is trained to show me my errors – my failures are more valuable (in terms of learning stuff) than my successes.

  4. A book called “The Artist’s Way.” And a meeting with the Artist’s Way group every two weeks. It really opened up my creative life and helped me understand and overcome some of my most difficult blocks (for instance: “don’t use this pretty material! you’ll ruin it!”).

  5. oh don’t you know it…

    if the truth be told, the only way I can put my butt in the chair and record a show is by walking/running a minimum of 3 miles before hand.
    i swear it’s the only way to rid the brain of the inner critic.

    thank god my inner critic is in poor aerobic shape and can’t keep up. i’ve already recorded an entire show by the time it limps into the studio…
    lol…. just keeping it real!

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