Mantras In My Mind

Autumn Dancers

Autumn Dancers 50 x 27″

I don’t know about you, but my head is a busy place. Especially when I’m working on an art piece I seem to channel the instructive sound bites of every art professor I ever had as well as those of my mother, all mixed in with old song lyrics!

All this noise was exhausting and counterproductive until several years ago when I read The Artist’s Way. This helped me “journal out” all these voices and filter them. Many were failure messages like: “You can’t do _____,” or “You’ll never ______,” and “You’re not ________” (fill in the blanks.) Once exposed and answered, these began to fade into the background so I could begin to hear the good stuff, but first I had to weed out the negative.

Here are a few “weeds” that had to go to make room for the good stuff.
·      “You’ll never make a living doing art!”
·      “Why can’t you be smart like your cousins?”
·      “You’ll never amount to anything!”
·      “No one will want to buy my work.”
·      “You’re not : (circle all that apply) Smart enough. Talented enough. Good enough. Deserving enough. Young enough.”
·      “Your work is not: (circle all that apply) Hip enough, Cool enough, Edgy enough. Cheap enough. Expensive Enough.”


Rain Dance


So, what IS the Good Stuff? For me, it’s the words of my favorite painting professors and the positive statements from my family. I’ve learned the hard way that when I listen, my work gets better. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

So, what IS the Good Stuff? For me, it’s the words of my favorite painting professors and the positive statements from my family. I’ve learned the hard way that when I listen, my work gets better. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

  • “Don’t get too careful too soon. Work the painting as a whole.” (Art School Professors)  These are two of my favorites and so important for compositional and color balance whether you’re working in paint or glass.
  •   “When you have something to say, you’ll find a way to say it.”  (College Art Professor) Really good advice when Artist Block happens to strike.
  • “God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” (The Bible) Great antidote for fear.
  • “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” (Graphic Design Co-Worker)
  • “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line….You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t cut corners.” (My mother) This one comes up when I feel muddled about where I’m going in a project and helps me re-evaluate.
  • “Do what you can with what you have.” (My grandmother) The mantra I based all my business decisions on so far.
  • “Do SOMETHING even if it’s wrong!” (My mother) Perfect advice when I feel stuck.
  • “Whatever you do, be certain about it.” (Artist I worked with in Spain) This one helps me ‘go with my gut’ when I feel indecisive.


It isn’t just the old stuff that has to be weeded out. New invasive species are always trying to establish themselves too. Just like any other business, artists need a ‘mission statement’ that tells us where we are going and who we want to be when we grow up. All new “mantras” need to be measured against this statement.


Way back someone made the statement, “That’s ok if it’s not perfect – it’s an art piece.”  Ok, there is some truth here.  Art that’s done by hand may have slight imperfections and if done as a series or limited edition, each piece will be a bit different one to another. That’s part of the creative process.

Or, is it an excuse for laziness and shoddy workmanship? When I insist on throwing a piece away or re-doing it, people tell me all the time that it’s ok, no one will notice!” “It’s an art piece! Or, “Someone will like it! That’s when quality control (meaning ME) has to step up and, remembering my mission statement, decide if the ‘variance’ enhances the design and is within the statement’s limits or violates it. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Do it right the first time!” (My Grandmother).

“Be true to who you are as an artist!” (Tim Gunn, Project Runway)


That same mission statement can serve as a filter for negative thoughts that creep in. Causes can be anything from a rejection by a gallery to random comments of fellow artists or clients. The truth is, you have to know who you are and where you’re going to keep from getting sidetracked. And you have to continually reinforce it to yourself! You might not get there exactly or the path may change, but at least you’re moving!

Which takes me to one of my favorite mantras: “You may lose and you may win, but you’ll never be here again. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy!” (“Take It Easy,” by The Eagles)

So, to paraphrase a popular commercial: “What’s in your mind?” It is time to start weeding!

2 thoughts on “Mantras In My Mind

  1. I wish I would have found you earlier in my fused glass life. This suits me to a tee in so many ways. The negativity has been holding me back. All my work has been with an instructor guiding me. I need to get “The Artist Way”. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s