Salt in the Air,(San Pancho)8x72dpi

Masla, Salt in the Air, Cobra water mixable oil on Fredrix all media paint board, 8″ x 16″

The post for this issue has to do with Critique and Criticism… and how to tell the difference in these voices, as well as an added spiritual perspective. Being a full time artist for 40 years and art instructor for nearly as long, (not to mention the 12 years running the Casa and experiencing a large variety of guest artist facilitators and their methods), I have over the years run into and contemplated the subject repeatedly. The article is excerpted from 2 sources, talks I have had with my colleagues and students and a letter/text, (slightly edited) sent to my kids when they where in creative crisis. It applies, not just to all creative endeavors, regardless of your media or practice, but to life in general. The letter was originally shared with our son Brahm, a jazz drummer, during his first semester at University, but was equally important for our daughters Narieka and Aiyana, (dancers/performers/teachers), in there lives. I hope you find it helpful and enlightening. Part 2, The Letter, is perhaps not relevant for everyone, realize that it is within a personal context and I share it as I think it will perhaps ring true for some. As I have said in art as in life, intention, love and actions are always my barometer, take what is helpful, (and opens your heart), and leave the rest behind. Please send us your feed back if you like.
Due to the vast confusion/blending of these terms and the often negative associations attributed to the word critique I have often preferred to use the word sharing. Someone wants to share with me there work and process, and I in turn share my reaction formed from my experience and insight, hopefully it is helpful. Here in lies some key words. Throughout our lives, many of us have experienced feed back that is less than helpful, whether it is presented as a harsh “reality” that “destroys our motivation” or is obsequiously kind to the point of our disbelief and disillusion. And worse is when we levy such “critiques” on ourselves, for these are not really critiques, but internal criticism (as I will explain). These criticisms, which have accumulated since childhood, by even persons with loving intentions, form voices in our heads. As we grow older, we often identify with these voices, not realizing the origin of the various voices, we often limit ourselves by them. They become blocks on our creativity, courage, exploration and self confidence and ultimately our sense of self-worth and identity.

A few typical example of common early childhood criticisms might be: “Bobby, try and color within the lines”, (reel it in, conform) or ” The sky is not green – it is blue”, (don’t be expressive, curb your imagination). I remember a music teacher in our “choir class”, coming up to me and whispering in my ear, “Bobby, just mouth the words, you really don’t have a voice” (- wow, no voice, that’s deep). And it is not just within the realm of the arts. Out of concern parents often say, (I know I have), “Don’t run to fast, you’ll fall and hurt yourself”, (don’t trust your own body sense). As children we have all experienced a variety of these, (perhaps you can identify some of your voices, I do a drawing exercise with students to identify some of the voices blocking creativity). As a parent, I cringe at the thought of the ways I have perpetuated this on my children, but it is all grist for the mill.The underlying message that these accumulated voices give us, and are often reinforced by the structures of our society, can be paralyzing if not underscored with a supportive loving environment and/or strong internal constitution. The message is not just “Don’t step outside the box”, but “being creative, expressing yourself – being yourself – is wrong, is even dangerous!”

It is no wonder that when I had entered my kids class when they where in preschool and asked “who here can draw?” every hand went up. But when I address a group of adults, perhaps 1 or 2 in 20 will affirm it. I often hear, I can’t draw, I have no talent, I can’t even draw a stick figure. My response is, “Thank god talent and stick figures really have very little to do with drawing” and “if you can sign your name I can teach you to draw.”
A defining difference between critique and criticism is understanding the premise from which the critique must unfold. For a number of years now when asked to critique someones work I first ask a question, which is the premise: What is your Intention. If I do not know your intention, it is impossible for me to evaluate your work or process. It is not my business to judge your intention, is it “good or bad”, “right or wrong” – It is yours, and if you claim it, it is always right. I have my own personal preferences and those should be put aside in regards to your intention, (and shared if you are interested, in terms of critique). To define our intention as artists is not always easy and may take some time and certainly some thought. As artists we must ask ourselves, what do we feel and what do we wish to communicate with this piece, (or with our art in general). Will it be intentional, perhaps with a subject and a narrative, or will it be abstract or even amorphous? Will it be clearly defined or ambiguous? Is it symbolic, with intellectual interpretation as well? What attracted you to this subject, what is it’s raison d’etre, (reason for being). Does it have an intention or is the intention to be discovered in the process of creation, or is the process of creation it’s own intention?
Again, If you do not know at least some of your intention, it is impossible to evaluate your work.

