Sometimes, It's Best Not to Listen....

6:05 PM

This past Saturday, my niece Amanda was married at an outdoor Florida. Yes, you read that correctly. In the photo, the flower girl is spraying Amanda's face with a water mister/fan thingie that helped to keep the girls cool before the ceremony.

I had started to put together a sketch of some of these images. I wanted to do a more personal representation of the day and I was struggling with my sketch to make it look like Amanda and her new husband, Dustin.

When Chris came in from work and saw the sketch, we started to talk about it. I was not happy with it at all. Since it was family, I definitely wanted the people in the sketch to look like who it was suppose to be and not the Asian folks that had shown up on the page.

Chris offered some constructive comments....Dustin's head was too small for his body, but the proportions were good. Then he criticized the photo I had chosen. I admit it wasn't the best, and the angle was crazy, but it was the one that I thought best summed up the wedding. 

Then he went on talking about how hard it is to draw people, let alone family. Throw in that crazy angle and well, it was just about impossible. That's why he'd quit doing artwork with people in it. At the end of the conversation I decided he was right. It was impossible and I couldn't do it. 
Amanda & Dustin

I wasn't good enough.

Mind you, that's not what he said at all. It's what I heard. My insecurities were already raging, nipping at my heels and chewing on my toes. (I tend to think of my insecurities as piranhas...they move in at the first scent of insecurity and work into a feeding frenzy.)

I took my sketchbook back to the studio and erased the whole page......

I shouldn't have listened.

Not to my insecurities. Nor to my fears that I couldn't complete the sketch to my satisfaction. And I shouldn't have erased the damn thing.

Cheesecake and Cupcakes!
 What did I learn?

1. The next time my insecurities are that raw, it's probably best not to enter into a conversation about the art no matter how well-meaning the person may be.

2. Wait before erasing. Nothing would have changed if I would have waited until this morning and still decided to erase.

3. I shouldn't have listened to the fear. I know better. Fear is not a good leader.

4. I would have learned something if I had gone ahead with the sketch, even if I had not done the work satisfactorily or to my satisfaction (two different things).

5. Nobody but me would have seen it anyway. Especially if I didn't think it was good enough.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Watkins!

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22 Creative Thought(s)

  1. Gosh, I can relate to what you're saying. I am so insecure about my art and listen to the voice of fear and the inner critic all the time :( I'm sure you'll still be able to do what you want to do!

  2. So.. did you do it again?
    How interesting you would post this right now as I am going thru that exact thing as I type. I am trying to do another card for someone and its not coming out exactly how I invisioned it. I feel like tearing it up... But.. after reading this I will wait till tomorrow and then figure it all out. Alot of times just getting away from something changes my opinion of what ever I was doing. I see it with fresh eyes and a little distance from the frustration. Thanks for the reminder Laure.

  3. I have a place to put those drawings. They stay there until I decide to either keep or throw. LOL

  4. Oh and.. congrats to the newly weds. What a lovely Bride.

  5. Oh Laure,
    I am so amazed that you, as a professional artist, have such insecurities. Thanks you so much for sharing these thoughts. One of my biggest struggles is with 'what my family thinks'. I would have loved to have seen your sketches of the lovely couple. I did a cut and pasted of your 'lessons learned' into a page doc and printed it as a reminder. I learn so much from your blog and can't wait to take your classes in the fall.
    BTW congratulations to all. The first picture of the little girl 'spritzing' the brides face is priceless.

  6. What a cute couple. I am glad I am not the only one that can't do people. I keep at it. They never look like the person I am trying to draw. Sigh~~ Some day I will surprise myself and have a good one turn up on my paper. You will too.

