In the winter 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist, Sandra Duran Wilson told us the answers to some of her students’ most-asked questions in the Workshop Wisdom column. Here she’s sharing more detailed answers, and revealing how listening to our inner critic can help us paint better.
Acrylic Artist: In the Winter 2016 Workshop Wisdom column you shared that it’s important to listen to our paintings. What do you mean?
Sandra Duran Wilson: Whether this is your first painting or your thousandth painting, you must always listen to your painting. This can mean holding a dialogue with it. Ask your work, what color does it need now, are there enough values and how does the composition work? Would it be better if something was added, or removed? What is the painting telling you? If the answer is slow in coming then rotate the painting to see it in different perspectives. If you learn to listen to the questioning voices in your head, the painting will tell you what it needs.
AA: LOVE that you say there’s a potential benefit in listening to that doubting, or questioning, voice in our head, because it’s there for most of us. How great would it be to use it productively?! Can you explain more?
SDW: We all have those doubting voices in our head and they can be quite useful. I’m not talking about the negative voices that say, you don’t know what you’re doing! Those kind of negative, overall disparaging remarks don’t belong in the studio. Ask them to wait for you outside and you’ll deal with them later.
The voices in your head to listen to are the ones that suggest that you used the wrong color, that your piece is muddy or that the painting is just not working. Your doubting voices are, in a way, your skills, your acquired painting knowledge helping you take a critical eye to your work rather than a purely emotional look. Just as another artist or your instructor can pinpoint the reason why you’re struggling with a piece, your trained inner critic can help you rectify an issue with your work. Maybe you can call that doubting voice your internal critical instinct, which clearly comes with a value attached to it.
AA: We’re balancing emotion with skill to improve our work, right?
SDW: Exactly. Your internal critical instinct makes you question painting options, but a negative voice questions whether you even have the skill to be an artist at all. The difference is huge and once you learn to tune out the negative and learn from the positive you’ll be able to take your painting to a new level.