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Quieting the Inner Critic

November 13, 2013
Just a Misunderstanding - Collage, 6x6"  on 9x9" backing

Just a Misunderstanding – Collage, 6×6″ on 9×9″ backing

Most days it’s not easy to get one’s critical left brain out of the way and just respond to materials and colors and patterns. But for some reason, this past weekend I was able to do that in a quick session creating several collages. Using my hand painted papers, I worked as fast as possible, making sure I didn’t overthink the process. In fact, I was working on them in our living room while listening to and half-watching some TV show that my husband and I had recorded. I think having that small distraction in the background made a difference in my ability to just let the work flow.

I’ve noticed this at times when I’ve been on the phone while painting. After ending the conversation, I’m sometimes surprised that I’ve made great progress on a passage of the painting or resolved a problem with color or composition.

Of course it goes without saying that music will do that too. When it comes to playing music in the studio, making art can become a kind of dance — sometimes literally.

Do you have special ways of quieting your inner critic?

The above collage can be found here in my Etsy shop.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    November 13, 2013 8:53 am

    I’ve been listening to Opera music in the studio lately, and some favorite old classics. Normally I’m a rocker but this really seems to help me focus and not overthink.

    • November 13, 2013 2:39 pm

      Linda, like you I have eclectic tastes in music. I like to mix it up according to the mood.

  2. November 13, 2013 9:47 am

    love this new collage. Often I just want it quiet, but can see why distraction would also work. I am trying to answer my own question about why I choose certain papers to use in a particular collage…besides compatibility, color or the pattern. I cannot pin point it and for some reason, feel I would like to understand better. Martha have you any thoughts or answers as to why we choose certain papers? Or Just simply they go together?
    If we put 5 people in a room, gave them the same 10 pieces of paper, everyone would use a different assortment I am sure.

    • November 13, 2013 2:43 pm

      Thanks, Pat. In answer to your question, I personally simply go with papers that I love. I don’t try to make them go together really. I just start with one, then add another one to see if it “works” somehow. Then another one, and another one. More than 5 or 6 different papers and the collage tends to become too busy for me. What I love most is to use as few as possible. Less is more. And I agree with you wholeheartedly. Five people would produce five very different works of art. I like that idea as a group exercise.

      Pat, you always inspire my next blog post! 🙂

  3. November 13, 2013 9:49 am

    I believe that abstract art comes from life experience and sometimes it takes some inexplicable outside influence to draw it out and allow it to be expressed. My method is basically free association. I normally listen to blues while in the studio and that influence can definitely be seen in the expression of my work.

    • November 13, 2013 2:45 pm

      Steven, I agree. And it is sometimes just inexplicable. I think that’s why it’s difficult to describe the process of making abstract art.

  4. November 13, 2013 9:53 am

    Driving home from work is very often my place to work out art problems. Lucky to make it home!

    • November 13, 2013 2:47 pm

      Yes, Barbara! Driving can be a good distraction for getting deep into creative thought. Before smart phones and such, I used to take a little tape recorder along with me to talk into as I was driving to work in very boring traffic. I would dictate notes to myself about art and life. Signs or bumper stickers I would see might spark a painting title or a whole idea for a piece.

      • November 13, 2013 5:33 pm

        Thanks Martha! That’s a great idea. I think there is messaging on the iPhone to do something similar. I have no idea where to get a “tape” recorder, much less the tapes! What a world!

  5. November 13, 2013 10:30 am

    My only television is in the studio. It acts as a good distraction, yes…so does music. Mostly, it serves to get me in the door.

    • November 13, 2013 2:49 pm

      Cindy, I have an old iMac in my studio where I can watch things, or simply listen to music. It makes me feel at home. I too need a “hook” to get me out there.

  6. November 13, 2013 4:04 pm

    Some days everything works….some nothing works. Music is my go to thing. The studio has to be clean and I have to be fresh and the canvas clean and white. I am a strange creature but I love new beginnings so old work distracts me.

    • November 15, 2013 5:58 am

      Karin Lynn, isn’t that the truth? And are there “in between” days? Perhaps there are, though mine tend to be on the extreme ends — either it’s working or it isn’t. I can see how your work process might be enhanced by starting clean, since your work seems to have a very Zen quality.

      For my paintings, old and used surfaces simply become a base texture. In the case of collage, I work from start to finish with a clean surface and clean background.

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