Just Do It!

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    This is what I tell myself several times a day, and have been for a good long while now. I am afraid to practice my art because I am afraid of what will come out.

    I am not afraid of the emotional content. I have faced down those demons. Coming face to face with hurtful words and painful memories is difficult and frightening, but I have come to realize that they are my feelings, I have a right to them, and ultimately I am in control of them. I do not fear the emotions to be expressed.

    What I do fear is judgment on the work itself. I was always artistic and creative as a child; I loved to draw, paint, sculpt, work with clay, whatever my chubby little hands could get hold of. I quickly learned that there were fundamentally two types of art in the eyes of my peers, my teachers and my parents: “good” art that made people happy, or “bad” art that made people angry or sad, or was considered inappropriate. I drew pictures of cats and birds which were “good” and got taped to the bulletin board; I did pictures of nude women with clown faces which were “bad” and earned me a trip to the principal’s office.

    In college I studied art, and the demarcations became more complex. “Good” art had a “historical context” (and to this day I don’t fully understand that term!); “bad” art seemed to cover everything else. I just wanted to perfect my technique so that I could better express what I wanted to express, but sadly, I got caught up in the art student’s quest to create “good” art.

    It has been a couple of months since I did a drawing. I sit down at my table with my sketch pad and oil pastels, ink and brush, or whatever medium strikes my fancy, and stare at the page. Images abound in my imagination, and my hand moves to put them to paper–but then I hear the question, “Will it be Good Art? Will it be Bad Art?” So great is the pressure not to create Bad Art that I am paralyzed and I can do no art at all.

    My question is this–how do I overcome a lifetime of judging myself and my efforts too harshly? How do I Just Do Art without judging it? How can I get back the joy of creating once again? How do I silence that mean little voice that tells me I am wasting my time because it will be Bad?

    Have any of you struggled with this dilemma? How have you overcome it?


    Dear keine:

    It will take a whole lot of time- if you work hard and smart- to silence that voice telling you to do “good art” and not “bad art”- a whole lots of time to wait before you can create art.

    What I would do if I was you would be to purposefully create “Bad Art”-

    I wanted to create art but lacked the technique. Had a class, oil/ acrylic painting, but one class was not enough. I got the feel of it though, the pleasure of learning a technique and I liked it. I mastered the beginning of a technique and could have gone on but didn’t. So technique is necessary.

    And then the topic. This is my most prized painting (no longer have it): a head of a person, maybe me, with a hand coming out of my skull as in reaching out for help (I was very troubled, of course). That was my Real Art- that was ME.

    So, coming to think about it (as I type), how about focusing on Me Art instead of Good Art and Bad Art.

    The Good Art and Bad Art are other-focused. Make your art Me-Focused.

    Your art and your life used to be about others: what would make them happy. Make both about you: it is your time, your life, your art.




    Ah, the inner critic. Nasty little bugger, always striking at the worst time.

    Just gotta do it! For me, a vicious circle to get into is spending too much time looking at the work of other artists who inspire me and then I feel bad – “this person creates wonderful art, my work is nowhere near as good as this”

    It’s like Anita has said – focusing on ‘Me Art’. I think the best work I have produced is when I have decided to switch off from the internet/computer games etc and just dedicated time to creating. I know I should just create art for me and myself only but I’ve only found the courage to share my work online over the past year – I had uploaded odds and ends before but I never really shared any of the things I really felt strongly about – I was scared to share it before – would I receive harsh criticism on my work? Would people hate it? Would they compare my work to other artists, drawing out parallels between my work and the work of others and tell me I’m unoriginal and just copying from other artists?

    I guess try not to compare your work to that of anybody else, don’t be afraid to experiment and just dedicate time to making art inspired by you. Don’t be concerned about what other people might think of the final piece once you have finished, just focus on the creation. And I highly recommend drawing/painting with your non dominant hand! I’m by no means an art expert, just sharing what I have learned so far!



    Hey Keine,

    Perhaps that little critical voice in your head is the expectations others have had for your art, all the distinctions between good art and bad art that you were taught.

    I have to say, though, that whoever said good art was art with historical context was on to something (yes, I am an art historian, after all). What I take this to mean is that the best art is not just art that is an expression of a single person’s feelings on one particular day, but that is an expression of a whole society over a longer period – an ethos, if you like. The best artists are the ones who capture the essence of the human condition.

    I know it sounds like I’m putting more pressure on you, not less, but what I’m saying is, perhaps it will help to make art with a purpose, which is to establish a kinship with the rest of humanity, and perhaps with nature too. Realize that any work, whether good or bad, is a step along the road toward becoming one with the universe. Not every step on that road is a step forward! The failures are just as essential as the successes. I agree with Anita and Joe to an extent; make Me Art while you’re working, and then somewhere along the road, it will become Us Art.

    Last but not least, remember that art is not separate from life. Creative inspiration can hit you at any time, so always be mindful.


    Thank you all for your replies. Good food for thought!

    I have struggled with getting the Me Art (I guess that’s what I’d call what I’ve been doing when I’m able) onto the page….sometimes it seems self-absorbed and too introspective. But then, it’s MY art, dang it! If that is what I’m feeling, that’s what needs to go on the paper.

    I appreciate what jfisher says about transitioning from Me Art to Us Art. Perhaps the same issues I’m trying to make peace with by doing art can apply to the rest of the Universe.

    Okay…I think I’ll Just Do It now.


    Dear keine:

    The way I see it is that The More Me Art you make it, the more Us Art it automatically becomes.

    What is inside you, the needs, wants, fears, love…these are universal. Let those create your art and naturally people will see their needs, wants, fears, love in it.

    When you modify the Me Art with so to satisfy that inner critic (internalized critical parents, extended to all potential criticizers), you muddle, cut the wings off, and take the life out of those things inside you that need to be delivered to the canvas/ raw material.


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