Surprising the inner critic with group art projects

Regarding my creative process, I welcome the conversations my inner critic instigates. [This is not the same voice that picks at my skull with negative self-judgment.  That’s another thing all together].

I have learned how to dance with the inner critic in my art process, welcoming its critique versus criticism, allowing mistakes, experimenting, allowing editing, willing the throwing away of crap.  It’s not about silencing the inner critic and pretending EVERYTHING I MAKE IS GREAT.  It’s about allowing its presence as a natural part of being a creative human.

The participants in my art sessions have ranged in age from 2 to 105.  And depending on the age group, the specific program, the vulnerabilities, the style of the students- the inner critics become vocal in varying ways.

Some inner critics are happy and healthy.  There is nothing quite like working on your own art beside a 5 year old who so naturally dances with their inner critic as they work– joyously creating while making decisions on color, shape, style.  Happily sharing techniques, insights, asking questions.

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My nephew Henrik’s latest book cover

But some inner critics are negative, detrimentally vocal and hurting.   When do some of us lose this joyous ability to dance with the inner critic?  When does it become an inhibiting monster as opposed to an ally?  How do we tame it?

Adults in particular struggle with perfectionism during my drawing classes.  That is why I don’t hand out erasers (the eraser can become a crutch, and the participant may spend too much time “fixing” as opposed to diving in to the process).  That is why I do a follow me technique so that we are all literally on the same page.

I have found an easy and magical way to create joy and surprise in my art classes that in turn surprises our inner critics– collecting and collaging the class’s drawing.

For example, last Monday, I facilitated my third session with older adults in Burnaby.  The group bravely dove in to the session.  My students quickly realize my exclamations of delight at what they draw are authentic- I get SO EXCITED about the way people make marks on paper.

There is a lot of laughter, a lot of concentration and dialogue, a lot of self-judgment and some express disgust at their drawings.  So how do we tame that inner critic so as to not wallow in self-judgment and crumple up our work and throw it into the recycling bin?!  How do I lift my students?

The real magic happens with we let go of our work, cut them out and create collages.  TOGETHER- the drawings become MAGICAL.  The class expresses surprise and delight and take ownership in the most delightful way.  One participant expressed her delight- “I thought my drawing was so bad compared to yours and everybody else’s.  But when I see it up there now in the midst of the rest of them, it looks so wonderful.”  On Monday, we created 4 panels (which will be embellished with feathers and embroidery and exhibited at the residence).

Session 1: OWLS

Session 2: Bunnies

Session 3: Hummingbirds, Ladybugs

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It has become a theme in my art teachings- collaging work as a group- be it on the streets or onto boards.  I just love it.

 

Our inner critic is surprised.  Our work as a group looks amazing.  And we are building CONNECTION.  By letting go of our work, by sharing it, combining it, we become a COMMUNITY.

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