Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Who are YOU to Judge? From criticism to self-acceptance

If this article interests you - I will be giving a couple of workshops on 2/15 & 2/16 while go deeper into topics like this... Scroll to the end for more information.

Queen of the Terminal Stairs by Melissa Klein

Who are YOU to Judge?
by Melissa Klein

I was recently approached by a member of the Sequim Arts Association to judge their upcoming student show. It was an honor to be asked, but brought up a plethora of mixed emotions.  

I’m actually not a big fan of art competitions. While I recognize their value in helping artists gain recognition and exposure, I don’t like how by their very nature, they pit one artist against another. I don’t like how they really just reflect the whims and personal taste of the judges, and can intimidate audiences from loving the work that didn’t win because it’s considered inferior to the first place winner. And, imho - I’m a bit skeptical about how good they are at generating sales for artists. 

At their worst, competitions are simply a way for an organization to generate funds in the form of entry fees from artists who hope to gain some recognition, but they don’t really help their careers. Or while an organization might have good intentions, they are usually run by volunteers, and are sometimes not well organized. I’ve had my name misspelled on more than one occasion and had a difficult time getting it fixed (“No, really - I AM Melissa Klein! And it’s spelled…” ). Uh - not really good for getting good name recognition if it’s not spelled correctly.

The Cruelest One of All
One of my high school students is struggling. She works extra on her art at home. She’s thoughtful, considerate, kind. She’s engaged. She cares. She has good ideas and incorporates feedback well. She puts heart into her work, and her skills are strong. She does work that would earn “A’s” from me. IF it ever got in my inbox. But her work doesn’t get into the inbox because it doesn’t get finished. And it’s frightening how much she cares about what I and the world might think. She’s giving away her power. She has become paralyzed by both her own inner judge and fear about what others might think. Whatever I might think about her work, her inner judge will be far harsher than I would ever be as a teacher who sees my role as supportive. 

Mirror Mirror Who’s the Fairest of them All 
Comparison is the death of motivation. Recently I was hit with a triple-whammy of comparison blues: a person who had been in the same coaching program as I was (Christine Kane - and she’s awesome, here’s a link for that training just announced on Facebook that she had hit 10,000 likes for her page “Modern Married.” Then I saw a training that Christine did which featured two other women’s businesses who also started at around the same time that I did - one who had tripled her income and another who is now making over 100K a year. Uh…. I’m at 41 Facebook likes (and thank you so much to the 41!) and nowhere near that income. 

The Shame Spiral
I started to beat myself up about it - “I have the same tools they do!  Why didn’t I work harder and take more advantage of the program? Why did I slack? What is wrong with me?” and make excuses: "They are different businesses and live in highly populated areas, and I’m in the boonies! They’ve been really doing their businesses for much longer!” 

There is nothing to gain from this, this is the path of pain. I am friendly with all of these women - it wasn’t easy for any of them; they all had their struggles. They had breakdowns and doubts. And they are all kind, generous and wonderful people.

Artist Heal Thyself
I flipped it, and started to celebrate all that I had accomplished in the last couple of years: leaving a full-time job in Sped, the district creating a new position for me to teach Commercial Art, the successful shows, commissions for the EPA, being included in a presentation at the Gates Foundation recently, the people who have bought and loved the work… There doesn’t need to be any shame here.

"You have to live spherically - in many directions. To accept yourself for what you are without inhibitions, to be open.” - Frederico Fellini

Photograph by Melissa Klein

The Lesson in Taco
About a year and half ago, we moved our horses to a friend's pasture to keep a lonely, ancient pony named Taco company. It was a win-win - we needed pasture, Taco needed company. April and Hawthorne are two gorgeous Percheron draft horses that we use for trail riding and spoiling. About eight years ago, we adopted April, who was pregnant, as a rescue horse from the drug industry. Taco was Taco. Taco didn’t compare himself - he was tiny and scruffy. He was delighted to have a herd. He just enjoyed things for what they were and while it’s hard to say what was going on in his head, I doubt if there was any “Oh! I wish I was….” Taco has gone on to that great pasture in the sky, I sorely miss him and will never forget the gift he brought to my life.

Me & Mini Me - Hawthorne & Taco, photograph by Melissa Klein

Finding the joy in the doing

You exist only in what you do.” - Frederico Fellini

What brought you to love doing that work? Remember when you were five years old - or whenever that moment was that you went “This is cool! I love this!” Forget about the money that it’s supposed to bring in, forget about “the career” - you can think about that when you get ready for market. For now… do it for the pure pleasure. The only way to get better at something- is to do it.

Ride the ferris wheel.

