I admit it -- I watch a fair amount of reality tv -- "So You Think You Can Dance" is my favorite. But I also discovered one of Bravo network called "Work of Art". In case you haven't seen it, about a dozen different artists from very different backgrounds and with varied amounts of experience are given artistic challenges each week. They usually have a day or two to complete the challenge, and then reveal what they have done at an art show. The public is invited, as are several distinguished judges. The best works are highly praised, the worst ones are critiqued, and the artist with the worst piece has to go home.
This past week, they were to go back to their childhood roots, and work with only those materials that were to be found at a children's art museum workroom. With only a few hours to work on their pieces, they were all buzzing along, when Simone entered the room. Simone is a European art "guru" who has a cool accent and everyone hangs on his every word. He went around to the various artists -- two of the artists got high praise from him, and three got some pretty disparaging remarks. The two with the good comments worked even harder, and the three with the negative comments all abandoned their projects and started something new. You could see the doubt and confusion on their faces. Flash ahead to the art show. Guess which two artists had the highest marks on their pieces? Guess who was in the bottom three -- with pieces that lacked direction, didn't say anything, looked boring?
It reminds me of one of my favorite college classes -- Foundations of Education. Even non-education majors took it because it was such a great class. One class period, the prof sent two groups of students out of the room. While the rest of us watched, he dumped a big bunch of tinkertoys on the floor and ushered the first group in. "You can build anything you want!" he enthused. But every time one of them began something, our prof questioned them, criticized them, or just made them feel like their ideas were not good. They ended up with three tiny structures. Then he brought the second group in with the same instructions. Only this time he said things like, "You guys are so talented! Wow -- great ideas! Keep it up!" And they built a huge tower with moving parts and everything.
It makes me wonder what the projects would have looked like if Simone had told everyone that they were doing a great job and keep on working. More importantly, what are the messages about my art that I tell myself? What messages are you hearing?
You can do it! You are creative and unique! Keep up the good work!