I’m trying to change the way I talk about my art.  You see, I was taught not to brag about myself.  Don’t give yourself airs, don’t show off.  Don’t try to draw attention to yourself.

Sound familiar?

I don’t know if it’s a gender thing, a generational thing, or just what some of us internalize, but it’s really hard to put yourself out there, even when you’re especially proud of something you’ve achieved.

When it comes to presenting your art, there’s another element; the fear of other people criticising your work.  What if you really like something you did, you show it to someone, and they pick it apart – or even laugh at your efforts?  What if they say nice things to you, but you’re sure they are scoffing at it behind your back?  That’s a scary thought.

And so we find ways of pre-empting that criticism by pointing out something that might be perceived to be a flaw. That way they won’t think you’re deluded, and maybe they won’t belittle your efforts (and therefore you).  So we say things like:

sketching a hand

‘I didn’t get that perspective right.’

‘I messed up the shading.’

“My colours are too muddy.’

‘Here’s my best effort so far but I have a long way to go.’

One of the most freeing things about Zentangle is the message that there are no mistakes. Part of the whole process is to take an inadvertent line stroke and just accept it. Keep on drawing. Incorporate it into your tile by repeating that stroke deliberately, by using that opportunity to create a different look, or by simply ignoring it and watching it disappear when you’ve completed your tile. There are a number of ways of dealing with an ‘oops’ moment, but being ashamed of it is never a consideration. It’s there. It’s part of the piece. Deal with it. And in the end, it works out – what a surprise!

Tile #17

As a metaphor for life, isn’t this great? Why can’t we take this attitude forward in our artwork and let ourselves be pleased with what we’ve done? Why pre-empt someone’s comments by putting ourselves down first? My work is a statement of who I am and where I am in my art journey. I like where I’m going. Deal with it.

The other interesting thing about making art (including Zentangle) is that other people have their own interpretation of what they see. They can’t see the image inside your head, so they can’t compare it with what you had imagined. So they simply see what is there, not what ‘should’ be there. They can appreciate it for what it is. Why deliberately tell them what they see is wrong? You don’t have to tell them what to think.

And that means that unless you have entered an art competition and your livelihood is based on art sales, or if you don’t sell this piece of art your dearly beloved will be murdered by a serial killer, it doesn’t matter what other people think.  Really.  It. Doesn’t. Matter.  “What other people think of you is none of your business’ applies to your artwork as well as life.  Deal with it.

digital drawing

So I’m working hard not to make excuses.  Not for my art, and not for my life. What I’m finding is that people are amazingly supportive in both realms, and I don’t think it’s just me.  Fellow tanglers and other artists will enjoy sharing your enthusiasm for your work and what you accomplish.  And when you carry that enthusiasm into the rest of your life, friends and family enjoy it too.  Those who care about you will appreciate your outlook.  And those who don’t?

They can just deal with it!