For example: If your intention is to create a photo realistic depiction of something you are observing in nature, that takes a whole skill set and use of craft, (dissolving all brush strokes and “the hand of the artist”, perhaps with a fan brush or other tool or technique), etc. This is very different than say if you wanted to create an expressive painting or abstract painting of the same observed phenomenon. If your intention is to create something that is flat and decorative, it is a different evaluation than if you wanted to create a naturalistic three dimensional feel. Neither is right or wrong, just different intentions and when you understand the intention, than you can evaluate, without a value judgement, whether the work achieves the desired effect or what elements need to be
developed, skills and techniques mastered and practiced, formulas studied, etc to achieve the desired result. – It is not an evaluation of your worth as an artist or a human being – simply an evaluation of what is between you and your desired intention. Therefore there is really no such thing as a “failed painting”, but rather a painting that did not reach your intention, – but with insight it will reveal to you simply an opportunity for change, learning and growth.  Not failures, but gifts, revealing insights, each piece being a stepping stone in the process of creating your intention. Art, creativity, is always a process, it is never “finished”, (till we say so) – it is only a product when we market it or sell it, and that can be it’s own intention, and is unfortunately often governed with a whole different criteria.
The Letter:
Dear Brahmaji
Remember : What is important is to feel good, to feel your groove, to be in the Passion, the Flow and the Love – The Flow of Music – of your Art.

Technique is simply craft that comes from Practice, Patience & Persistence – Music – Art – comes from your soul – the Place of Love, the place of Connection – Your Passion.

Don’t listen to the rational mind of duality – us and them, good and bad, right and wrong – judgement & criticism – it is all false ego, creativity exists beyond boundaries.

Criticism and Critique are very different. Criticism and Self criticism is the ego and mind grasping not to die when you are merging with the ONE. Trying to sneak in the back door. Critique, Real Critique – is an evaluation – WITHOUT JUDGEMENT – of what needs to be done to achieve a particular goal – to reach your intention, don’t get confused.

A Real Teacher gives critique with love and support, without a value judgement or ego – under-standing to the TRUTH to support learning, growth & change. – A false teacher tries to tear down creativity – pretending to critique – critique is not, nor is ever, a judgement of your value as a human being, artist or musician – it is an assessment of what needs to be practiced or learned for change and growth, to move towards your intention – and nothing more – critique is not, nor should ever be criticism.

The Spiritual – Art – is connecting to the place within – Beyond Duality – In The Pocket – In The Groove – making all the connections – Feeling Connected. Listen to the beat, Follow the Rhythm – Follow Your Breath – The Flow of the brush, The Mantra- etc. Into your heART where you are The Music. There are many names humans use for the Oneness of Connection that Pervades All Things. – Brahman, The Spirit, the Tao,  Wakan Tanka, The Great Mystery, Elohim, Energy, Cosmos, Krsna – the All Attractive Reservoir of Pleasure, etc. etc. – It is in each and everyone of us – is our Essence. I, nor anyone else, has a monopoly on this name, experience or concept and hopefully you and each person discovers our own unique relationship and way of being that comes from connecting. The idea that we are separate from the creation, (“creator” and creative process) is a fabrication of our minds. How can we be separate from what we are. Use the Music to connect to that place within where you are – and be The One – The Light that shines and connects with all of the infinite Sparks of the Universe creating the Blazing Light of Brahman – more powerful than 10,000 Suns.
You are the Light, the Music – you are Art, even in the present -Wabi-sabi – perfect as you are in the Now – and nothing can diminish that. Art is Process – Not Product, (until it is marketed and sold). We are all coming into being in the Eternal Present.
Just breath deep, follow the Inner Rhythm & BE. – Love AllWays

On Wabi Sabi
I was first introduced to this concept back in undergraduate school at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts when studying calligraphy and watercolor with master Japanese painter Kaji Aso. In it’s simplest form I interpret it as the perfection within imperfection, but it is an aesthetic that has deep roots in Japanese philosophy.
Wikopedia: In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-sabi () is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.[2] The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
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