Friday, October 13, 2017

Criticism, Perfectionism and Art

As Joan Rivers say’s “Can we talk??” I posted the pic below of the baby face with a description that went like this: Trying to conquer my need to erase. I’ve never done a face, let alone a child’s face in only ink. I’m not comfortable with it yet!
I get a lot of comments from people telling me I’m too hard on myself. That I’m my own worst critic. I find it curious, because I don't see it that way at all. But I’d like to explain my comments because I think people misinterpret them as self criticism. Which they are! 

I think people think criticism and perfectionism are one in the same. They are very different animals. “Criticism is an evaluative or corrective exercise that can occur in any area of human life” (Wikipedia. I liked that definition) The dictionary says “the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work”.  Criticism is an evaluation or analysis of the MERITS AND FAULTS of a work. Criticism can be a good thing! While it’s true we usually focus on the faults, I also see that as a way to make correction. I may not talk as much about what’s good (then people think your full of yourself!) but I certainly make mental notes about what works and I repeat that!!  

When it comes to my art I’m a recovering perfectionist. A perfectionist is someone for whom anything below perfection is unacceptable. (My lose definition) The standard for that perfectionism usually comes from within and in art that is really pretty subjective. There can be no defined standard for “good art” because, as they say, art is in the eye of the beholder. That’s just really the bottom line. Perfectionism is not your friend because you will never be perfect and neither will your work.

I do realize that’s how my post comments may look. Negative and critical. And on the surface they may be. But go with me here: the difference between perfectionist Michelle and critical Michelle is that perfectionist Michelle would never post anything that wasn’t up to her perfect standards. Mostly because every time she thinks she does make something close to perfect she has to put the bar a little higher next time! Standards are set of course arbitrarily by her as she defines for herself what perfect art is. She is judge and jury. And therefore, she never posts a thing! You see, the perfectionist stands as the only person whose standards matter. Her standards my be swayed by the opinions of others, but mostly the perfectionist blows off praise and opts to focus on what's wrong. (And this is why it seems my post are self critical. )

 Critical Michelle on the other hand has made peace with the fact that she’s never going to make perfect art. She understands that art is expression and that it looks different on any given day and with any given work. Critical Michelle welcomes feedback from others. And not just the good stuff, but she takes that in with thanks. She actually seeks out others whom she respects and ASKS for critical feedback to help her grow as an artist. She knows that she is not the only good judge of art. She understands that she may not see the good or bad as clearly as another person and welcomes the fresh perspective. She is not lonely because she welcomes others into her art!! 

Here’s the point I am making about the above post: I critique every work I do. It’s a habit, and I don’t think its a bad one. I look at what’s good and what’s bad and I try to learn from it. I’m pretty comfortable that I can make great art one day and crap the next—using the same tools and techniques!! Experience has taught me that my chances of success—or my version of it—rise the with every piece I make. And that each one teaches me something I can take to the next one. So, my comments reflect frustration as I am trying to use tools and techniques that take me out of my comfort zone and push me in new directions. Using nothing but ink is a stretch for me because Perfectionist Michelle still loves to use an eraser!! And I really was uncomfortable with it. Which is funny, because that’s what it would look like if I used a pencil too!  Pencils-and more so an eraser-is  like a bike with training wheels. Those lines would still be used but I’d know that once I reached my goals, I could erase all those lines that guided me to the finished drawing. Make sense? 

In the end I’m not saying there should be no standards for your work but I’m also not going to tell you to reach for some ideal or standard. I think you are doing  that if what you are creating gives you joy, fulfills you in some way, says something about you or expresses something within you. In art like life, everyone is in a different place. And every artist has something thing to say and different ways to express it. Who am I to judge that? So put perfectionist you in a closet and replace her with critical you. And just remember, critical you looks at both the MERITS and faults. There are always both. Use both to move forward. And make art! And then-show others your art. It’s like anything else, scary at first, but once you do it a few times you realize people are usually less "critical" of your work than you are of your own.

Here are the rest of #inktober this week. This week I used a pen with no pencil drawings. It definitely stretched me! Have a great week!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

#inktober2017-The First Seven Days

Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to the survey. It was very useful. While I will not be able to roll out a greeting card line in time for Christmas, I may (or may not) do so in the future. But I thank you for all your feedback-always!  

Seven days in and I am struggling to keep up. Granted I was out of town for the first two days and then sick the next three-but I still managed to make small ink drawings. What’s your excuse?? Ha, Ha! I know your out there just drawing away for Inktober. Here are my drawings for the week. This mornings was done from the sktchy app inspiration photo and the Inktober prompt “shy”. It literally took all morning. But I had the time and drawing (and painting) all that grass was meditative. I will be trying to explore some new things in the coming weeks.

Or maybe not new things, just revisit some techniques or tools I don’t normally use. This week I used the brush pen on the lamb. Not a fan. I see people do wonderful things with black brush pens, but the carbon platinum pen I used is fine nibbed and the brush pen completely overwhelmed the drawing. Lesson learned. I will use it again soon and see if I have better success. One thing I’m challenging myself to do is use tools I don’t normally use. Next week I’m dragging out the dip pens and we will see how that goes! I like a spill here and there with watercolor, but ink, not so much. We will see what happens now wont we??

Speaking of spills. As I leave you for the week, I’d like to leave you with a little metaphor. I had dinner with a friend a while ago during which we talked about Inktober. My friend reminisced about her first ink drawing in high school and how when she was quite a way into the drawing she spilled the jar of ink all over the drawing. With the teachers help, she cut the spill from the drawing and mounted paper to it and continued to finish the project into a nice drawing. As we talked she said insightfully, “I was young and thought it was a disaster. I thought this meant it was ruined.

