The women in my classes spend time in my studio for a multitude of reasons: they are trying to get un-stuck, they are reinventing, they are desperately craving time for themselves, they want to be supported by a community of empathetic women, they want a safe space to work through grief/trauma/anger/apathy/inertia, they are rediscovering their creativity and their willingness to play, and they know there is more out there for them—personally and/or professionally, they just don’t quite know where to look. My studio is a catalyst for self-discovery and courage.

I had a woman come up to me during the tail end of one of my spring classes, hold up the gorgeous, vibrant watercolor she had just created and say to me, “Tell me what is wrong with this.” Her paint hadn’t even completely dried and she was already looking for criticism. Constructive criticism, but criticism nonetheless.

I understand where she was coming from—in her mind, she viewed it as an opportunity to “get better” and she wanted me to talk to her about things like scale and color wheel and brush strokes and technique. Would I advise her to do anything differently next time?

I stared at her and her page for a minute and I replied, “I don’t do that here. You are here, bravely trying new things and exploring a side of yourself that you didn’t know existed, and I will never tell you something is wrong with one of your creations. There are plenty of places I can refer you to that will criticize, belittle, and nit-pick, but I am here to honor your courage and creativity and to acknowledge that this page, and all the pages to follow, are a part of your journey. Your style will evolve, and you will discover things about yourself and your art during this process. I am giving you a safe, judgment-free space for all of that to happen.

We are our own worst critics and we live in a world that is continuously, ruthlessly trying to tear us down and make us believe that we are flawed, damaged, ugly, unlovable, and not enough. And we buy in. We actively (perhaps subconsciously, perhaps deliberately) look for partners-in-crime in our own self-flagellation. Who will affirm for me what I have thought for a long time: that my art is “wrong,” that I am not creative, that I don’t deserve to be here, that I am a mess, that I don’t matter, that I am a “bad” mother, and on and on and on and on? It’s a form of abuse, honestly. Whether or not you realize it.

If you are looking for someone to tell you that you are a shitty person or your art is awful or you are overweight or your life has no meaning, all you need to do is turn on the TV, open a women’s magazine, or sit with some of your “friends.” I guarantee you will feel as bad as you possibly can after reading the latest issue of COSMO, watching an hour of television commercials, or tuning into the news.

If you want to feel empowered, uplifted, supported, seen, heard, loved, creative, daring, bas-ass, and unapologetically messy, then seek out a class with me—either in the Self Esteem Through Art studio or online. It’s a place where we’ll help build each other back up, brick by brick.

women's mixed media art