Distinguishing between Judgment vs discernment is the first step in the creative process.

Observational drawing is not about pleasing myself; it is about pleasing God. rm

Hallowed, Gullah girl in ecstacyI’ve written extensively about how ego is the main saboteur in our creative process.  That’s why I always ask people to leave their critic hat at the door when the enter my studio for an art lesson.  The voice of the critic, which is a product of the left brain, where ego and “supposed to’s” wallow in a soup of judgment and envy, must be turned off during the creative process.  For many people, this is difficult because ego is the primary voice they hear from childhood.  “Good job, Billy, you got most of the paint on the paper!”  “Congratulations on winning your participation trophy!”  Or the other side of the same coin: “What makes you think you could ever be an artist?”

I call these “ego triggers,” and we need to learn to recognize them for what they are: an attempt by others to control you.  Advertisers use it, parents use it, abusers use it.

Stop worrying whether you are good enough and start making art.

To get to the “real you,” the one beneath the bravado and the self-belittling, the pure soul of the artist within you, we need to bypass the ego.  Judging a drawing in it’s preliminary gesture (gestation) is like throwing away a baby because it’s crying and pooping.  Judgment at this stage leads to creative brain freeze.  I tell my students, “if you feel judgment coming on, please put down the brush and step away from the easel until you can escort your ego to the door.”

beautiful girl on beah with dappled lightSo how do we use critical thinking without being critical?

One must fully understand the difference between judgment and discernment.  To discern a color as too dark or an angle too acute is absolutely necessary to make improvements in your work.  Discernment does not require that we judge it (or ourselves) as bad or wrong.  I have taught myself to celebrate every piece of discernment as an opportunity to improve my work.

We know life imitates art, so I have taught myself to apply this idea in my life as well, framing every inconvenience, obstacle or problem as an opportunity for growth.  They are not some kind of “proof” that my life (or my painting) sucks.  They are gifts from a loving God, who is using them to form me into the awesome person He knows I am becoming.   Without problems we stagnate.

The same is true in a painting.  If it’s too easy, that shows up as superficiality in our work.  If it’s too hard, that shows up as struggle.  There needs to be a balance in our work for it to attract interest and draw people to it.  Taking on new challenges is a great why to add healthy obstacles.  Just remember, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, oh try, again!”


Find out about taking a class, workshop or private lesson with Robert or signing up for one of his awesome painting parties.

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