How I Find Artistic Inspiration and Beat the Inner Critic

 How I Find Inspiration and Beat the Inner Critic

My Artistic Journey

As a little girl, I always loved to sing and act. I was known as the “ham,” (okay, yes, I’m still known as a ham.) For years, I begged my mother to take me on auditions in New York. My parents were not the type to indulge such an expensive, all-consuming hobby though, particularly one with so little chance of success. Given the way things turned out for me, I’m happy they didn’t.

As I entered middle school, and through high school, I dabbled in drawing, but found I could pour my heart onto the written page and make art from it. That was magic. Much like being on stage where I channeled my emotions into a character, I found a much needed catharsis in my journal. Still, while I certainly thought of myself as a performer, and somewhat a writer, I never had the opportunity to dive fully into my artistic life.

I suppose if I had been raised in a more artistic family I might have grown up an “artsier” kid. It wasn’t that my parents discouraged it in any way, but I’m not sure they really “got it.”

Once I got out on my own, I had a lot more freedom and opportunity to explore. I had a life-long dream to do photography. My sophomore year in college, I met Alex, a photographer, and when I told him I wanted to learn, he gave up his old camera, and I found I had a lot to say on film.

I couldn’t spend enough hours shooting and working in the dark room. I was lit afire by the work of Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Dix, Sebastiao Salgado, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, and Ansel Adams, and I soaked up books and exhibits everywhere I could.

For the first time, I was an artist. I was a part of a world I’d always wanted to be in, but never knew existed. Alex would take me to the old converted school house where they taught art lessons. The heady scent of oil paint and linseed oil filled my lungs as I learned to make the light and composition tell the stories of my choice. I was learning the magic of visual art. I was hooked and wanted more.

[bctt tweet=”A happy artist does two things a frustrated artist doesn’t: she tells her inner critic to take a hike and feeds her creative self.”]

Upon graduation, suddenly having my own money and more free time, I continued writing and photographing, but found I wanted to explore many other art forms too. I took up guitar, modern dance, pottery, creative writing, and joined the Saturday night drum circles at the dance studio.

At the drum circles, I learned how my voice, my music, and my movement would merge with the group, connecting and filling me, and transforming the energy flowing through me in mysterious and wonderful ways. It was the most clear experience of being a “channel” for the art I had ever had. I remember participating in an exercise called the “vocal cone” for the first time. At the end of the circle, we stood in the dark in concentric circles, shoulder to shoulder, and closed our eyes. We hummed our lowest note in unison, the idea being that without our communicating about it, the note would slowly climb in pitch.

With my sight cut off, I could focus on the auditory and physical sensations. My voice vibrated in my body, but with everyone surrounding me, their voices were there too. The note began climbing, I was smiling with the excitement, and before I knew it, we slid the note all the way to the highest pitch. For a moment I thought someone had turned the lights on, but when I opened my eyes, it was still dark.

While I might have delved more deeply into the arts as a child, I have no regrets. My particular path lead me to learn about the soul of the art before the technique, and I’m very grateful for that.

During this time of artistic explosion, I came across Cathy Malchiodi’s seminal book, Art Therapy Sourcebook* and realized that art and expressive therapy would be my life’s work. To prepare for grad school, I took classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture, and found another passion for painting. I was called back to those earlier days in the school house.(*The link for the book I’ve provided is an affiliate link. If you decide to click on it and purchase something, I’ll receive a small commission.)

I’ve continued to explore and stretch as an artist in the years since – joining and creating new artist communities, taking classes, pushing my comfort zones, and writing this blog. What is your artistic story? What inspired you? Lit your creative fires?

Let’s create until we are 93, until we have to work large because we can’t see, and until we take our last breaths dancing. Let’s talk about how to feed your inner artist.

Feec Your Inner Artist

 Read blogs about art

Part of how I find artistic inspiration and beat the inner critic is by drooling over the amazing art I find online. A steady diet of blogs on art journaling, painting, drawing, and design keep my little inner artist fed and ready to create.

Art Journalist on Overcoming Fear and Perfectionism in Art Journaling

Michael Nobbs, an artist who struggles with energy, shares 20 Things You Can Do in 20 Minutes

Artist Amy Ng shares 1000 Things to Draw with a fun little randomizer feature

For some plain old, inspiring, delicious images, check out Lisa Cogdon’s blog.

A fun, freeing, and funky blog for artists, check out this post on art journaling from Doodler’s Anonymous

This is an inspiring post about sewing in your art journal with plenty of how to’s and great images from Daisy Yellow.

