Take An Art Break

A Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art

Take an art break and be willing to make bad art

A Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art

By Lisa Rasmussen, M.F.A.

Co-Founding Director of Art is Moving

“Good” can be a stifling word — a word that makes you hesitate and stare at a blank page and second-guess yourself and throw stuff in the trash. What’s important is to get your hands moving and let the images come. Whether it’s good or bad is beside the point.

Austin Kleon

Do you believe there is good art and bad art? I do. I think we have all been trained from a very young age that things are good or bad. It’s one or the other. You are either doing it right or you are doing it wrong. This has caused the stifling and sometimes the paralyzation of our creative essence — Which just ain’t good!

Many of us have been victims of very unconscious teachers and authority figures. I remember being in 5th grade and having such a blast while I was creating a clay turtle. To my heartbreak, my teacher rushed to me and, without hesitation, crushed my creation. She was curt, told me it was all wrong and said, “Do it over.” This mindless action was a major and violent assault on my inner creator!

Have you experienced something similar? If you have, think about how that experience affected your own art and it’s process. Did you stop creating? Have you become a perfectionist? How did this traumatic experience affect your empowered voice of self expression?

Forward thinker and change maker, Sir Ken Robinson states, “Picasso once said this. He said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” (From his TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity)

Have you been educated out of being the artist that you truly are? Even if call yourself an artist, have you stopped just playing? Have you stopped creating works that are just about the process of creating? Does every artwork you create have to serve a purpose other than play and experience? Reminisce for a bit. Think about when you were a child. In your mind, there was no art market, no politics; virtually, there was no agenda to creativity. You just did it. And you did it with verve, right?

Today, I challenge you to put on that divine child hat and experiment with the notion of taking an art break without any expectations of the outcome. Just give yourself permission to create! Contemplate, creating from a space of unconditional radical self acceptance. Breath a sense of mystery and courage into your creative process. Let go of any notions about what is right and what is wrong. Be willing to make bad and/or good art!


A Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art

The Recipe

I.  Plan and Prioritize

Schedule your art break.

  • You will need a block of creative time for at least 15 minutes.
  • Remember this is all be about you!

Gather supplies

  • Mirror, Smartphone, or tablet. Experiment with each.
  • 8” x 10” paper is good. Sketch paper or copy printer is great.
  • Marker, pen, pencil, oil pastels, and anything else you want to bring to the mix.

Set a Take an Art Break Intention

Imagine a world… where it is about the beauty of all of us creating and expressing our individual gorgeous voices; Making and creating without judgement, where diversity reigns and personal sovereignty is key!  ~ Lisa

  • Embrace that art breaks are all about self care.
  • Think about this experience as a self like/love ritual and that you really deserve this “Me time!”
  • Activate your inner child and intend to play uncensored, like a toddler.
  • Look into the depths of your own eyes with non judgement.

II.  Process

  • Begin by checking in with yourself. How are you feeling? How was your day? You can write this in your journal or on the back of your paper.
  • Sit in front of the mirror or smart phone and draw your self portrait using your non-dominant hand.
  • Check in within yourself. Any thoughts coming up?
  • Take note if your inner critic has pounced into the mix or any other voices.
  • Look into your eyes and try to come from a place of neutrality.
  • Finish your drawing using your dominant hand.
  • Feel free to work on this more if you like.
  • If you want to go deeper with this art break, you can do two or more self portraits. I did mine on three separate days.

III.  Reflection

  • Stare at your work and write a short paragraph about it. Be as neutral as possible. Compare how you are feeling now to how you felt when you began your art break. Any surprises? Any challenges? Any new insights? Think about how it feels to be the subject and the object at the same time.
  • If you created the series of two or three self portraits reflect on each one. How did each vary? By the second or third self portrait, did you feel like you had let go of anything? Was there a difference between looking at yourself in the mirror versus the screen of your tablet/smartphone?

IV.  Show us your Art Break!

  • If you dare, share. Share it on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #takeanartbreak. We would love to see what you created and hear about your process.
  • Check out this great article about the power of sharing one’s art.
Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art
Self Portrait I. Staring into my Ipad after surfing the sad/bad news on my Facebook feed.
Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art
Self Portrait II. Staring into a mirror after taking a beach meditation walk.
Self Portrait: Be Willing to Make Bad Art
Self Portrait III. Staring in the mirror after looking at Artist Paul Klee’s work.

Sweet! I found a missing piece

I remembered as a child and teenager I loved to do self portraits all the time for self inquiry. From this art break experience, I have rekindled this arts and healing practice within me. After each portrait, I felt a sense release and peace, as well as a strong provocation to dive deeper into self exploration and reflection about what these works were revealing to me. From this art break recipe, I have become inspired to create a self portrait everyday for at least a month. We shall see what I learn from my inner worlds. Would love to know if anything juicy came up for you. ~ Lisa

Want to read more about the benefits of taking this kind of art break?

Check out these links:

Truly Me Time. It is healthy habit, that helps you stay inspired, distressed, refreshed, and renewed.

The Self Portrait holds a lot of power.The most important reason is because the creative process is one of self discovery and realization and not just technical know-how.”

Creating a Self Portrait promotes healing.

Seriously, creating art is sooooo good for you. “The contributions that art can make to psychological well-being via enjoyment, immersion, development of skill, revelation and expression of emotion, shaping of self, connections with people and a culture, and the potential for transcendent experience apply both to people without mental disorders and those with mental disorders.”

Believe it or not, making bad art is actually good for you. Whether you (or others) deem your creations “good” or “bad” isn’t nearly as valuable as the experience of creating them. I believe there is a shift that happens in your soul when you give it the freedom to create something.   Creating is a way of getting what’s inside out in whatever form it comes out.

Feel free to read more about the

benefits of art on our resource page here.

Art is Moving creates, initiates, and shares community art projects that encourage and empower people to make art part of their daily life. We do this because we know that art makes people better. And, better people make a better world.

A group of kid's celebrate after receiving an opportunity to take an art break.

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One Comment


    Aside: Art has saved my life. I grew up in a very domestically violent home and my Mom taught me ~ how to navigate through the healing powers of art. Art became my tool for balance & healing. The Art Break that I offer you is not just a moment of a trivial experience, but a journey to understand who and why we are here. And that you can make a positive impact in this world and reach your greatest potential!