Which Dog Are You Feeding?

October 9, 2015


Above: Sketch made with the Pentel brush pen with pigmented ink and color added with various acrylic markers. (Japanese Lined Journal, slightly grey paper, approx. 8.75 x 11 inches.) I used this sketch from my journal to day because it shows my Editing Eye in action, not content to stop at a really bad drawing, it took another view and another go at it. And when that got a bit confused or wonky it was about to judge what was off and tell me what to fix. The point is not to get to a perfect drawing, but to find a way to see and learn; and prepare for the next time.

I've written a lot in the past two weeks about self-evaluations, being honest with yourself about why you want to draw, and the fear that stops many people.

Today I have one short thought. 

I don't think an internal critic has any value in our creative lives.  

What does have a place in our creative lives is an “artistic/style” editing voice. I call this the Editing Eye. 

He can help you see issues in your work in a constructive way on which you can build. 

For me the Editing Eye, or simply editor, is not the Internal Critic. I don't think in those terms. 

I believe it is important that you find a way to create a healthy vocabulary for yourself about what you want to call any of these "entities.” Then focus on keeping that editor at hand, to aid you in improving your piece of art. And, if necessary, to help you silence any negative voices you might hear. or have bouncing around in your head.

The Editing Eye will never tell say, “You’re worthless,” or “Your art is shit.” That’s the way the internal critic functions. 

The Editing Eye will provide clear and specific criticism with a direction for how to fix something. This is positive. It entails seeing what is really there, judging its artistic and stylistic merits, and assessing ways to get out of the mess you drew yourself into.

Your Editing Eye will say, “Your forehead on this portrait is too wide and tall. You need to work on your visual measuring, perhaps even step back to appropriate exercises.” He has given you a specific criticism and given you a way to work out of it. Sure it’s going to be more work, but he’s your partner and he’s up for the extra work. He also believes you're up for the work.

The Internal Critic is always suggesting ways you can quit early for the day, or simply give up.

You can tell the difference if you listen to the vocabulary each uses. Yes the Editing Eye will give you criticism, but it is always framed in a positive way with a specific way for dealing with the issue.

I think of it this way—in one or more of William Kent Kruger's books his main character, Cork, is told by his shaman that every soul has two dogs, and the dog you feed is the dog that grows strong.  

Now all this was discussed in scenes about the choice between love and hate, between living an expansive life or shutting down to achieve revenge.

But I think it applies equally to the the artistic mind. You can feed the entity which criticizes things with sweeping and meaningless generalizations, or you can feed the entity which uses a positive and specific vocabulary to help you see clearly what is in front of you and change it in specific ways, so that you can achieve your goals.

You feed one by listening to it. That’s how it grows stronger. It’s your choice which you feed.

It's helpful, if your mind is going to be distracted in a negative way, to ask yourself, “Which dog do I want to feed? Which dog am I feeding? What kind of life do I want to have?"

Note: You can read about how I view my internal critic here.

    • Kim
    • October 9, 2015

    YES! Well said! The editor helps to improve, the critic just judges!

  1. Reply

    I love this post Roz! Editing means you are working on a “finished” product – writing drawing, painting…

  2. Reply

    Cathleen, glad you liked it. Remember, you don’t have to be working on a “finished” product to use your Editing Eye. He will help in experiments, to discover a more efficient or startling way, and he will help in daily practice to keep you going forward in your process, so that you can get to finished pieces, even if you aren’t working on one right now. He’s a great buddy to have in all creative endeavors. He doesn’t stop or retard the flow.

  3. Reply

    Hi Roz,

    I wanted to let you know I commented on this post on my blog (at

    Thanks. You gave me a new way of looking at this.


  4. Reply

    Dianne, I’m glad that this post came at the right time to enter your thoughts. I haven’t seen the movie you mentioned in your post so I’ll have to check it out.

    I hope you’re getting back into the studio again! Have a great fall season.

    • Robin
    • January 3, 2017

    I’m new to drawing and painting and also happen to live in Minneapolis. I found your blog through Sketchbook Skool. This post really spoke to me. Thank you! I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  5. Reply

    Thanks for writing in Robin. Since you live in the Cities you should think about coming to the MCBA Visual Journaling Collective on the Third Monday of each month. It’s free, it’s adults. 7 to 9 p. January is our portrait party so we start at 6:30 p.m. and there’s a $5 cost for photocopying costs, but otherwise…

    Hope to see you sometime. Keep feeding your editing eye!

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