Believe

Watch me paint “God’s Promise” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This project was for the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia“. It was a scene I saw one day across the lagoon that I can see from my patio. The painting style is rather primitive. I was dabbling and experimenting with interacting with the oils with my fingers and also by lifting some away with a paper towel. The effect I wanted was to subdue the colors, but it didn’t hit that mark as well as I’d hoped. That’s ok, I figured. The project goal was reached, which was simply to tell the story about the double rainbows.

However, I regretted sharing this one on a platform where a troll instantly grabbed hold of it and commented something along the lines of that this art sucked and looked like it had been done by a child. Well, of course I know who I am, and what my credentials are (accepted for a 14 month traveling tour for my first oil painting, thereafter in gallery showings and landed a solo gallery exhibit in Ireland- that I unfortunately had to cancel when I couldn’t get my visa extended- but anyway, I know who I am). The troll had never heard of me apparently, and felt comfortable dishing out a nasty insult.

I removed the video, since I didn’t want to be judged on that experimental project, but I will share it here and it was included in the book that I painted it for. I believe in myself and my abilities. I do not need permission or approval from others. I’m careful when my work doesn’t represent me well, so I will respond when something isn’t well received, but I only take that into small consideration.

We must believe in ourselves when no one else will. If we do not, we can’t expect others to believe in us. We also have very little to offer others when we don’t hold ourselves up to a high standard. How can we inspire our children, communities, and the world if we are too self-absorbed, always peering inward to see if we are good enough, if we’ve earned enough admiration or outward signs of success? Self-doubt and low self esteem can be a form of selfishness and narcissism. We must let go of our focus on ourselves so that we are free to think of others.

So, it is with full confidence that I share my “inferior” rainbows painting with you. It’s an interesting project, and I don’t need to meet anyone’s standard but my own. This art isn’t a favorite of mine- not even close- but it has merit because of the story behind it, and because I was experimenting with art in a way that might be fun for others to try. Most of all, seeing people like me free to try new things that might fail, and comfortable sharing those unflattering moments with you, may encourage and motivate you to step outside of your need to please others or meet a standard other than your own.

Believe that you are uniquely human, that you are special in the eyes of God. Honor this by reviewing yourself as special. Soak up every confidence to give yourself the courage to share your life and spirit with others. We need each one of us to be who we were designed to be. Believe.

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Feeding Critics

First the oil painting, then the story that inspired this art and the update. Do YOU feed your critics? Everyone has critics, whether you do creative work or not.

Watch me paint “Waves of the Sea“, 2 minute time lapse

“‘Waves of the Sea’ is inspired by Scripture about trials and perseverance. James 1:2-6 ~~~‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.’ ~~~Through it all, never give up. When the seas are rough, during a storm, and whenever troubled times come, a lighthouse guides us home. Faith over fear, perseverance through trials.”

- from book "50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith" by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

Update to the above story…

I was still active on social media when I painted “Waves of the Sea“. I was often censored and throttled, so I was mostly seen only by a small group of people who quickly became friends. When I shared my art, I was sharing stories of encouragement. I knew some of the people who looked forward to my new paintings were going through a difficult time or were facing hardships. Some deal with chronic pain and suffering, or are grieving a loss. These are heartaches that no one can fix. There is no money to repair what is broken, and no words that can express the unfairness of life’s cruelty.

Sometimes, when there are no words, art is a balm for the raw places in our soul. It’s a language that transcends our struggles to communicate. We can express empathy even when we don’t know who will view our art, and we can’t possibly have foreknown their private pain. 

Even if you are too young to have heard a real life record (vinyl album) screech to a halt on a record player, we’ve all heard that sound as a meme for the uncomfortable jolt when there’s a sudden end to a pleasant experience. That’s what happened when a stranger popped into the thread under my “Waves of the Sea” video. The unsolicited critique was that I should have painted the sea in a more realistic manner, softening the waves around the coastline.

I often ignore unsolicited advice from self-appointed critics, but if I am approached in a place of visibility where others are watching/listening, I always represent/defend myself. Because the comment was made publicly and subtly implied that I lacked the skill to have taken that advice on my own accord (an accusation levied at my professional ability to perform my job), I responded publicly. I did so briefly, but clearly.

                                  HOW TO HANDLE CRITICS

  1. Ignore them.
  2. If comments are made in public, counter any false or misleading statements with calm and professionalism.
  3. Take any useful feedback under consideration, but don’t give them the power and energy to dim your light.
  4. Outshine them!

