There’s a secret that most artists don’t realize: creative block and that pesky inner critic is something we all experience as a creative.
Hi, my name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong I’m sharing my top ten takeaways from the book Your Inner Critic is A Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa.
The first takeaway is that everyone experiences moments and feelings of insecurity when it comes to their art and their creation process.
Danielle Krysa opens the entire book by talking about her feelings of being an imposter as she wrote this book about creative block and dealing with your inner critic. The irony of this is she’s written a book about creative block! Danielle talks about that and how that feeling of imposter came out in that book. Yet, we value her work, and the work that she’s done with The Jealous Curator, and the exhibitions that she’s curated.
All of these things have elevated her in the eyes of her audience and other people because she’s out there doing the work. Even someone who’s out there working, making art and sharing themselves as she is can feel insecurity. It’s nice to know that we’re not alone, and it’s important for all of us to consider how we can then cope with it, if it’s part of our creative process.
Another piece of advice Krysa offers in this book Your Inner Critic is A Big Jerk, is to reconnect with your inner child.
She talks about how as children if you’re asked if you’re an artist, there’s no hesitation, kids just say yes. As adults, if she asks that question, people are hedging, they’re trying to qualify what it means to be an artist. We have discomfort around using that word.
So, what can we do and what activities can we participate in that would help us reconnect with that sense of play and discovery that was free of judgement? We didn’t always judge, something happened in our lives that made us start assessing our work. Danielle offers activities in the book to help you reconnect with that inner child of yours.
The third takeaway that I have for you is that you choose to be creative, or you choose not to be creative. This is your choice.
Danielle shares that with us with a personal story of her own. She talks about how when she was in one of her final critiques for, I believe a BFA in painting, that she was told by her professor that she should never paint again. It’s the culminating part of your degree program, you’ve been studying it for years, and a professor, obviously someone that we hold in a place of esteem or we put on a pedestal at times, literally tells her she should never paint again.
For years she didn’t paint, and she came to realize that it wasn’t his fault, it was hers because she was choosing to listen to him despite an inner desire to still explore the arts.
The fourth takeaway that I have for you is about the school of life. Danielle Krysa uses this phrase in her book and I really appreciate it because there are a lot of artists who wonder “Should I have a degree? Do I need a BFA? Do I need a MFA? Is something wrong with me if I’m self-taught? Am I missing something?”
We can have a lot of discomfort around this kind of conversation and feel like there’s a right and wrong way to answer this question. It doesn’t matter what kind of experience you have, the real issue is that imposter feeling again. Is it us wondering if we’re good enough, rather that just using the skills and resources and tools that we’ve developed?
I have an example for you that’s personal. I, for the longest time, felt like that my Bachelor’s degree in Art and Art History, which was a degree in both studio art and art history, put me at a disadvantage to artists who have a full studio program because they had more time in the studio.
For a long time, and sometimes even still, my inner critic calls out and suggests that perhaps I’m not skillful enough. Ask yourself how do you deal with that notion of school of life; do you put down your self taught nature, or do you celebrate it? Do you put down your education, or do you celebrate it? Let’s realize that each of us can contribute in our own way, and our unique life experience is part of the reason we make the art that we do.
The fifth tip is a practical one that is simple and yet I hadn’t really thought about it before, but who says you have to work on a blank canvas?
Danielle Krysa describes how artists can feel it’s scary to make those first marks on a blank surface. She talked to artists who said, “Well fine, I’m not going to use a blank surface. If I feel that kind of intimidation or insecurity around that work, then why not start on something that already has marks on it?”
Some people find books at thrift stores or old canvas to work on. Some people work on paint by numbers, it’s up to you. There’s no limit except the limit we put in our mind about the materials that we use and how we can start.
My number six takeaway is to use your jealousy. You should harness any jealousy you feel of other people and their art to help you better and improve your work.
Danielle Krysa is the perfect example of this, I’m so glad that she acknowledges this in this book. The Jealous Curator was born because she was feeling jealous about not making herself. The whole history of her online presence, which is so powerful and positive today, is because she was feeling jealous of others and decided to acknowledge it.
She learned about them and asked them questions about their work. Not only has she made wonderful connections and shared those experiences with all of us, she’s actually made more art now, because of the lessons she’s learned from having those dialogues and engaging with those people. Your jealousy can be channeled into a positive action, it’s up to you to make that choice.
My seventh takeaway for today is that your inner critic is never going to fully disappear.
I don’t know a single artist that has an absence of inner critic. You can, however, find tools and strategies to help you cope with your inner critic. If you know that you have an inner critic you struggle to cope with, then this book is a great resource for you. She gives you strategies, ideas, she brainstorms things, and she also empathizes with all of us, because she’s been there too.
Number eight in today’s top ten takeaways is that there’s only one kind of failure, in her book and in mine, and that is if you choose not to create.
If you make art that you don’t like, you shouldn’t label it as a failure. That art is informing all of the other future art that you make. The only failure in my eyes, and from my reading of this book, is a choice not to make.
If your heart is calling for you to make art, then you should be making art. Something Danielle notes is that when we make this bad art, it actually opens doors to new ideas, it lets us experiment, and it lets us get to the good stuff. It lets us find our artist’s voice, and obviously that’s something we’re all seeking to develop and refine as creatives.
Number nine in our top ten takeaways is community is very important for artists.
A lot of us work in a vacuum: we work by ourselves in a creative space, we have a little studio or a little table area, and when our family is away or we have some quiet time, we’re working on our own. While we need that alone time to do our work, we also need time to connect with other artists.
We need to be around other artists who we feel safe around who can give us useful feedback to help us improve our art. That’s one reason I’ve built a community like Artist Strong is I know a lot of us feel like we can’t find those connections. Danielle Krysa has also built it with The Jealous Curator. She’s got a wonderful community of artists who share, discover, grow and learn together. This has come from her books as well as her showcase of different artists around the world.
My last takeaway from this book Your Inner Critic is A Big Jerk is that you need to find your best system to unblock and to get making.
For example, Danielle Krysa mentions that as a collage artist, some days she’s just not feeling it and all the stuff she makes is making her cranky and she knows she’s going to throw it away. It’s actually okay and part of the process. She knows if she’s feeling especially stuck, that going through all of the books that she has as resources for collage and cutting out figures and images from them can get her going. Then she has some resources so when she’s feeling like making she can get going and just make and often doing that triggers ideas for her.
You need to figure out what strategies work best for you. Some people need to go outside and go for a walk, or if it’s snowing outside go for a cross country ski. What’s going to help you reconnect and disconnect a bit from that inner critic but reconnect to the art that you want to make?
Be Creatively Courageous: In the comments below I’d love for you to share the most common thing your inner critic tells you. For example, I mentioned it earlier in today’s video: I often feel like my work is not skillful enough and that I will never be skillful enough. Be brave and share below what your inner critic says to you. I think we’ll all be surprised at how similar those voices and the messages are. Perhaps that’ll help us all move through them and see them as less threatening.
Thanks for watching today. I really encourage you to pick up your own copy of Your Inner Critic is A Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa. I really enjoyed it, it was an easy read, I felt like I was having a conversation with her and I learned a lot. It has wonderful activities that you can learn from and apply to your artist life. Please consider using this link to purchase your own copy. It is an affiliate link, which means that it’s not an additional cost to you but it can help me continue to run Artist Strong and offer free content like today’s video. Thank you guys for watching and I’ll see you next week. Bye.
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