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Live boldly, laugh and make art

How to overcome the stupid comments people make about your art

In 2002, on a hot day in July,  I drove from my home, on 719 East Jessamine Avenue, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to the Fine Art Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on 1265 Snelling Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

map of saint paul

I was driving to the art building to drop off a painting I was going to enter in a juried art show, for the 2002 Minnesota State Fair.

If you want to  enter an art piece in the 2016 Minnesota State Fair you first have to enter a digital photograph of your art. Fourteen years ago, you brought in your one piece of art, if you had preregistered. There was no pre-screening of art.

 Memory is a funny thing. The reality of the time it took me to actually drive to the fairground from my home and what I remember are different. I thought the drive took several hours, a lifetime. Today I typed in the address of where I lived in Saint Paul in 2002 and the address of the fairgrounds. The Fine Art building was only a fifteen-minute drive from my home –  9.7 miles. 

I was nervous to enter my drawing. Not feeling confident. Maybe that is why I thought I drove hours to get to the fairgrounds. The emotional anxiety made the drive feel longer.

One at a time, artists holding their framed artwork and their pre-registration papers that came in the mail, stood in single file, in a long line that snaked through the building. Each artist waiting to hand over their creations, their dreams, to the Minnesota State Workers.

I stood at the table, waiting, when one of the workers, a man, walked past the table and glanced over at the women taking my paperwork and at my painting, and said, “Why are you even bothering to enter that?”

A little slice of memory, tucked away. Leaving a shadow.

I still submitted my artwork to be juried. Did I say anything to him? I don’t remember.

It wasn’t accepted.

And I didn’t enter another juried show for fourteen years. Until last week.

stencil (1)

I asked my therapist. “How do I deal with negative comments?” I wanted to put glass bubbles around people to keep them from saying stupid things to me. Prevent the source of the pain. Try to control the world around me.

She told me it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t drop the glass bubbles quick enough. The words would still reach me. I had to learn to deal with the words and not let them stick.

So instead of imagining glass bubbles dropping over people to silence their words, I imagine unkind words bouncing off of me.

Words that are unkind bounce off my deflection suit. Like clothes from another universe. Clothes that can deflect negative criticism. The words are heard, but they bounce off.

Last week I entered two paintings in a local art gallery, a juried show. After I dropped them off I wanted to go back and get them. Late at night sneak in and take them home. I wouldn’t really be breaking and entering because the paintings were mine. If I could open the door to the gallery without breaking something, I would only be entering, and to go in someplace you do have to enter.

Expect stupid comments.  Ignore them. Keep making art.


Fourteen years ago the Minnesota State Worker could have said, “Hey, great colors. Thank you for entering.” Or he could have kept his mouth shut. Didn’t he ever watch Thumper in Bambi? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But he didn’t say something nice, did he? He said something mean and thoughtless. And I internalized it.

His mean comment kept me from trying again. His words were like fertilizer to the self-doubt I already was feeding myself.

Don’t feed your self-doubt.

Don’t let negative comments keep you from painting what is inside of you.

Who am I to tell you what to do? Don’t do this. Don’t do that. It took me fourteen years to risk having someone judge my art again.

I joined a local art gallery last week. Studio B in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.

Taking risks. And wearing my deflection suit.

A deflection suit comes in all colors and sizes. There is even one for you.



About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • myowncalcuttablog.com

    Another great post! I love your art and how dare that person steal your courage to create art. Keep wearing your deflection suit! I need to buy one myself:)

  • Hayley Deeken

    Sometimes I end up not making anything because I feel as if my art will never be good enough. I have to stop that! I will find a deflection suit that fits me, someday – but in the meantime I want to make art no matter what anyone thinks of it, I just want to try.

    I’ve found myself trying new things recently with watercolor and markers, and though I haven’t mastered the use of those mediums quite yet, practice makes better, not perfect.

    • Hello Hayley,
      Yes, make art not matter what anyone thinks of it.
      And how fun to create, trying new things. Practice makes sunshine and rainbows and brings joy. Creating to create not to be perfect.
      Please share a painting here if you would like to. I would love to see what you are creating.

  • La McCoy

    Maybe we could cover our selves in extra virgin olive oil when we get out of the shower and alll negative comments will just roll off.

    • Good idea La,
      Expect we might attract bees.

    • Susan W A

      hahahahaha. Plus the added advantage is soft, nourished skin!

  • Hey Pamela. Thanks so much for sharing this inspiring story. I’m ordering my custom tailored deflection suit today. 😉

    • Hey David,
      What color suit did you order?

      • Forest green to match my Forest green business suit. 😉

  • Susan W A

    Will post more later, but had to thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry your feelings were so hurt by that thought-empty statement.

    • Hello Susan,
      You are very welcome. I didn’t even know they were until I wondered why I didn’t join the local gallery.

  • Pamela- It’s the fools who chatter while the wise men listen! Great post and I’m glad you’re still painting!

    • Hi John,
      Thank you. Your encouragement means a lot.

  • EmFairley

    Thanks for this, Pamela. I’m my own biggest critic but negativity stings, or even indifference hurts a lot more. I gotta learn to let go. I’m me and in whatever medium the piece is created, I’m telling my story.

    On a side note, I’ve gotten some of the pix up from my vacation. You can see them here https://creativethoughtfulness.wordpress.com

    • Hi Em,
      You are very welcome. It took me two weeks to write it. Being vulnerable is hard. It is so much easier to share when I feel positive about something.
      Yes, you are you, in whatever you create. Telling your story. Bravely, going forward being you. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing your photographs. I look forward to looking at them.