How to write: Outsider art

Screaming Me, acrylic on cardbaord,

I have an art studio at the base of the apartment building where I live. It has windows to the street. A local artist called, said she saw my art in the windows, and was curating a show for outsider artists. Could she come into my studio and see what I had, to see what might work for the show?

I thought I was going to puke! I’ve written a lot about art and writing and self esteem, and I can tell you when it comes to my visual art I have a vortex, a black hole, where my self esteem should be. All afternoon, every possible scenario flew through my head of how she was going to come into my studio, laugh, spit, kick my paintings, guffaw at my lack of talent, degrade me. I imagined her screaming at me about how bad my art was.

Seriously! I was holding my stomach and rocking back and forth like a victim of trauma (which I guess I am).

Dear Lord! If this is what happens to me when someone has a positive interest in my art, how am I ever going to take art critics?

At any rate, at the time of the appointment, she showed up, and she loved my art. She chose so many pieces for the show that I will have very little left to put in my own window. She reviewed some pieces in a way that helped me fathom what I was doing as an artist. She loved the despair of some of the pieces and said it echoed the despair of America. I wanted to tell her it echoed the despair of the world. I’ve traveled a lot and I carry the despair in my soul.

I’d displayed all my work in an array for her around the studio. She chose from this group, then went around the studio, picking up pieces hidden behind tables, half peaking from beneath the loveseat. She particularly liked the picture above, Screaming Me, which she found in a pile of cardboard. It was a goofy thing I did with my friend, artist Leah Kohlenberg ( She called me from Zagreb last year, and said she was in a foul mood. So was I. I said: “Let’s both paint our foulness at the same time. Go!”

Screaming Me was the result.The painting is more “me” than a lot of the more professional looking pieces. When the curator chose it, it blew me away. It reminded me of what I’m always preaching, that if we find our authentic voice, it’ll resonate far and wide.

What’s the lesson here? Feel the fear and do it anyway? Maybe it’s find your authentic voice, write and paint and draw and dance with real passion, and that voice will echo and resonate far and wide. Just be you! It’s harder than it seems — to that I can attest!

I’m a writing coach and offer a free initial consultation,

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