My Inner Critic

On Thursday last, my SCBWI local network met for our annual “Creative Orgy,” an evening of eclectic exercises and activities designed to get the creative juices flowing, even in the depths of January cold. As co-rep of the Oak Park/near west Network, I help plan these events. The last activity we did was to make a puppet of our “Inner Critic,” that voice that had been whispering in our ear all evening–indeed, all day almost every day, in my experience. That voice that questions my worthiness, ability, intelligence, authority to write about what I intend to write (even this blog) or to paint and draw the subjects I choose. This is the voice that suggests I abandon projects as the initial excitement wears down and the going gets tough. This is the voice that says my drawings, sketches, watercolors are no good, unimportant, basically worthless.

Since this Inner Critic seems so real to me, I decided to give her substance and shape. My co-rep and I had gathered a bunch of supplies: crayons, markers, colored pencils; tape, glue, glue guns, staplers; and a whole bunch of collage materials including random papers and lots of string and yarn, among other things. We used paint-stirring sticks, paper plates, and coffee filters to form the puppets of our Inner Critics, and then we began to individualize and animate them.

Here’s mine:



See how she towers over me? She has one bloodshot eye and broken glasses, so her vision is not all that clear. Her hair is wild and full of debris, including a decaying leaf. She has what might have been a prim bow at her chin and one accusatory hand with a pointing finger. Her toothy mouth was cut from a postcard of a Day of the Dead scull. Her teeth are bared and clenched, forbidding communication or expression. As I worked on this puppet I talked to her and asked her questions.

She appears to be pretty gruesome, but she’s not really as powerful as she thinks. I actually really like her. If I listen to her for a little bit, then thank her for sharing, I can put her on a shelf or in a corner and ignore her contribution. She can save her “I told you so’s” for another time.

I got the idea to make a puppet of one’s inner critic from Laura Montenegro. In a class about creating a picture book dummy she showed us her Inner Critic, a puppet she had made. The minute she picked it up it came to life and began to talk. And then, after Laura had let it have it’s say, she put it in a corner.

That is what our puppets are for–they can spout their nay-saying for a little bit, and then we can thank them and put them in a corner and carry on with our work.


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Who I Am and Why I’m Here

Who I am and why I’m here:

I am a lover of books—I read books, I write books, I make books, I collect books. Something about paper, the smell, feel, content, color, size, design, cover—I love everything about books. I am an avid journal keeper and the published author of three children’s books.


Rattlesnake 2014 4.

I am also an artist. When I went to art school I intended to learn to draw people so I could illustrate the books I intended to write. Instead I fell in love with Art in a larger sense and while I created the images for one of my published books, I do not think of myself as an illustrator in the traditional sense.

So why write a blog? I often ask myself this question, since I write almost daily in my journal, which is strictly for myself. I use my journal to organize my life, to resolve questions, to store information. All my creativity begins in my journal. I see a blog as an opportunity to create and sustain a conversation with others beyond myself. It is a place to share experience and knowledge.

I think of my blog as “Notes From the Studio,” but I will not be limited to the studio walls. I intend to write about my works in progress, my travels and the sketching I do on the go, I also will write about exhibitions I see, books I find relevant, and the things I discover that support and sustain my creative life.

The blogs I follow inspire me with the content they share—posts that give me information, new ways to look at issues I care about, insight into the creative process of artists, writers, illustrators. Information about the art world and the publishing world.

If at the end of a year I have a record of travels, books read, documentation of works in progress. I will consider the blog successful. If I have been able to contribute to other creative people with the content of my blog, that will be a real bonus. And if I find a community forming around shared interests, I’ll know I’m on the right track.

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I’m going to add as many photos, in chronological order as I can. Later I’ll add the stories that go with them. For over a six week period I added and altered the Reliquary on a weekly, if not daily basis, using found, salvaged, and saved materials that all related in one way or another to my dad, his childhood, my childhood, and our relationship together. Here are the photos:Reliquary

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Several times each week I alter the reliquary and make a drawing. I am making up the rules for “reliquary” as I go along.

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What is a reliquary

I posed the question, What is a reliquary? I would love to hear what you think.

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Every reliquary needs a relic. Mine has a skull, among other things.

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I had talked to Jens Brasch, an artist friend of mine about my idea for a reliquary. He said that what he would find interesting was if I made a drawing every day to go with the reliquary. That idea resonated with me, and I had to think about what kind of paper to use. I found two separate stashes of paper from my dad’s desk–the white paper is stationary from the Baptist Ministers and Missionary Board. The slightly larger, beige paper is Japanese rice paper, “for block prints,” according to my dad’s notes on the paper cover. I salvaged these papers from his office after his death in 1996.

I began with a map of the cove at Fore Point on Squam Lake. Dad had created this map to assist him in sailing into the rocky cove. My first drawing was this simple rendering of the reliquary on it’s pedestals.

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