Photograph by Melissa Klein

Kill Your Judge
In the movie 8 1/2 by Fellini, there’s a character who is a writer, always criticizing the main character who is a director. At one point the director fantasizes about hanging the writer, who then comes back in a later scene. 

I think that there’s a time and place for the judge, but not in the early stages of the creative process. Later, when it’s time to step back and reassess. I think of the inner judge as something you can “kill” many times, but it will always come back. Enjoy the respite and create during that time. It’s the brain trying to protect itself - like an overprotective parent who won’t let their child try anything to keep him or her from getting hurt - the result is that while nothing is lost, nothing is gained, and there is no joy. 

Photograph by Melissa Klein

Cultivate Resilience & Buoyancy
Brene Brown in "Gift of Imperfection” suggests writing down the things that you fear the most - and talk back to them. Acknowledge them and say that you will do it anyway. Own it instead of pushing it away. 

Celebrate accomplishments without any “buts…” Christine Kane (in her former career was as a muscian) talks about how she was able to land a gig opening for the opening act of the Olympics because the promoter was drunk at the time and in a moment of emotion, announced that she would do the spot. Who cares that that is how she got the spot? The main thing is that she did it - and it opened up new audiences who loved her work. Don’t apologize or explain away the accomplishment - sometimes we get lucky, but the hard work is still ours.

Breaking Eggs by Melissa Klein

I wound up not judging the student competition - we realized that there is a conflict of interest because some my students are submitting their work to the show. I gracefully bowed out with relief.

I don’t know if we are ever good enough… And I don’t know if we are ever done artistically. It’s both the joy and the frustration of this journey. Enjoy the ride!



Forward by Melissa Klein

PS - It’s really, really ironic because as I’m writing this - by coincidence, a song by Luke Dowler called “Good Enough” came on my iTunes. Check him out on NoiseTrade - he’s offering free downloads of his music and he will give 100% of his artist tip proceeds to the International Justice Mission.

PPS - If this article interested you and you want to explore this more in-depth, I will be offering two workshop series ARTiculate which is about telling your story & ART LAB for supporting people with creative projects. It will be a combination of entertaining storytelling, art history, discussion and right-brain art exercises.

What are Right-Brain Exercises?
A picture is worth a thousand words and helps to galvanize your emotional forces to create positive change. Many times we become inundated with a tidal-wave of words or become demotivated by all of the “shoulds” in life - which make it hard to see things clearly.

Right-brain exercises are a playful use of visualization techniques to see concepts in a new light. Using simple materials like ink, paper, sand, collage, and doodling - you will be able to engage your visual side and have it communicate with you in a way that is outside of words and creates a clear picture of issue and new possibilities.

It’s not about creating art, its about using art to create a new perspective. — Melissa Klein

The Happy Factor
People get really happy when they are given permission to play like children before they knew if something is “good” or “bad” — they can’t fail. Remember the joy of mud pies before they were “dirty”? Accessing problems from a positive and humorous perspective is more motivating to create change.

Journal of Journey
Your Journal is included in the workshop and is something that you will take away with you as a physical reminder - and to add onto as you gain new insights. This is about creating lasting change and keeping inspired.

Space is limited - reserve your place!

Here is where you can apply for a scholarship - from Sue Barrington (director of the Waterfront Park Community Center):

"Scholarships for the Park District are done through HelpLine House, a local nonprofit a few blocks from here.  It requires a scheduled visit with a Social Worker there who fills out the financial application.  It is also a way for folks to find out about other free or discounted programs and services available to help here on the island."

Four Easy Ways to Register

1. Online at Registration is processed immediately, and you can print your confirmation form and receipt.
2. Drop Off your completed registration form and payment at the Strawberry Hill Park District Office (7666 NE High School Rd)
 or the Aquatics Center (8521 Madison Ave). No faxes or e-mail.
3. Mail In your form and payment to: BI Metro Park & Recreation District, PO Box 10010, BI, WA 98110
4. Phone In. Give us a call at (206) 842-2306, ext 118.
Credit cards accepted are Visa and Mastercard only.

See below for dates/tuition information

Monthly Saturdays 9am - 6 pm
February 15      April 26
March 22           May 17
                           June 28
$100 each class or $550 for the six month seminar.  Scholarships available.
Includes healthy refreshments to feed body and soul!

ARTiculate Your Story
370 Brien Dr SE, Bainbridge Isle, WA 98110
Monthly Sundays  12 - 5 pm
February 16                April 27
March 23                    May 18
                                      June 29
$60 each meeting or $330 for the six month class.  Scholarships available.
Includes healthy refreshments to feed body and soul!

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