  7. Thank you Laure, you did a lot for a lot of us with your comments. I am working on #4 lately and sometimes it feels like I will explode just trying to realize that I can do something and the finished product is okay just being okay. I keep trying to stop the old phrase in my head "It is quality, not quantity that counts. If this isn't your best, don't finish it. Don't even start because you don't want to waste paper." Seriously, that's what I have to fight. In the good ole days we were told not to waste paper. Not to waste anything, so a drawing or painting that was not top notch would be a waste of paint, canvas, what ever. People didn't have to say that to my generation, we were born with it imprinted on our art hearts! Depression or what ever, now it is trees having to die so I can draw not so good pictures. Well, I am over that now thanks to your class. I just have to hang on and keep producing okay work and feeling okay about it and moving on. Eventually I will get the likeness I am looking for. But. . . I have to do a quantity of attempts to develop that quality of product I long for. Right now I have set aside 20 pages in my sketch book for a portrait of my niece's child. I hadn't started it forever since I "knew" I couldn't do it the first time out. Now I have decided, so what. If it takes 20 pages of trying it, so be it. Maybe it will "waste paper, quality time I could be ironing etc." But, so what. Learning art requires the right attitude and lots of paper. I will be 20 pages closer to my goal! You were so encouraging to all of us in the Italy class the other day when you said the goal for the painting of the happy little nun at the Vatican was to capture her joy. You did that with gusto! It sure helped me. Maybe if you try to do a painting of a bride with your niece's glow of happiness it will be beautiful.I know it will be. It might not be your niece. . .yet! Tell yourself what you would tell us and you will be zipping out your final products in no time. Thanks again for all you do for us. And thanks for sharing frustrations also. I think I grow a little more every time you acknowledge the frustration you experience. It makes it okay for me to feel it and try to conquer it like you do. You are a very good teacher and artist.
    Best Regards, Marie Kaye

  8. Me, learning to hear the fear, listen to the inner critic and DO IT ANYWAY is what it's all about. Don't let it stop you.

    No, Cris, I haven't attempted it again...I've been behind. I may try again tomorrow. A little distance is a wonderful thing!

    Sharon, I have a place too—it's usually the round file, but I think your system is probably better!

    Clare, no matter where we go, there we matter how far we go on this artistic journey, there will always be insecurities to bug us and occasionally trip us up. We just learn how to handle them better (usually!). It's tough with family, but that's when we have to choose to create for ourselves first not for our families.

    Thanks, Lisa, I know we'll both get there.

    Marie, I'm glad this helped....painting for quantity instead of quality is a paradigm shift for a lot of folks, but it's a foregone conclusion that we're going to do our BEST any time we put brush to paper so why focus on that. Better to put in the time, 20 tries as you talked about, to hone our craft and improve our skills.

    We don't expect pro athletes to get a home run or a hole in one every time it's their turn, so why do artists think the same they should get a "home run" every time they try? Athletes practice drills and putts and throws over and over again, why would it be any different for us artists?

    Keep up the good fight, Marie!

  9. For me that dreaded walking to close to the edge - anxiety ridden feeling hits at different times in a drawing. I sometimes wonder if my mind is testing my will to achieve a goal. It is easier to recognize now and comes with less intensity, but still manages to find its way into my thoughts. My hubby Dan tends to stay far away from my drawing board, since my method of madness tends to leave my subject looking pretty ugly 80% of the time. (He knows that I am keen on catching facial expressions during the viewing process!)

    I had an art teacher get mad at me once and say, "You could do the painting lesson, if you would just let yourself do it." What?!? But she was right... I got mad enough at her to forget to let my anxiety question my skills, threw caution to the wind, and completed the canvas. I try not to think to much... I just get myself into trouble. ;)

  10. I gave up on drawing people a long time ago bc I was never satisfied with the results even if I felt I followed the picture... However, I'll never get better that way either. For them present I am content with simply sticking with what I am most comfortable with.

    Thank you Aunt Laure!

  11. Hmm ... Isn't it interesting to note that we are all human, with frustrations, an inner critic that needs to be ignored most of the time, and a unique sense of exactly what to say/think to push our insecurity button.

