Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Silencing the Inner Critic

Recently I was presented with an opportunity to create some work for a silent auction.  I saw this as a chance to support a worthy cause, but also an opportunity to introduce myself to a new audience.  Basically, I made something pretty great into something with waaaaaay too much pressure.

The only direction I got was "something big and blue" and a deadline.  That was pretty open-ended but with a big/looming deadline fast approaching.  The vague direction left me scratching my head for a while (but it was really procrastination disguised as fear). 

I challenged myself to create something that was much larger than what I normally work with, a 24"x30" canvas.  I sketched out the basic shape of the head, facial features, and the upper body.  Then I started adding base-layers of paint to the canvas. 

And that's when the inner critic went to town on me. 

I spent hours fretting over the blue areas of the canvas.  Nothing felt right.  Nothing seemed "good enough."  The more paint I spread around, the more of my favorite techniques I tried, the worse I felt.  My inner critic was having a grand ol' time.

I then turned my attention to the face.  Ick!  The eyes looked funny.  The lips were too big.  The skin and shading was off.  The eye-shadow was too dark.  The hair wasn't falling quite right.  My inner critic picked this poor painting apart every step of the way.  I painted the eyes at least five separate times.  Many other features were done and redone and redone some more.  Nothing was working.  Except my inner critic.  She was in maximum overdrive.

With 24 hours til' deadline--I was staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, seriously contemplating if I should just paint over the entire thing and start over.  My inner critic was taunting me, telling me I wasn't good enough.  That my work would be declared not good enough and not worthy of those that would potentially view/bid on my work. 

But then it hit me...my inner critic doesn't know jack!  She doesn't have any talent, experience, or credibility.  She has done absolutely nothing.  She's only speaking to me because I am listening to her.  The only power she has is the power I give her. 

So I got up early the next morning and with renewed enthousiasm I finished the painting.  Sure, there are still some little things that could be better, but overall I'm proud to say that I kept at it and finished the piece.  More importantly, I figured out that once I found my own voice and stopped listening to my inner critic--she really didn't have that much to say. 

Mixed Media on 24"x30" Gallery Wrapped Canvas

The "Siren" in all of us is as enchanting as she is unstoppable.  She's dangerous when she finds her voice.  Have the courage to let her sing.

How do you silence your inner critic?


  1. Love it. Ignore your inner critic. This is fantastic.

  2. I love the question, "How do you silence your inner critic?" I have a routine that includes walking away from a particular piece and beginning something new. Then, when the critic is away for the day, I go back to the original piece and work on it some more! Seriously, I love your "Siren." This piece is, indeed, enchanting. I want to look at all that blue and conjure up what I might see there, but the eyes will now allow me to do so. Enchanting, indeed!

  3. Thank you both. And Kay, I think that is a great idea! I will have to keep that in mind.

  4. So inspiring! I have a hard time creating for something or someone, because that's when my critic is loudest. You did beautifully!

  5. I love it when we can effectively silence our inner critic ...at least long enough to get something done if not even completed. They can't take up all the time in our heads after all.