I can never get enough of Carla Sonheim’s amazing, wild art tutorials, like this Alligator Coloring Tutorial, or this one, “Go Blob Hunting.” Carla really knows how to let the inner artist out to play!

Lisa Mitchell at Inner Canvas is an art therapist and blogger, her art therapy invitations are also great art projects to do at home. I really liked the one on Open HeARTed Art.

[bctt tweet=”Your job as an artist is not to make something perfect, it’s to show up, do your part, and take some chances.”]

For a list of my favorite art books, click here. And here you’ll find my favorite art journaling supplies.

Palette Beauty

Take Care of Your Inner Critic

We talked about this during the 5 for 5 Self-Care Challenge: Write. Try this exercise on listening to and conquering the inner critic. It’s an excerpt from my upcoming e-book, Starting Your Art Journal. Click the link, scroll midway down the page, and you’ll find it!

And for the ultimate exercise in working out the fears of your inner critic, try the exercises in Freeing the Muse – they are so light hearted and fun, your critic won’t realize you are “making art.”

[bctt tweet=”There is no perfect in art. The sooner you let that go, the sooner you flow with creativity.”]

5 for 5 Self-Care Challenge Winners

You are probably wondering when the heck is Amy going to announce the winners from the Self-Care Challenge. Right now! As you remember, the winners were chosen randomly from amongst all the comments. While I’m psyched to offer these three lovely souls more tools for their art and self-care, my hope is that participating in the challenge has helped you to experience how helpful and fun 5 minutes of daily self-care is.

Two of our lucky winners will receive a copy of Starting Your Art Journal One lucky winner will receive a portable art kit, worth $40.

And the winners of Starting Your Art Journal are…

E-Book Mock Up Pic

Tayla Naden


Barbara Shelton

And the portable art kit winner is…

Joy Simon!

Thank you everyone for making the challenge so fun and meaningful with your heartfelt comments and consistent participation.


How do you stay inspired to be creative and make art? What great art blogs, books, and movies have I missed? Tell us about that and more in the comments please, and if you liked this post, spread the love on social media. 🙂


  1. Karen Byrne

    I see a lot of wisdom in what you say about starting to be creative and telling the inner critic to buzz off. I’ve retired from a world of of rigid rules and procedures. But with the medical field that’s to be expected. It would have been nice if I could have drawn little pictures in my notes but that would have been highly frowned upon. Of course, now, with electronic records it would have been impossible.
    So here I sit admiring all the art journaling I see. I used to scrapbook and then came all the rules about position, color and ephemera. I still have pics I want to create pages around but I’m having difficulty starting and it is all due to the inner critic.
    Co-incidentally, I’m reading a book about mindfulness and can see where it will come in handy. Thank you for your openness and creating a welcoming website.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Karen:

      I’m so pleased that you’ve joined our little community here. Are you a retired nurse, doctor, or therapist?

      Indeed the critic can be very powerful. It sounds like you have some good seeds to begin with – have you tried leaving out some of your supplies where they are visible? Perhaps your journal, paste, and pics plus some watercolors?

      What about starting with a different page to take the pressure off making the “perfect” page with those pics? There’s a bunch of ways to start on my art journaling tutorials in the right side bar, or on the Art Tutorials page under the the Art Classes tab. Please let me know how it goes, and if you are not already a member, you might try our wonderfully supportive and creative Facebook group, Creative Self-Care. I think you would find some kindred spirits and some help to get started.


  2. Dorlee

    Hi Amy,

    I love this post! It was so nice to hear about you found your way into art and you provide great ideas on how to beat the inner critic and let your inner artist loose 🙂

    I find participating in art classes and engaging in mindfulness meditation (to help recognize the automatic negative thoughts that you may have about yourself in this regard, identify where they came from and be able to let them go) especially helpful.

    One reading recommendation I’d like to add to your wonderful list is Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind and in case you find it helpful, here is a post I wrote about this book

    To more free spirited art/journaling!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Dorlee:

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting here. I love your book recommendation and can’t wait to check it out. Art classes are SO helpful, aren’t they? It’s just the kick in the butt I need to get out of my own way sometimes.

      Creatively Yours,

  3. Deborah Verhoeven

    I just found this site, and I hope you are still reading comments on this post. I wanted to say that I was also not raised by artsy people, but considered it a blessing by the time I reached high school. I had friends who were signed up for art classes, while I was free to explore my creativity and drawing skills. I didn’t even know my family was aware I was a little artist until my dad bought me an easel and a set of paints and told me I should not waste my talents on paint-by-number sets.

    I’m off to explore your site now.

    • Amy Maricle

      ThAt is so lovely! And it sounds like your dad was indeed supportive! Xo I’m so glad.


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