a beach painted in watercolor, with primary color parasols dotting the horizon line of the ocean

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Artists’ Negative self talk: Your Brain is listening

(Pssssst! I’m writing this post to myself. But we’re friends, so I”m sharing.)

I could fill a lake with all the naysayer comments I’ve heard from artists when they talk about themselves. You know the verbiage, right?

“Oh, are you a painter!”      “Not really; I dabble and make a lot of mud.”

“Are you painting these days?”      “No, I’m busy with other stuff, and besides, I suck at it.”

“Oooo, that one came out nice!”   “Not exactly, look at how I mangled this figure.”

“Are you an artist?”     “Me? I wish! I can barely draw a stick figure!”

Painting beach sand and shadows from footprints and umbrella bottoms
A particularly furry someone is staring, giving the slow-blink-of-love, with a paw on my arm. Pause for a petting break.

Old Saying: Don’t Water the Rocks

Quit watering the rocks with discouraging, confident predictions of your own failure.  The flowers are thirsty, water the flowers.

Tell your artist-self you can do this. Escort your Perfectionist Ego out of the room, stuff your Must-Be-Awesome-Sauce Pride in a cupboard. 

Let your playful hands and fingers slide pigments around on paper or canvas with all the wonder and enjoyment of being a learner, a maker, a creative person, an artist.

Discard pre-set ideas about how your finished piece will come out, or who you’ll show it to, or whether the public will respond, or if someone will buy it. Each of those Masterpiece-Expectation-Filters will blur your focus and cloud your process-joy.

Taking a deep breathe and Noticing the pattern of light in the studio

Lighten Up, Francis

Making art is a form of expression. It’s fun. It’s emotive. You’ll sleep better at night if you’ve made something. Get out of your own way with all that performance-worry-talk.  Open those gates, and quit dropping a crusty old screen in front of the flow. Make something. 

We are not rescuing kittens from a lion, or airlifting trapped flood victims, or performing life-saving brain surgery. We’re just making art here, folks. If your work doesn’t come out well, here is the solution: Make it again. And relax.

Using the grid method on the lower half of a beach scene, since the upper half is all blue skies.

Feel the Joy

The term positive self-talk sounds all crunchy granola, dreadlocks and wood nymphs twirling in the sparkly forest. But really, why do we bury the pleasure of learning art-making under weights of expectation, or need for praise (from ourselves or others) or some other form of attaboy?

And here’s the kicker to that cycle; even when a kind viewer does step forward to offer a compliment, we often reject it and point out all the parts that need improvement or where we missed the mark. With this frequent pressure and brow beating, is it any wonder we don’t paint as often as we’d like?

Helpful Reading About Creative Confidence

Deep Breath, Everyone

Take a deep breath, grab your art supplies, and go water the flowers instead of the rocks. 🙂

Thanks for visiting, and I’ll see you in the next post,


Mother's Beach Ventura watercolor with colorful parasols
Primary Parasols 12 x 18 Watercolor on paper ((Sold))
Oh, am I sitting on a Work-in-Progress? Pardon me… How about a little love?

Art Quote

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.

Thomas Merton

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14 thoughts on “Beginner Artist’s Negative Self Talk”

  1. Larry Memering

    Hi Belinda! The link to “Fake it Until You Make It” was very timely. A friend of mine runs a program for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. I have passed this video on to him in the hope that it will help him move at least one more of these folks up the hill. Every little boost is precious, so such simple, easy to remember advice is very welcome. Thanks!

    1. Hi Larry, Every little boost is forward momentum, and that’s worth gold! Thank you for spreading the good news that some of the tips and tricks in life are as simple as striking a pose in the mirror. We could all use a little more of that!

  2. This is so ironic. And I read this posting of yours and laughed at myself for being so like that. And, yesterday was epiphanal, so I mentioned your previous posting of at least a year ago on artists’ not starting to create, then this on negative self-talk. And I started drawing. You will get a good laugh of how this went down. I left the link below for you. Thanks Belinda, I needed this umpf. By the way, we moved to Italy, your favorite haunt I think. Vicenza. Found a place in the hills where the internet is not good so there will be more time for me to be creative on the tablet. I am looking forward to the process.

  3. Resonated with this posting Belinda. Am in transition from hotel to house, living in the place you love so much, Italy. We moved and part of finding a place for me, was to locate somewhere that lends itself to quiet for creativity of thought and artistic endeavor. I’ve worked on my sailboat line drawings but now will devote more time and effort to it. And Merton is a great quote. I’ve read quite a bit of his material in years gone by. A sage monk he was!

    1. Hi WMC, Your adventure sounds incredible. I’ll be watching BW for any signs of creative aha’s, fruitful experiments and missives on life abroad. Good luck moving in, and best wishes for a smooth transition towards this next chapter.

  4. Im ahead of you in that I already think you are perfect just as you are and super talented in all manner of things both artful and heart full. Also, If this beautiful painting is for sale, let me be the first to stand in line to bid! I think I need it if you can bear to part with it!

  5. Good advice. Because we are overly familiar with each piece of work our eyes go right to the flaws but any other viewer doesn’t even see them.
    Last weekend I took part in a two day workshop. After hearing almost everyone say their work wasn’t good, the tutor said Kiwis were really bad at taking a compliment and we needed to learn how to just say “thank you”.

    1. Hi Clare, Your tutor is smart. Compliments crash to the floor when they’re offered to many creative folk. Saying Thank You, without a comma, and a run on sentence detailing all the failed bits and parts is a challenge, but if we all encourage each other, we’ll get better at it. Thank YOU for stopping by. 🙂

  6. thank you for that. I give out that advice but hardly ever take it myself. It was good to see it in print and made me smile.
    We usually improve so where we are right now is not where we end up if we remember the most important thing. Pick up the brush. You can”t improve if you don”t work at it. The same as anything.
    You have to do something over and over and study and read and keep moving.
    I live in a small space and have decided to do what I like. I have an easel in the living room. When I am working on something it is right in front of me. As I sit in my chair and watch Netflix I can study the painting and eventually figure out what I need to change(or leave).
    Thank you again for verbalizing. I needed that.

    1. Hi Katee, You and me both. Thanks for sharing that we’re passengers in the same boat. Deep breath, and grabbing an oar to move this ship in a more encouraging direction, together. Paint soon. 🙂

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