No Critics Allowed

Yesterday I bought a sketchbook. I was feeling the pressure of working only on canvas, I reckoned I was starting to 'play safe'.. actually, I wasn't playing at all. The party pooping, perfectionist part of me was being a bully and taunting me with her opinions. I thought maybe I could bypass this by drawing, painting, doodling on something other than canvas. I think I have associated a canvas with having to hang it on a wall...It must be presentable.

My critic is a relentless cynic.

She snubs me for recreating the same thing over and over, totalling 8 'Daisy Jane' portraits so far. They have no bodies or limbs, just the face, the eyes.. varying only in expressions and backgrounds. The critic tells me it's just too 'samey' and safe, she also feels compelled to imply it's all I'm capable of. I hear her thoughts...'beginners luck, that's all it was, a fleeting artistic surge'. This incurs the hesitation of my conditioned, 'slavish' doubt. Should I step away from the portraits and try something else? I am conflicted now with a need to prove her wrong. This is nothing new.

Over the years I have had occasions when I'm compelled to create something, having not done so in a while, then I go and I produce something that surprises me. Then I try to produce more but nothing comes.

So I went and got a sketchbook..something I could carry around. I had oil pastels and watercolours I have never used. I have a lot of art supplies as over the years friends have bought them for me as a gesture of encouragement when the artist in me would spontaneously emerge to produce something. I would play around with the materials, try too hard to 'nail it' (whatever 'it' is), then I would lose courage and pack them all up again, because I couldn't seem to produce anything further than that 'one thing' I originally set out to do.

ex·per·i·men·ta·tion: noun

the act, process, practice, or an instance of making experiments

I have no formal art training, I don't know how to use half the materials I have. I have a lot of 'playing around' to do, a lot to discover. What have I got in my favour? I have a love of learning, my leisure time is my own, I have materials, I have the desire to create... but I also have a suffocating need to be good at this.

I've done a lot of personal development over the past few years still, I often fall prey to the voice that says:

 "You can't do this"

Last night I sat at the kitchen table with this new notebook, watercolours and oil pastels. I decided to have a stab at 'painting' my Bizzie Lizzie who is in the early stages of overtaking the kitchen table. I decided it would be a still life 'interpretation'... That reframing gave me permission to try.

The fact that I wasn't working on (at risk of wasting) a canvas also gave me added permission to let go and just attempt something different.


This was my internal dialogue

Critic:  "This doesn't look real, it's not even a good interpretation"

Me: It doesn't have to 'look' like the plant here in front of me, I'm doing all this for the first time..I'm expirimenting"

Critic: "You can't do this, you're just going to waste all these materials and have nothing to show for it. You don't know what you're doing."

Me: I could look for tutorials on you tube. I'm liking these watercolours, I like the idea of painting 'lillie' 

Critic: Yeah, for what? It's of no use to you. You know you've to clean up a mess that was created for nothing"

Me: I love this mess and it's not for nothing.. (Feeling Disheartened)

Critic: " You are NOT an artist"


I caught myself trying to convince myself to think I'm experimenting, when actually I was colluding with the critic in expecting a specific quality or outcome.  

It's the old familiar war of attrition.. I went through the motions of creating the image but lost interest (courage) and focus (patience) quite fast. I didn't spend time outlining the leaves, I felt totally intimidated by the paint and the oil pastels I had spread out before me. I hurriedly 'finished' it and moved on.

In spite of my efforts, the critic was now in control...  

Feeling pulled, taunted, challenged and on the brink of defeat, I decided to go back to the face... I'd try a face with oil pastels and water colour, all the while concerned whether those two media are even used together! I resisted the temptation to create the face as I always do... big and round, with emphasis on the eyes. Something about that had started to grate on me, because the critic was now internalised and my portraits felt juvenile. I wanted to do 'better', more 'artistic', so I opted for a different shape face and would 'wing it' with features.

As I started, a deeper frustration grew and grew and a feeling of such discouragement, that an anger started rising in me. The boss was very unhappy with the way things were turning out and it was getting late.. This session can't end without my producing a 'presentable' creation, that was the expectation.

This is what emerged...

Shaming the critic


How freaky is that? This is what happens when you expect too much of yourself. It's like a part of me surfaced to say 'back the fuck off and stop putting so much pressure on me to be perfect'... I was a little taken aback, but enough to be snapped out from under the critic's spell.

I made one last attempt to channel something positive out of this, to resolve this conflict. I wanted to reassure the creative part of me that all will be ok... I asked for an affirmation...

This is the advice that came...



I'm  a little unsure about sharing this experience and these images, but I told myself I would do it to shame the critic... I can't let fear and doubt put mountains in my way.

This is the journey I promised myself... it's about cultivating happiness. It's about developing a practice, patience, trust, the courage to try, to play, to stand up for the little one who paints  in my heart.


I've now written on the cover of my Journal:  "No Critics Allowed"



Always, Amanda xx