Silencing the Inner Art Critic

Do you have an inner art critic? How do you go about silencing him/her/them?

Julia Cameron, who wrote the definitive book on maintaining creativity, “The Artist’s Way,” calls the inner art critic “the Censor,” and suggests visualizing him in a funny way to take away his power. The point is that the inner critic does not speak “truth,” instead he just blathers on and on with useless criticism. I like to picture Anton Ego, the food critic from Ratatouille:

Cameron also suggests doing what she calls morning pages (or what I like to call, the daily brain dump.) Every day, as soon as you wake up, you write down your stream of conciousness onto two pages in a notebook. This works because your inner critic shows up to voice all of his useless thoughts, and once you write them down, you tend to get them out of your system.

What does your inner art critic tell you?

Mine likes to say that whatever I am working on is either “boring,” “contrived,” or “obvious.” I mainly try to counter balance that with “So what if it is?” The thing I try remember when I am in creative mode is that the whole purpose is to be in a state of joy, or a state of flow. I’m not trying to please anyone but myself. I also like to go to the teachings of Echart Tolle, who says, All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.” Kindly (or unkindly!) tell your inner art critic that he is not invited to your place of inner stillness.

Take the inner critic’s words and twist them to your favor. One of my favorite mediums is digital collage. I love to take pictures of flowers and turn them into something else. Take this camellia for instance:

So boring! How obvious! Such a contrivance!
Well so what? It’s gorgeous and it brings me joy.

I then take my boring obvious camellias and turn them into all manners of different things:


Think about the word “contrived.” It has such a negative connotation but many centuries ago, it simply meant, “to find out, to imagine.” Isn’t all art a contrivance when you think about it? In Maryland there is a restaurant called, The King’s Contrivance, and I especially like ruminating on that phrase while I’m creating. I think of my art as “The Queen’s Contrivance.” I am the queen and whatever I dream up or imagine I can bring to life. And of course, the Queen can fire the inner art critic. She could even have him beheaded, were that her desire.

I will leave you with this quote from a 20th Century Queen of sculpture, Louise Nevelson:

“I have made my world and it is a much better world than I have ever seen outside.”