"Why Are You Hiding? What Are You Holding Back? " She Asked Me--- The Unsolicited Critique

Recently, I asked a revered artist who I admire if she’d mentor me because it was a service she was offering. I was excited to hear she was doing it and jumped on it. I told her I wanted help with the business side of art and needed as much help as I could get with that. When we had our first meeting, she went over everything she could think of about the art business. I was already doing most of it.

Then she turned to my artwork. I told her I didn’t want any help with it. She hinted that maybe, that was the thing that was keeping me from success. I wanted success, so I asked what she meant. Instead of her giving me some brief ideas or a general overview. She went into a long and winding critique of my artwork which amounted to my whole style (illustrative and storybook-like, gothic, fairytale and Alice in Wonderland inspired) was holding me back from the success that I sought after. She gave me suggestions of how to remedy that which amounted to choosing a less-stylized way of doing art and in a more realistic, more emotional way.

Over and over again, she looked at my art and said, “Why are you hiding? What are you holding back?” I left the meeting overwhelmed with grief and pain. I had no idea what she was talking about. I felt traumatized and cried on the floor of my art studio for a good hour.

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A few days later, I gained some perspective on the matter when I talked to friends about it and they told me to ignore what she said. I began to forgive her and understood that she just didn’t know what I was trying to do. She didn’t grasp what my artistic goals were. That made it easier to let go of the painful things she told me.

A few weeks later, I still have the things she told me nagging at the corners of my mind. Could I do something to push my artwork? I would do it if I knew what it was. Studying my artwork, I noticed one of my patterns: many of my pieces are full of people who are half hidden or only partly seen. Some wear masks. Others are hidden in shadow. Still others have their backs turned to the viewer. I did it to capture the distrust of being seen when you are a stranger in a strange land. I did it to show the need for privacy….at least….my need for privacy in this show-all-tell-all culture. I did it to show it can be hard to trust and it can be hard to get to know someone who has been treated as a stranger her whole life. I wonder if my would-be mentor knew this, if she would have told me anything differently. I don’t know.

This is not the end of my self-doubt about my art. But realizing these things has helped to move on and keep going, keep doing artwork. If you want to see more of my art, please click here.

Ghosts, Being Awkward & Other Strange Things That Shape My Art (In My 1st Artist Talk)

I am strange, you know, so I have actually always enjoyed talking in front of people (it’s written in my astrology, in my stars). Given that, it should be no surprise to you that I’ve always wanted to give an artist talk. In some other life, I suspect I was a stand up comedian, hamming it up in front of a live audience. In little over a week, on Friday, August 9th, between 5-7pm, I’ll be giving my 1st ever artist talk at PDX Commons, making my wish come true and perhaps giving me the chance to ham it up in this life too.

This is where I’ll be showing 2 of my larger drawings along with about 20 other artists’ artwork. These artists are my fellow South East Portland Open Studio artists. It will be the only time to see all our art together in one place before the actual studio visits in October (2nd & 3rd weekends).

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I’ve been asking people on and off the internet what questions they have for me. So far I’ve gotten some good ones and will answer them in my talk. They have asked me how do I come up with my characters and what is my medium and why do I work in it. If you have questions, please let me know and I’ll be sure to answer them. If you are not in the Portland, Oregon area, I’ll be posting a video of it afterward so you’ll be able to know what I replied to whatever you ask.

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I definitely plan on talking about the significance of ghosts, being awkward and other strange things that shape my artwork. I think it will make me feel very vulnerable to talk about these things, making me tearful or trembling my hands and voice. Still, isn’t that kind of authenticity what makes a talk feel intimate and profound? I hope so. I’m sure there will be a few laughs along the way too. Wish me luck. And I hope to see you there. Details are below.

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