Monday, 19 October 2009

Call that Art! Overcoming fear and criticism.

Call that Art! Overcoming fear and criticism.

“Move your left corner down a bit, yes that’s better. Now step back and see how it looks,” advised my friend Sarah.

As I moved away from the wall to look at the painting, a man came into the gallery.

“Call that art it’s a load of **** my ****** three year old could do better than that you stupid cow” he shouted.

“Get out! We are not open yet go away! ” Sarah retorted loudly.

I stood watching him walk out cussing and hurling more abuse as he left. I was stunned and my eyes filled with tears. This was my first exhibition and it had taken such a leap of faith to show my work in public .For nine months I had being working towards this moment selecting the paintings and getting the event organised; planning, marketing, arranging help with transport, and all the other the necessary details to ensure the exhibition went smoothly.

His words stung and all my insecurities came to the surface. I felt paralyzed with fear and self-doubt. This was far too exposing to cope with. My work though vibrant and colourful is also very subjective, and now the thought of exhibiting was like baring my soul. The first thought was to escape and retreat to the safe seclusion of painting in my own environment. To shut myself away so there was no need to engage with the world.

Sarah put her arm around me “It’s ok, he just an idiot, come on let’s get these paintings hung “

I looked at the painting Mandala one of my personal favourites. I remembered while I worked on it how it became a visual prayer .The elation I had felt when combining the dynamic reds, yellows and blues juxtaposing and coming together as a whole. While painting a sense of flowing connection to the Divine had emerged the painting was infused with uplifting energy that radiated out from the surface.
I breathed deeply and listened internally for guidance. I knew then that all was well.

We finished hanging the rest of the paintings and over the next week, the exhibition proved to be both enjoyable and successful. Visitors were openly enthusiastic and appreciative of the work. Paintings sold and clients commissioned pieces.

I learnt how to distance myself from criticism and not take it personally. Equally, I began to accept praise without resorting to apology or negating peoples’ gifts.

Mandala was in the centre of the exhibition and caught people’s attention as they entered the room. One woman came every day during her lunch hour for the entire week and stood in front this painting for about ten minutes. “I have been feeling depressed recently but coming to look at this painting has made me feel more positive and grateful for all that is good in my life,” she said on the last day of the exhibition.

Again, tears came but this time those of joy…

“The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly,a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure” Francis Bacon

This first exhibition was a mountain of challenge. It brought opportunity as well as valuable lessons on how to overcome the crippling effects of fear-to face fear and criticism head on by staying true to one’s vision and move forward step by step.

Art is one of the sources through which the soul expresses itself and inspires others...
Meher Baba


  1. That's so great Arabella, thanks for sharing this. It's so easy to run away and hide when people criticise. the truth is mostly they are angry and annoyed for not doing what they wnated with their lives. Keep on doing your beautiful vibrant art. Its fab to hear that you are changing lives when people connect with you art. I am inspired now to paint today, I have preped a canvas but kept thinking my ideas were not that great. So thank you, thank you. Vanessa Clark xx

  2. what a powerful story. It's so brave to be doing work that's an expression of what's most important to you, and to be willing to do it in a way that puts it out there, to be seen.

    I like to remind myself, when the critics come out, that the severest critics are just people living in the back row. Instead of being where the action is and putting themselves out there, and risking being criticized, they stand in the back row, where it's safe and anonymous and they can dissociate themselves and look from afar and seem really intelligent when they point out all the faults. It's empowering to realize just how scared and disempowered those back-row critics are. That poor man who criticized your art work was probably repressing some part of himself - perhaps even an aspiring artist, and he took his anger out on you.

    Keep up the inspiration!


  3. Thank you Ahrabella,
    this was again so inspiring to read. I know when the art gets personal, instead of being representational and objective, it is so scary to bare ones soul for everyone to see. And so brave of you to face your fears and putting it out there. Such a great lesson to learn to take others critic with the same attitude that we take the praise. That is truly a lesson for life. You are such an inspiration to everyone you meet.
    Your paintings are so uplifting and empowering.
    Keep up the great work!
    Love and peace