4. Practice and perfection – how not to feed the inner critic

It is good to have friends.  Especially those friends who are understanding about creative impulses, the desire to express in words something that can only be seen and felt and whose houses have large windows that they don’t mind you slapping a load of poster paint all over them and will even provide cups of hot peppermint tea.  True friendship indeed. So it was that I turned up at a friends house, poster paints and dog in tow to create some noise.  Having previously been a watercolour, pencil and Sharpie woman I was excited to use a new medium. After washing down all the windows we (my friend, her daughter and myself) began to create.  I started off by outlining one of my favourite quotations by Audre Lorde ( https://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lorde_The_Masters_Tools.pdf).

“The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

The harsh but strong truth that lies behind the saying and the essay it came from is reminiscent of other caribbean proverbs  that I use on a daily basis to inform my waking life.   ‘Alligator lay egg, but ‘I’m not fowl’ is a particular favourite of mine and is a cautionary tale for  those who prefer to believe only what they are told rather than finding out for themselves. On the theme of alligators is another saying I like – ‘Alligator shouldn’t call hog long mout’ a saying that can apply to us all at some point in our lives.

With no plan in mind other than to see what poster paint can do on glass I sketched in words and figures. Problem number one appeared, the outline done in water based pen was too weak.  Repeatedly going over the work didn’t cause greater strength in line – it just caused smudging and a blurring I did not want.  Second problem became clear on opening  the poster paints –  there was no brown.  White, yes, green, blue, yellow, red and black but no brown.  Not brave enough to start mixing primary colours together I shrugged my shoulders and began to paint.  Brushes ranged from sponges to my own collection of watercolour paintbrushes.

Hands became mixing boards


Swirls were particularly good fun but also created movement and a sense of fun into the story


Texture was made using short sharp brush or sponge strokes and colours were put on top of each other creating lines that represented borders within the figure.

My trademark of stories within stories began to show some of the limitations of using poster paint.  The positives were the ability to create movement and texture in a way not easily recreated in Sharpie but the whole was too disjointed, the important inner narrative was lost and although fun to do the colouring was all wrong.

I didn’t want ethereal.  I didn’t want to recreate a lifeless stained glass where the viewer already knows the story and thus comes to the reading with their perceptions, judgments and preconditioning intact.  My drawn figures embody their pain, they or the landscapes reveal their suffering and mix this with the richness that comes form loving, hoping, and caring despite what we have been given.  My work is grounded in reality even if it does hide sometimes behind a layer of imaginative landscaping.


Leaf work became clunky and lifeless


It was going to be hard to transpose the key elements of the Leeds landscape into poster paint.
The lines were not as crisp as they should have been and detailed work would become lost with the background behind the window.
And when viewed from a distance the impact of the colours was lost.


Thus, poster paint had to go.  Remembering that

‘ebry day a fishing day but no every day fe ketch fish

(reward does not necessarily follow the amount of work you put into something) it was time for a rethink.  This was not a time to panic, after all, the painting session had been lots of fun and we had learnt about the weakness and strengths of poster paint on windows (something I would like to return too).  Not all was lost.  But this is when the inner critic began to growl.  Whispering its toxic thoughts it sought a reaction of panic, of belittling, of the desire for perfection.

It is at times like this that I really do believe that we have a choice.  A choice over how we decide to react to a situation.  So whilst I felt the cry to abandon all hope, to declare my self stupid and a failure, I choose instead to reflect on what I had achieved for myself and for my friends.  Her windows had been cleaned – free of charge – two generations had bonded over a shared project that had emancipation as its goal, we had listened to each other and tried new things in a supported way.

These were things to be celebrate.

Yes, I also had to rethink what I was going to do, but I was going to do it in a way that understands that  failure can be a good thing, something not to be afraid or ashamed about, after all,

it is never wise to hang you clothes all pan one nail!’