Sunday, 24 June 2012


I spotted this phrase recently, when someone was showing his or her work on an art website, hoping to receive some help.  It took me right back to the day when a friend gave me a salutary lesson in how to express myself when talking about my work.

I was preparing for an interview for art school – hoping to be accepted as a mature student.  My friend,  knowing my lack of self-confidence, suggested I do a try-out interview with her.

I reluctantly agreed.

I took out some life drawings I had done at evening classes.  I took a deep breath and I said something like this:

“I am afraid that these are not very good, I know…I did them only recently at my evening classes.  I really struggled with the proportions, even tho we had been shown how to measure;  I can see now that the heads are too big, sorry about that.  Also,  I found the foreshortening really rather difficult…………”

My friend stopped me right there.   She was clearly exasperated.  She glared at me.   “Right” she said “now we change places.  I am going to present this work to you”.

She then said  “these are some drawings I recently did at an evening class.  I have done no drawing since I was at school, and now I am in my 30’s – so I am actually delighted with these.  I think I got a good sense of form in that one….and in this one I was thrilled to be able to capture the slump in the pose quite well.  I know I need to improve of course, but I am sure you will be able to help me learn more.”

WHAT A DIFFERENCE.  Instead of sounding apologetic and insignificant, suddenly I realised that my choice of words, and my general attitude to my own work, could dramatically alter another person’s perception of me.

This is something to consider when you have to talk about your work, or present your work to a gallery, or a potential buyer.  If you put yourself down, and apologise for your work – why should anyone believe in you and in your work?

This is not to say that you should go around telling everyone how marvellous you are, and how brilliant your work is.  That is a sure-fire way to drive everyone off as fast as they can run.  But we all need to develop a way of being POSITIVE.  There are bound to be elements of your work that you are proud of.  Talk about those.  See what a difference it makes to the receiver, and to your own feelings about your work, and about yourself.

for example:
There are lots of negative things I could say about the picture I have show above...............but I won't say them.  Instead I will quietly put it back in the reject drawer from whence it came....................................and show you THIS one with its strong composition, believable young figure, interesting colours and tones which create a certain atmosphere which in turn tells a powerful story.........need I say more?

Waiting in the Wings.  Pastel on paper.  


  1. A very good point Jackie. We all see the worst points in our work.

  2. Nope, you said it said all that needed to be said....and what a good reminder for sure:)....I love the little ballerina too.

  3. Waiting in the Wings! Beautiful, beautiful work.

  4. Jackie, thanks for posting this. I so often hear artists say similar things. We are all our biggest critics ... but there is a time (in the studio) and not (in public). I have shared this article on my Facebook page for my artist friends to read. Very well said! Thank you.

  5. I so needed to read this post today, really. I sorta thought this was so, but to hear it in your words really helps. Love the painting "waiting in the wings" Its just magical. Thanks again, Jackie!

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  7. It's always so much easier for one to be hard on themselves, than to step back and say, "wow this is an amazing piece." It's great that your friend was able to give a lesson to not only you but all of us with that.

    I think it comes from people trying to be more modest than 'overly-confident' I suppose. I will admit, that I'm someone who will say, "oh, this is just okay" even if I'm thinking in my head - this is one of the best pieces I've done - because I want to know what others think, if they think it is just as amazing, before I go out and say outloud, 'this is amazing'.

    Thanks for a great article! I know I have told friends who have dabbled in artwork too: if you have the right attitude to go along with your work, then others will love it - they won't know that it's "wrong" if you portray it as how you wanted it to be.


  8. This was very well put! Often when we dwell on what we see as our imperfections we completely undermine our ability to see the whole. It's much easier to get a good result with clear vision than it is by paving the way with excuses and apologies.

    I hope I'm not next to "Anonomyous" in my next workshop.


    I do appreciate the time you guys put in to reading and commenting, much appreciated.

  10. i LOVE that top picture! I love the sense of movement and collaboration between the two dancers, it reminds me of my performing days and how much fun that was. It's a wonderful picture.

  11. Very good point! And yes, I like the dancers as well!

  12. I think your advice is spot on! It is especially valuable to apply your ideas to the running commentary in my head....recognize the positive and determine to learn more about the negative!


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