6 ways to silence your inner art critic

Watercolour Supply Kit

Have you ever caught yourself thinking something like “This painting is terrible” “I can’t draw” or “This is useless, I give up”?

Being self-critical is something that most of us face at some point whether we’re a beginner or a more seasoned artist. It’s important to remember that even acclaimed artists have bad days, it’s all part of the journey!

It’s important to take stock and see the larger picture sometimes (quite literally) and even though it’s good to be critical of your own art to an extent, here are just a few ways to not let your critical brain take over and stop you from growing and creating.

Make enjoyment and learning your aim

It’s easy to take creating too seriously and aim for perfection, but enjoyment should always be what draws you to art.  Having this reminder in the back of your head reminds you to enjoy the process of simply making art.

Remind yourself that not every painting is going to be a masterpiece. If it doesn’t have to be perfect, then you can relax, your inner critic can take a break too and you just might find yourself loosening up.

Try using a different type of paper or media so your sketch doesn’t feel as ‘permanent’. This can help you to not aim for perfection and just enjoy creating for fun.

No one’s perfect, no one gets it right all the time. I get it wrong all the time.”

– Ian Fennelly

Re-frame the picture

It’s helpful to see self-criticism as a dialogue between two aspects of the self. One who is attacking and angry, and another who is receiving this and feeling upset. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

By seeing it as just this, a relationship, you can start to step out of it and relate to the conflict in a different way.

It can be helpful to actually imagine your self-critic as a person, you could even try to draw it and stick it on the wall as a reminder.

You could also imagine or draw a more compassionate person, similar to a friend. One who supports and reassures you. It’s true what they say, “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.”

Step by step

Imagine your sketches as stepping stones in your progress. They are a great reminder of how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned. Art is a lifelong journey, and we never stop growing and learning.

Remember that some days it’s ok to give up because it means you’ve learned from mistakes, and you’ll move on to bigger and better things. Try to embrace these moments and see them as a learning curve.

It can be helpful to look back at old work and see your improvements but also to remember how much you’ve learned since that sketch.

photograph of bridge sketch
Ian Fennelly

“Here is my first drawing (I don’t have a background in art or drawing so most of what I’ve learned is from Ian) from the Certificate course to a recent drawing from the Robin Hood’s Bay course.

– Scott Peterson, UrbanSketch+ Member

Be wary of comparison

When we’re scrolling through social media, it can be difficult to look at others’ work and think “I’m not as good” or “my sketches will never be that great”.

Remember that your ultimate goal is to find your own unique style and the only way you can do this is by comparing yourself to yourself.

Your gifts and skills are unique to you, and this is what makes art so wonderful, the expression of your personal experience. No one else is you and that is your power.


“I really enjoyed other people’s versions of this to the point where I got a bit self-critical. I’m going to share how I worked through that. I look at this one and realize – this sketch is typical of my sketchbook and represents me. I did use the marker technique which I learned in Ian’s online workshops, but the near realistic colors and style it is sketched in, that is me, and I have to appreciate what I do as a record of MY experience, since I’m not out here trying to be a professional artist, I’m trying to record what I see. So it’s OK that it doesn’t look like anyone else’s version.”

– Shannon Brooke, UrbanSketch+ member

Find a support network

Getting support from other artists who can offer encouragement and can give advice on how they’ve overcome their own self-critical voice can be really helpful.

Eventually you’ll start to hear these positive comments in your own brain too and find ways to be less critical.

Why not try uploading your sketches to our student gallery and join our exlusive Facebook Group on UrbanSketch+?

Activate your compassionate brain

Speaking to yourself with kindness can feel like a verbal hug! Start to say “no” to your inner critic. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, try and replace them with supportive and kind messages.

It can even help to use a person to model this on, perhaps you met somebody once who supported you well and left you feeling encouraged and inspired. Try to make their voice your compassionate voice too and imagine how they would respond.

You could even try to draw your thought process and kind messages; it can be a great way to work through these thoughts and flip them around.

Remember that being kind to yourself comes with determination and practice, but the rewards can be so worth it.

Art is a lifelong journey, so why not take your creative compassionate friend along for the ride?

Our Courses

Whether you’re brand new to urban sketching or a confident artist, our engaging, video-based online courses teach you step-by-step how to go from blank page, to capturing the bustle and beauty of the world around you, in the unique and fashionable style that is urban sketching.