Creating art, even professionally, is fueled by intrinsic motivation.
Our clients, public opinion and critics can all weigh in on our art, but really it is ourselves we answer to. If we can master our relationship to criticism, we can continue creating no matter what is going on in our environment.
One such environmental factor was my first grade classroom at St. Mary’s.
We were all supposed to draw our families. The nun walked through our desks, looking on to make sure we were drawing what we were supposed to. Since I was drawing a person, naturally I drew my signature nose, which looked like a door knocker in the shape of a pig nose. It truly was my signature. I grew up with four sisters, but you can always spot my early drawings because of that tell-tale nose.
The nun stopped short at my desk and pointed at my mom’s nose. Confused, I asked, “Her nose?” “That is not a nose,” she declared, then turned my pencil around and erased the nose right off her face. She proceeded to draw the classic 45° lines that often pass for a nose. I agreed that her nose was better and went on to be paralyzed with self-doubt.
I was too young to understand religious conformity, racial differences in face structures, creative blocks or self-esteem. I did understand the rewards associated with pleasing the adults in charge. So I began taking criticism as law and drawing noses the right way.
It took me many years to realize that I was trapped drawing what I thought the subject should look like instead of what I saw in front of me.
It took many more years of self-work to realize that my creativity had stagnated because of taking criticism from a nun in the first grade.
I have learned to embrace my door-knocker pig nose, as well as critiques; they are a chance to learn about myself, my craft, and the critic.
We have all had our art harshly criticized, and many times we needed that feedback in order to grow. The important thing is to connect with our intrinsic motivation to create. When we create this way, we are not doing it for anyone else but ourselves.
So, no matter if I get a gushing review or the harshest critique, I will keep on doing the work because I have a strong foundation of motivation, and I am resilient. Next time I will talk about how you can build up your resiliency.
Photos by Antonia Montoya.