Monday, March 7, 2011

How to Say Thank You

Might sound like a strange title for an art blog. But bear with me. As many of you know, I am host for an on-line painting site,

One thing that I hear over and over again is how can I value my own work? One of the most recent messages posted to me on was this lament:

"Starr, what's the cure for hating everything I paint? :-) I wish I could stop...sigh..j


Boy, this is more common than you think. So often I hear this, and to be honest, have felt this myself. What is it about our artwork that makes us feel to guilty to liking it? While it is good to be able to look at our work and honestly see what is wrong, what needs improvement, where we went wrong, for a lot of us, it is total. Everything we do is junk! Why do we waste our time with it?

Wasting Time

This might be a clue, right there, Art work is a time waster. Something for children and something serious adults outgrow. Real men and responsible woman do not waste their time painting little pictures. It is  or should be a hobby at best, and unless we can see "profit" from it, a drain on ourselves and our families. We could be spending our time more profitably.  Like cooking and cleaning for them!

Roots in childhood

Art is for children. Over and over we are taught this. We have art in school, more as play time than serious learning. Something to occupy time and keep kids out of adult hair, in other words, a big time waster.

And what art kids get in school today only reinforces this view. For most it is simply make-work. Do a craft to give mom or dad a home-made gift, that under other circumstances no one would want. There is no training, no building appreciation for craftsmanship, quality or creativity. And so often art is shoehorned into an already bursting schedule. “We have 15 minutes, you can take out your pencils and draw,” For those few students that still have art in school, it is often reduced to 45 minutes once a week for 6 weeks. Not to criticize those beleaguered art teachers, but how can they do anything but baby-sit with that schedule? With schools and communities giving only lip-service to the importance of the arts if that, is it any wonder we ourselves tend to undervalue what we do?

Well, then, how do we learn to give up the guilt and learn to love our work?

My advice? Walk away from the canvas, have a cup of tea (good stuff, not cheap) then come back and pretend you did not paint it. Pretend that you are encountering it for the first time. It is not your work, but the work of someone you admire.

Look At It Through Different Eyes.

Notice what is good about the painting. Does it draw the eye? Are the colors vivid and inviting? Does it tell a story? Look at it as if you were in a gallery or museum. See, its not so bad, is it? Still having trouble? Just can’t choke the words out?

A lot of us have this problem because we are conditioned from childhood not to blow our own horn, to not praise ourselves. We must be modest. “Ah Shucks, Mama am, It t’wernt nuthin” We hang our heads down and don’t know where to look. I, like most of you simply do not know how to take praise. When I do get a compliment, I tend to look for some “error” or “mistake” to point out. Another comment that hit a resounding chord with me was this:

      "When I look at my work, I can only see the flaws. I have to bite my tongue to keep from pointing them out to everyone. I'm learning to just say, thank you, when someone compliments my artwork. But it's hard.


Sound familiar?

And when it comes to art, most of us have been conditioned to be to be super critical of ourselves. This is not something we are supposed to take pride in, because it is not important.

It is really; really hard to say "I am good."

Someplace along the line we all learned that we are garbage, what we create cannot possibly have value. That we cannot simply say we did a good job. Something about making art makes us crazy!

You don't hear carpenters telling people they hate the houses they build do you? Or plumbers saying, "boy I am a dunce when it comes to putting pipes together" They are proud of what they do, and rightly so, but we cannot be proud of what we do.

I am not saying we should not be aware of our faults as artists; just give yourself permission to say:

" I am good".

And when you are complimented, say “Thank You


  1. Great post, Susan! Hey, I didn't realize you moderated the Painting Forum at! Marion B-E, the Painting Guide, is a great friend of mine, as well as a colleague! Small world, eh? :-D

  2. Yeap, that's me.

    I am glad you enjoyed the post. I think we all have similar experiences in the arts.

  3. Great article to read guys.,
    There is no training, no building appreciation for craftsmanship, quality or creativity.
    juegos de mario

  4. Thanks, John, I think people who work hard should be proud of their work.


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