Crafting a Constructive Outlook

Developing resilience and optimism becomes inherent to any discipline, including the study of classical, realistic drawing and painting. That patient, calm attitude then spreads into our daily lives.

One way to distinguish a new student among a class of peers is to watch the eraser.  Newer students tend to rub lines away frequently, often with visible frustration.  Experienced students, however, hold their heads high, staying calm, and enjoy the moment, until their goals are met.

A flub on the paper of a hard-earned drawing can be rattling and discouraging.  Have you ever crumpled up a piece of paper and thrown it across the room following a drawing attempt?  How do we turn frustrations into challenges?

Developing positive self-talk is absolutely necessary to bring a representational piece of art all the way from start to finish. An experienced artist more or less internalizes the serenity prayer, accepting what they cannot change, constructively changing what they can, and developing the wisdom to know the difference.  Here’s how:

An artist is host to two inner voices: The creator and the critic. The creator scribbles away with reckless abandon, or otherwise just draws something in. The creator says, “I want this to be here.  Here is my attempt.”   The critic steps back, analyzes the work from a distance and says, well, this part of the line should go more to the left.  This shape needs to move higher”.   Too much criticism, from another person or in one’s own mind, is why people give up.  A tactful teacher, with lessons that match the student’s skill level, helps the student experience the balance between these two vital roles.  The inner creator constructs the artwork 85 – 90% of the time, and then the inner critic is encouraged to self-correct about 10 – 15% of the time. The teacher sees to it that the student can experience those important small failures, and build resilience over and over, in reasonable doses.  This is the way to avoid tears, wrinkled papers, and harboring resentment or shame. Instead, classical art students can beam with pride after finishing another masterpiece.


Once this practice is repeated piece after piece, year after year, students deeply understand that patience and persistence bring about results, and that anything but a positive attitude is a waste of their time.  This outlook, which I have repeatedly seen become stronger through the teen years, shapes students’ entire days, school years, and futures.

The creation of a positive, constructive outlook, from the inside out, is just one of they ways that the arts enrich countless lives. Pick up a pencil and sketch! May you have a richer, more positive, more constructive day, as well.



With Katie, developing patience benefits her every day.


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