The inner critic’s day off (artistically NSFW)

Last week I went to life drawing and endured a three-hour internal debate between my inner critic (“how can you believe you’ll ever amount to anything?”) and the kinder voices trying to neutralize it (“it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to older artists,” “art school doesn’t make you a good artist,” “the important thing is whether you like your work”). I can still paint to that mental soundtrack, but it’s a lot less fun, and the ceaseless back-and-forth leaves me feeling drained.

However: this week I returned to the same group, and to my delight, my inner critic was off duty! I don’t know where she went, but I’m so grateful.*

two-minute gestures  

Nude gesture sketches, by Lisa Hsia

more two-minute sketches (with one five-minute on the right)

Sketches of a seated nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

five-minute poses

Sketches of a seated nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

five-minute pose on left, ten-minute on right

Sketches of a nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

two ten-minute poses, rendered on the same page

Sketches of a standing nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

twenty-minute pose

Sketch of a seated nude woman, by Lisa Hsia

I don’t know what prompted the inner critic’s unannounced holiday. Was she worn out from last week’s overactivity, or was I sufficiently bolstered by all the encouragement and sympathy I’ve received since then? Is it that I was using pencil, not watercolor? (I’m more self-conscious about my lack of watercolor training.) Is it that I was seated next to another young Asian woman, and the model was a young Black woman, which made me feel like less of an outsider in that group? Is it that the noisier attendees were talking this time about music (neutral topic) rather than famous people’s lack of artistic talent (which triggered my own insecurities)? Or is it merely that “What You Waiting For?” popped up on my music player as I turned off the highway, so that I walked in with “take a chance ’cause you might grow” and “life is short, you’re capable” running through my head?**

Who knows? Maybe it’s more fundamental than any of this and it’s just hormones or sleep habits or a change in barometric pressure. Anyway, I appreciate it. Drawing without those aggravating internal voices is infinitely pleasanter. It’s not that I suddenly think I’ve become a genius; I can still see flaws and have opinions about how to improve my work (inner critic ≠ inner editor). It’s just that, minus the nastier self-doubts, I’m able to think of flaws as technical issues with neutral solutions, rather than insurmountable moral failings and evidence of my total lack of achievement. Ahhhh.

—–

*I made this remark on Facebook and Kimber suggested there’s a dive bar where off-duty inner critics hang out and swap stories. I love this idea and may try to illustrate it at some point!

**I find this song problematic for several reasons, but at the same time, it really resonates with me and always leaves me feeling galvanized.

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