 

In the case of “Waves of the Sea“, the critique was mild and relatively harmless, but it still met my criteria for a response because the person hijacked a public thread with misleading comments about my work. So, I explained that the painting is a metaphor and that I often paint in a way that might look odd or unrealistic in order to illustrate a point (the waves were meant to be exaggerated and otherworldly). The conversation was brief. The critic was polite, but the thread that had- until then- been warm and welcoming to others was now cold and dead. The record had screeched to a halt.

Because my intention in sharing my paintings is communication and connection, I’m not much interested in unsolicited critique. I don’t put much stock into with what others think I should do. I have lived too many years of my life under the expectations of others, and that life was not fruitful. Their ideas were not better than my own. But, the problem at this point was not what was said, but that this person disrespected the conversation that this painting was having with those who needed it.

The earlier in life that you reach spiritual confidence, the sooner you are free to live the purpose you are destined for.

I learned that it is not always best to ignore critics. Sometimes we must fight. Why? Because the petty vindictive monster that drives people to jump in, tone deaf and arrogant, will destroy what we build up. We must fight for the good that we are destined to do for others. When I fight back, I protect my lines of communication to those who need me. I protect my purpose, my vocation. I protect all that I work so hard for.

 

I have discovered that it is not virtuous to be passive. It is irresponsible. I am trusted with talent and relatively good health. I must use it, to honor those who have gone before me and cannot serve. I can’t let those who destroy what others create simply run right over me. More is asked of me than this, whether I like this role or not.

 

It is not virtuous to be passive. It is irresponsible.

 

I don’t work for critics. The purpose of my art is language. I am not motivated by “experts”, judges, the art world, or the system. I am not persuaded by the latest groupthink or trend. I don’t care if “intellectuals” think my work is insipid (well of course it stings a little bit, but not enough to change my ways). I work for those who feel something from my art. Ultimately I work for God: I follow where I believe I’m lead. I chase what I feel is my purpose, not what others tell me to be.

Know who you work for,

and why.

Never take orders

from a boss

you’ve not permitted

to be your authority.

Always keep it professional, calm, and truthful of course. Out class them at every turn, but don’t let them walk all over you and your life, work, etc. Never let them win.

Unsolicited advice is mostly harmless (but not entirely, I’ll address that later). Only take the advice that you agree with, even if they are “right” and you are “wrong”. Otherwise, your creative vision is hijacked. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t learn techniques for how to improve your craft, or accept life coaching to improve your relationships, work, etc., but that you should keep the final say- the “veto power”.

 

While most critics aren’t dangerous, always be alert. I’ve been “cancelled”. I’ve had death threats against me. I was told, “Good thing your dad didn’t live to see you grow up”. Mobs gave 1 star ratings to my public selling areas to ruin my career (and succeeded, I never sold again on those sites that they brought down to 1 star averages). I’ve been hacked, my work deleted, and a devil posted in its place. I’ve been censored, blacklisted, and slandered. I’ve been put on a public list for others to destroy. I’ve been hated and despised for no reason. I’m not thin skinned. I can take it. They can’t break me.

Truth be told, I don’t respect the opinions of people who are driven by hate and malice, who would seek to hurt and punish people they don’t even know. Had they even looked into who I am, and what motivates me? No. They don’t bother to research those they seek to tear down. It’s usually nothing personal. If you are being attacked, please know this. It’s seldom about you… do they even know you?

We feed our critics when we validate their attacks

by accepting them as truth,

by becoming emotionally defensive,

or by passively leaving in defeat.

Critics may hide behind socially acceptable excuses such as:

  • “I’m only trying to help”
  • “It’s just advice, take it or leave it”
  • “Just my opinion”


Or, they may flip the bully>victim dynamic to paint their victim as the bully:

  • “You don’t have to get bent out of shape!”
  • “Don’t attack the messenger”
  • “If you can’t handle criticism, you shouldn’t be (putting your work out there, saying something controversial, etc.)” In other words, blaming you.


Don’t fall for these shaming tactics. Ask yourself:

  1. What do I owe this person? (probably nothing!)
  2. What do they owe me? (politeness? What standards of social interaction do I have for myself, and do they meet those standards?)
  3. Does this exchange feel like “help” or harassment?
  4. What motive does this person have for approaching me? 
  5. Is this person dangerous?


Ultimately, we all deserve the right to surround ourselves with pleasant people whose advice we welcome, and limit our interactions with people whose “help” or feedback is meant to disrupt, hurt, or even endanger us.

