Injured by Art

Copyright 2008 by Kathy Hughes


It was my junior year in college, the first day of my bazillionth drawing class.  We each did our first drawing for the new professor, and he lined them up in the front of the studio for his critique.  

You could feel the tension as we all braced for the instructor’s inevitable scorn of our style, skill, and vision.  Cutthroat critiques rule the art world. 

 Instead, Dr. Vevers walked down the line and one by one told us, simply by looking at our work, the names of all of our previous drawing and painting professors.  He did not miss a single one. 

 His point was that he did not want us following anyone else's "prescription for art" any longer.  He wanted us to develop and follow our own muse, not to fashion our art to parrot and to please someone else (in order to get a good grade). 

 A third-grader sat crying in my Saturday School art class.  Again.  For several weeks, this had been the pattern.  At the end of that class, one of my student teachers overheard a chilling conversation.  The young girl walked to her car and was reprimanded by her waiting mother, "I looked at every single piece of art work from the other students leaving with you and ALL of them are better than yours!"

 My daughter's kindergarten teacher is one of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege to know.  We were talking one morning, and she told me that she hated art.  That took my breath away.  I told her she was probably the most creative person I knew. 

 "I failed art in school,” she confided.  I crinkled my nose and said,  “Didn't you turn in any of your work!?"  Her answer had me leaving the room with tears running down my face. 

 "Not only did I turn everything in, but I did extra to try to please the teacher.  I was told I wasn't good enough, and I received a failing grade.  I have hated art ever since."  

Have you had similar "injuries"?  A friend laughing?  Your own inner voice judging? 

 Art is personal.  Criticism of your work translates in your head as criticism of you.  So you quit trying.  You say that it is just not one of your "talents," and people acknowledge and accept that.  You tell yourself all is well.  BUT, something deep inside you cries out.  

 Because you were born to create.  Cooking, gardening, nurturing, sewing, creating art, making crafts, and working with your hands (just to name a few) are all creative acts.  Try something new.  Just doodle.  

Use this box to scribble, doodle, spill coffee on it, go out of the lines (or not).  Let your spirit play.  No one will see it.  No one will compare.  No one will judge.  I will even give you an extra box in case you "mess up."  But you CAN'T "mess up."  Any attempt is a victory. 





There.  Wasn't that kinda nice?  That’s all it takes to get started.  

Oh, and by the way, the ability to "draw a straight line" is highly overrated!

 Now, where are my coloring book and crayons?  Shhhh!  Don't tell a soul I said that!  I'm not "allowed" to like those!


  Kathy teaches non-judgmental art and creativity classes at the Kaleidoscope Art Studio in Rantoul on Tuesday mornings and at Hobby Lobby in Champaign on Thursday mornings.  Classes meet 10:00-11:30 and are $15 per class ($10 for seniors).  Kathy has taught art in the public schools for over 15 years and is a member of the Creativity Coaching Association.  For more information visit her website at, call her at 351-1680, or email