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Creating a safe space for your artist

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

When you hear that voice in your head telling you what is wrong with your artwork, have you ever asked yourself who is talking? Have you asked yourself who it is talking to? Is it the voice of a friend, talking to someone held in high regard?

The next time you hear that voice making judgements about the quality of your work, make note of the tone of the remarks. That voice is you, talking to yourself, after all.

Consider this: You are the most important person in your life. Everything you know or experience comes through the filter of your senses. Your perception of the present is colored by your perception of past events and experiences. In a very real way, your entire universe consists of you and what you think about being here and now.

The relationship that you have with yourself, right there in your head, is the most intimate relationship in your life. So I ask you: Are you speaking to yourself with love, respect, and compassion?

A friend of mine pointed out to me that if you stop a learning process in any skill, when you pick it up again you will find that all the issues you left behind are right there, waiting for you.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed. Not only that, your emotional development regarding that same skill will be what it was when you left off. This is no matter how much experience and maturity you have developed in other matters in the interim.

A child is born: in the process of their development, they are encouraged to draw, and paint, and play with color. Over time, the child begins to compare their work with that of peers, and art they see in books, or museums. They become dissatisfied with the results. They want to do better, but cannot see how to get there. About the age of ten, a respected mentor or peer tells them kindly that they don’t have a “gift for drawing” so they give up, but retain a yearning to “become an artist someday.” Time marches on, and this person grows up, works, acquires competence and prestige, perhaps raises a family. Now that they have a little more time and money on hand, they decide to pursue the old dream of becoming an artist. After all, it is just a matter of training. This person knows all about training, now.

So this person signs up for a beginning drawing class. When they get there and start to draw, they are faced with the work of their ten-year-old self. This mature adult, who has all this power and experience, is faced with the work that their ten-year-old self is doing.

The mature adult starts to criticize the work of this little kid that they used to be.

This is a massive power imbalance. It is you, talking to yourself. This is where the love and compassion come in. Your inner mature, powerful, experienced adult can easily become a horrible cruel bully, but just as easily, they can become a protector. Your mature inner self can lovingly protect, defend, and help your younger, more vulnerable self. You can help yourself to learn anything by providing a protected space for this inner child.

Consider treating yourself, when you are learning to make art, as you would treat someone vulnerable and small, someone who is trying very hard to learn, but doesn’t know everything yet. You are your beloved. I entreat you to behave accordingly.

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