    Laure, tables have turned here - we get to tell you what you tell us all the time. Imperfection is practiced here. Another line I like is - we are not our thoughts. Thanks to you, I have learned that the journey is the thing, not the result. :)

    When do we see your artful memory of the wedding?

    Hats off to you for sharing your "painted thoughts". You are a great mentor!

  12. Boy... can I sure identify with some of the feelings that you described. I sometimes find it hard to share my art with some of those so close to me for fear of them analyzing it and finding the flaws. I feel myself holding back sometimes afraid to take the next step and see what happens. I really appreciate your openness and letting us know that you too experience these feelings.

    P.S. Awesome shots of the wedding. Please offer my Congratulations to the happy couple. What an exciting milestone for your family!!

  13. Love how you tell it like it can be. Love that you've walked away with wisdom and determination. Something I hope I can remember to have during said challenges!

  14. I haven't read the other comments but my comment is to go draw that picture again! Take it as a lesson in your own private Trip to a Wedding! Drawing people is scary. Drawing people you know is scarier. That's why doing people was such a great lesson in class. You've got your pre-drawing exercise out of the way so now you can do a for-real picture (at least, that's one way to think of it). You can do it! If the photo you shared is it, it'll make a fun picture. Let me give you the advice I heard my daughter give Victoria - "if you always stop when it's good enough you'll never have a great picture" and the same goes with not doing the picture at all! It's a challenge now. Are you going to pick up the gauntlet? Shove those self-critics and helpful-critics aside and show up to the worktable. You'll be happier if you tackle this and don't let it beat you!

  15. Sounds like you need to take one of your own classes - you're so good at teaching us to ignore that inner critic, you need to listen to your own advise. I hope you'll try again soon.

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  17. ...I know something in your niece's wedding will show up here sooner or later! I can't wait to see what you create. Great post...I don't know if it's misery likes company, but it's comforting to know someone as good as you has artistic fears too! :-)

  18. Oh my Laure! I can just hear what you would have told me if I told you this about me!!! Like you mentioned before, after you shake off the dust of insecurity, you can move forward and try it again. This time, you being your only critic!! Beautiful niece and they make a cute couple!

  19. Hey Laura! I just HAVE to leave a comment today...I'm usually a silent stalker of your blog but...first of all, I admire that you wanted to do the drawing BUT...I think you should do the sketch anyway...does it really HAVE to be an exact duplicate of the photo and the actual couple? I mean, does it really HAVE to look exactly photo-perfect? They are already going to have wedding pictures. The wonderful thing about creating art is that it can look like anything we want it a lighter sketch, representative of the happy couple, but don't go into details of their faces, etc...use shading,etc. If you use the photograph as your guide, it WILL still represent them, but it doesn't have to be an actual duplicate of it! It will be created by you and from the heart...that's all they are going to think of it! Unless of course, you make the bride look too fat or something! I think you should go for it, and don't be so hard on yourself! Hugs!

  20. Been there, done that! I know now to just put the thing away for a while and come back and look at it later. Sometimes it still looks as bad, but sometimes not.

    Looks like a pretty wedding, anyway.

  21. I think the bride and groom would probably still love what you did--is there a photo of the two of them from behind that captures them together? I actually love paintings done of backs, and the whole notion of the difficult faces is kind of thrown out the window when that's the case. It's so sweet of you to even think to do that--I know they'd be touched by whatever you came up with. I can totally relate to that... Lovely, Laure--and congratultions to them, too!

  22. I am a little behind, as usual but Laurie, You have all the talent in the world girlfriend! Fear is just that buggaboo that manages to jump on our shoulder every once in a while and tell us we CAN'T - whatever it is that we are trying to do. You just put too much pressure on yourself and as soon as fear got you to think "it has to be perfect, it's family"...
    I know how awesome your work is - I've taken classes with you my friend. You just flick "FEAR" off your shoulder and get back to that piece of watercolor paper because I know for a fact that you CAN!!
    Beth P


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