Today I understand that spills happens and I would just incorporate and work around the spill and make it a part of the drawing. The metaphor being that life is like a drawing. “Spills” will happen, but age and wisdom teaches us how to work around them and make the best of them.” (Paraphrased)  I challenge you to embrace the “spills” in your art and put them online. As you can see below, I’m not cranking out masterpieces here. I felt the brush pen “ruined” my lamb drawing. But I went with it and worked around it by using color to distract from the heavy ink nose and eyes. So grab a tool you don't normally use and give it a go! 

Along those lines, what “spills” do you have in your life right now that you have to work around? We all have one (or more) but as my wise friend said, we learn to make them into a part of the drawing of our life. Life is art, and art is life. Have a great week! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Holiday Card Survey

I put together a little market research survey to help me figure out if I should put some of my images on greeting cards. I'd appreciate it if you would take 5 minutes to complete the survey for me. I much appreciate your time!

Holiday Card Market Research Survey

Friday, September 22, 2017


Inktober is fast approaching!  Are you ready?? For those not familiar with Inktober, it is a group of people who join together for the month of October to do an ink drawing each day of the month. Because it's origin is social media, the idea is to share the drawings to social media marked with a hash tag so others can find it.  (Google "hashtag" if you aren't familiar with them or their purpose) Inktober is both exciting and inspiring. And I'd like to share some thoughts about it and encourage you to do it with me.

First, you CAN do this. It’s 31 days. That’s all. One ink sketch a day for 31 days. Not a life sentence. You will not get ink poisoning or die from finger cramps. Trust me. 

Second, the rules are simple. Ink. On paper. That’s it. Size, color, subject—all up to you. There are prompts for each day. I posted them on my facebook page, but these are optional. I will not be using most of them.

Third, post your work on social media with a hashtag so others can find it. Now here’s where I meet resistance. “I am not good enough to put my work out there.” Nonsense. No one is going to create a masterpiece during Inktober. If you think you should then you’ve completely missed the point!! Sure, some people who really get into it might create some of the most gorgeous work, but does that diminish yours? If that intimidates you, or scares you off, again, you’ve missed the point!

Fourth, what’s the point? The point is to stretch yourself. To challenge your creative spirit. The point is not about comparing. The point is not about your perfectionism. The point is not about what someone else can do and how well and how you measure up comparatively. The point is to make art with ink for 31 days. I have found tremendous inspritation from the people who post their work. You will see techniques you can imitate. You will see subject matter you can use. You will see great skill and beginners just doing their thing. It really inspires me, and I’m not talking about the work that looks like it could be in a magazine. I’m talking about art that comes from all different skill levels. I guarantee you will learn, and grow and be inspired. And THAT is the point!!!!!!! If no one shares their work because of fear then we all lose!! 

Last, do you do art? Draw, paint, colored pencil, mixed media?  Then you are an artist. You have what it takes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This my friends is about the journey, not the destination! I will bore you with my drawings and my thoughts throughout the month. I really hope you’ll consider joining me. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back At It (and other things)

I know I've been gone a while. A lot has happened. The birth of my first grandchild has taken me to a new place!! I am smitten!

On that note, I am starting to eek out some time for my art. Not big projects or finished paintings. Mostly sketches and random drawings of my dad. Here are two that I felt turned out well. My favorite subjects!! I know many of you are not on facebook, so I will try to share more here.

I briefly toyed with the idea of teaching again. At this point I still think it's too much. But its a good sign that I want to teach again.  And that I am back to doing art.

I want to talk a little bit about sketching. I know I've talked about it before, but it has grown into a huge deal worldwide with the latest Urban Sketcher's Symposium happening in Chicago this summer. While I follow all this online and have learned a great deal from it, my take away is this:  Sketching is a way to do your art without pressure. We don't as a rule show our sketchbooks to others, so it can be private, like a journal. It can also be taken anywhere without too much of a struggle. It is also usually small, which takes a great deal of pressure off us!! A sketchbook is a place to explore and make mistakes. It is a place of growth. Of expression, free from expectations. And last, it is a place of record. It not only records our experiences, but it records our growth as artists. In our sketches we become more of the artist we were meant to be. I have come to value them in a new way.

I often like my sketches better than the finished painting I did from the sketch. They are free-er and less stiff. They have a shorthand that I seem to forget when I attempt a painting I may show. Most viewers like the finished work better, which confuses me. I remember seeing some plein air and sketches that Thomas Kincade did and I was so much more impressed with them than his tight "painter of light" works. Not dissing him here, or his other work, just saying that I have a preference to that approach. In them I saw the fine artist he was beyond the machine of commerce he was known for. 

 For me, the sketch conveys the feeling the artist has because it is raw. Less fussed over and more to the point. Often I dont have time for any details other than what it was that was speaking to me at the time.  The finished work is more of a complete sentence, with correct grammar and spelling and phrasing. (I've never been able to spell, so that might explain some things!) Lol.

I've encouraged you all to sketch before, and I do it again here. Take a class of some kind if sketching doesn't float your boat. Find some friends to do art with-I've found this to be key in my motivation. Join a group, make a paint date or sketch in the evening while watching TV. I challenge you to do some art once a week. It's my personal challenge. Seems easy, right? 

I'm also hoping to get back into blogging here again. I did want to mention that my other blog Caring for Dad hit a bit of a snag when I changed it's address I lost all subscribers. If that was any of you, I apologize. You can find the blog at I've posted there recently after a long break as well. 

Happy Wednesday!!