Imaginary Friends and Critics

Episode 212 · July 16th, 2022 · 32 mins 50 secs

About this Episode

When an artist creates, the people that the artist images viewing the work often are unseen presences in the studio. When we are deeply involved in our work these may fade away, but they tend to reappear when we are uncertain or involved in self-critique. A legitimate and important part of evaluating our work is trying to see the work through someone else’s eyes. But who are these viewers, exactly? Who are we creating art for, besides ourselves? Today we talk about those who view our work, how we imagine them and how much power to give them.

Most artists say they do their work primarily for themselves, that it is a compulsion or inner drive, and that they work the way they do because it feels right to them. Whether or not others like what they do may seem secondary. But a basic aspect of art is communication. We want to give our viewers something to respond to, to get involved with, and to bring out some thought or emotion, and perhaps respond enough to own the work.

From the artist’s perspective, working alone in the studio, this communication can seem very one-sided. We don't have an actual person with us to be another set of eyes, even though we are aware that people will eventually be in that position when we show the work. As a result, we often create viewers in the studio who are imaginary. And as such they tend to be an inconsitent, vague conglomerate with shifting opinions and advice.

The best advice has always been to make your best art for yourself and If it is good work, it will attract viewers who appreciate it. Thinking of it first as your own expression means that your work will be meaningful and authentic to you. But given that it's hard to avoid thinking of imaginary viewers as you work, it's also helpful to form a positive image of who they are. And rather than letting this be only a vague idea, it is helpful to get specific about the characteristics of your ideal, imaginary viewer. This viewer may be quite similar to yourself, but also enough removed to be able to offer constructive advice.

Many of us deal with invisible presences in the studio, and at times they are confusing in what we imagine them saying. And as with many aspects of the creative process, awareness of how you are affected is key. When our imaginary friends and critics are not useful, we need to be careful not to give them too much power. Inviting your imaginary ideal viewer into your studio can provide guidance, inspiration, and truly constructive criticism.

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What's new at Cold Wax Academy?
The Summer Quarter of Cold Wax Academy's membership program is now underway. Rebecca and Jerry's upcoming weekly live, online sessions will explore Personal Voice and Composition and continue the topic of Professional Development with some special guests. Member Critiques and Painting Clinics, Cold Wax Academy's new feature, are ongoing. You can join the membership program anytime and catch up with past recorded sessions at your own pace. Please visit for more information.

Also-- stay tuned for information coming soon about Rebecca and Jerry's newest project, Espacio, dedicated to providing beautiful living and working spaces for artists and writers. Espacio's first offering is Casa Clavel, a modern, fully equipped house opening this September in the beautiful cultural city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. You can learn more and make a reservation by emailing [email protected]. A dedicated Espacio website is coming soon!

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"Rebecca and Jerry have presented the most professional, authentic and structured approach to a creative activity I have ever come across. Their selfless sharing of all their knowledge and encouragement is a gift in my life unsurpassed."

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