I started to be okay showing my art because I needed to get better. I needed insights that only other people can give. They gave new colors to the painting, drawing, illustration, article, or blog post… But I also started sharing just because I needed to get over the fear of judgement.
I think this is a fear every artist is born with, but I also believe every artist needs to get past it.
You know how they say that when facing danger our reaction is to either flight or fight? I think there’s one other response: paralysis. But, you know, it doesn’t rhyme, so they leave it out. Especially with art, I think fear creates a very intense paralysis response. For me, it almost never creates the fight reaction. And if you’re paralyzed you’re not creating.
The creator of the Dilbert cartoon, Scott Adams, has a quote that illustrates what I mean: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” So, allow yourself to make mistakes; fight it out and be creative. But after, and only after, you created, let the judgement come in to help you.
In my own art, for example, I tend to not draw bodies the most realistic. I like contorting them, making them almost fluid. Some people could see that as a mistake. They judge my lack of realism. Or maybe they think I don’t understand enough of anatomy. They judge, and that highlights my “mistake.” I can then choose: do I want that “mistake?” Or not? I chose to keep the fluid bodies.
I think judgement helps to highlight, or give attention, to our “mistakes.” We need to find out what those are, and then decide what to keep or not. I think I’ve seen time and again this idea of a two-fold process: be freely creative; then bring in your judgement, or your editor’s hat.
There’s a space for each process. During the “freely creative” stage there should be the least amount of judgement, and fear. You need to be able to explore, and exploring with fear doesn’t work. You’re stuck at home, never leaving your comfort zone.
For me, thinking of judgement as a guiding light that shows the path ahead has helped diminish my fears of it. Just because I still have to grow and learn doesn’t mean I should give up. It should be the opposite. Because I have to grow and learn, is why I can’t give up.
I have trained myself to view judgement as criticism. Every artist needs criticism to help them grow, and so I try to not take it personally. Judgement can work like answers to questions we have, pointing to new possibilities:
“Where can you go with your art? What might the path ahead look like?”
P.S.: A great book I’d recommend on this topic, if you’re interested to learn more, is the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. The book goes more in depth with the workings of fear and how to overcome it. We read this book for our intro to painting class; and I fell in love with it. Bayles and Orland’s writing was a great resource throughout the semester!