Kill the critics

Posted on March 20, 2009



This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise,” Vincent wrote to his brother Theo, “with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big. (1889)

Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most celebrated artists of all time, lived a very troubled life. Estranged from his father and caring for his sick mother, Van Gogh’s difficult childhood began his lifetime of pain. Throughout his young adult years, he was depressed, emotional unstable, and violent. After physically hurting his friends and himself, the artist ended up in an asylum where he painted hundreds of artworks including “Starry Night”. This painting was a symbol that hope existed, but it was destined to be out of reach for the artist. He thought he was a terrible painter and a failure which led him to be terribly insecure. Driven to madness he committed suicide at the young age of 37.

As a creative leader, we all have two sides in us- the ‘artist’ and the ‘critic’. The artist is spontaneous, fun, and creative. The critic in us is analytical, practical, and objective. Many times the artist will come up with an idea only to have the critic squelch it. You’ve probably had the conversations many times in your head about creative ideas followed by the critic saying; “no, that’s not good enough and no one will like it”. We need both voices in our head but why does the critic take control so often?

The critic is dominant because we let it be AND we foster the critic in others. Don’t get me wrong, the critic is valuable, but unrestrained he turns from critic to killer. He kills the artist. Don’t let the critic tell you what your worth and what your art is worth- because guess what? He has NO IDEA.

Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime because of his inner critic. In a recent auction, a painting of his sold for $82.5 million dollars.

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