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He said, “Don’t be afraid of ruining it.” I was having a beer in Corning with an artist friend Zach Jones. We were talking about art and the making of a good painting. During our conversation, we landed on a common mantra almost unanimously, “You can’t be afraid of ruining it.” I was reminded of this conversation last Friday while working on my latest painting.

I’m painting grazing bison. The piece is nice, and I love the way I’m growing technically, but I felt like it needed something. It needed some movement. I wanted to add cowbirds for movement, but I didn’t want to ruin it. I let it sit over the weekend. Here’s my inner dialogue this morning prefaced with, “Don’t ruin it now because … :

  • You’ve spent some time and money
  • What you’ve painted looks really good
  • You can do it differently on the next one

After all, listening to the authority of our inner critic has saved our ass many times (i.e. don’t talk to strangers, don’t drink downstream from the herd, don’t look straight up at a bird.) But, in art, the fear of a bad choice or a misplaced brushstroke can be paralyzing. In art, the inner critic is a bastard, it knows you better than you do. After all, it is you.

Ignoring this voice is difficult. I’m learning to acknowledge the inner critic and move forward. This morning I added some cowbirds to the bison painting. I love it more! I don’t have it on my website yet (I have to get it framed) but you get first look.

Suck it inner critic.

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