Now, when it comes to mild criticism, like the kind I received about “Waves of the Sea“, it looks harmless on the face of it. It’s just advice, right? No. It broke the conversation that was meant to be healing and helpful to others. I work hard to serve humanity in this one small way, and someone was tone deaf and arrogant enough to ruin it in one tweet. How do the negative nellies have so much power? We can’t just roll over and let this pattern go unchecked, because trust me, it will only escalate.

It must be a spiritual phenomena because people will come out of the woodwork when I’m low and beaten. If I let the negative voices overwhelm me, it invites more in. When I imagine myself as strong, invincible and unsinkable, with a light that covers and protects my energy, and most of all I consciously work to maintain an honest motive to connect with others in a healing and positive way, the critics seem to wither away. When I am weak, they are strong. When I am strong, they are weak. 

Thoughtless people prey upon those they think will not defend themselves. They are spiritual and intellectual cowards. I wish I could teach you how powerful you are, but you may have to learn it through experience, if you haven’t already. Life is the best teacher, but it’s so painful and slow… if only the wisdom of the elders could be inherited by the young! Well, many have tried to tell us. I’m hoping that my children can learn these truths faster than I did. I would have been free so much earlier if only I’d known that I was more powerful than I realized.

But, if being raw and honest… I was set free when my mom passed away. She was my biggest and most hurtful critic. She often said she was angry to have been pregnant with me, but never once- not even when I took care of her every need when she was ill- never once did she add, “but I’m happy I decided to have you.” That one phrase would have been so healing. I never heard it. I made the choice to let go, forgive, and accept that I will never have closure unless I create closure for myself.

As the years passed, I learned that I didn’t need to hear it. My family is happy I was born. And *I* am happy I was born. I need neither the approval or permission of anyone to be joyful. I don’t need to be loved by anyone to be given worth, but I’m grateful to those who do love me. When we finally understand that we do not live under the authority of anyone but ourselves (for even God has granted us free will to choose who to serve), we stop letting critics disrupt our life’s purpose.

Stand your ground. Protect all the good things you are meant to do and share. Invest in yourself, your energy, and your inner light. These are treasures that do not belong to you, but are meant to bless the world. It is our responsibility to defend the treasure we are entrusted with.

If each of us holds steady, we’re like a lighthouse in a storm. We can shine a safe way back to others who are lost at sea. No matter how hard the waves rage and crash, may we persevere, and hold our light steady.

"Waves of the Sea" oil painting by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
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Lion of Judah oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas

Quiet Lion

Watch me paint this lion oil painting in 2 minutes (time lapse) I changed the music for this video today. Whatever you’re

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Painting Optimism

Painting optimism is conveyed through the confident use of vibrant colors, committed textures, and open compositions. Children often have an easier time painting boldly than adults do. For adults who are reluctant to let their paints loose on the canvas, it may be a helpful exercise to view children’s art, which is generally fearless and authentic.

When painting optimism, choose subjects who naturally radiate a positive attitude. “Puffin” is a delightful contented character who assures us that our world is a good place to be. He’s boldly black, white, and shades of fire colors, dominating the green landscape. His feathers are heavily textured and more detailed than the rather undefined background. As he stands tall on his rocky perch, the puffin’s optimism makes this funny stout little bird as majestic as the king of the animal kingdom as he overlooks the place he calls home.

When painting optimism, an artist must not be afraid to break the rules. Be symmetrical when art and design “experts” tell you not to be, and when they expect symmetry, skew the composition in a way that sets their teeth on edge. Let your confidence lead the way, listen to your intuition, and let the paints boldly flow.

Be as the “Sunflower” who turns his face toward the sun. Let no worries hold you back as you seek what will help you grow.

Sound on for good vibes

Painting optimism requires confidence from the artist. When we choose to focus on positive outcomes and our ability to make sound decisions, we see possibilities in hopeless situations and create solutions to our problems. The trivial constraints and insignificant expectations placed on us by others simply roll off us. We stand like the Puffin, strive like the Sunflower, and fly like the Hummingbird.

Bold art is created by bold artists.

The “Hummingbird” is impossibly small, yet that doesn’t stop him from flying. Now, obviously the bird has wings- whereas, a platypus can’t fly, no matter how much he wants to. So, when we speak of confidence, we assume that we have the proper wings to fly.  With that assumption in place, self-belief is critical to anything we want in life. When we believe we can, we can.

When the simplicity of that truth really lands, we are unstoppable.