Conquering the Inner Gorgon

Pen and Ink, Photoshop | October 15, 2005 | By

I’ve been doing a lot of blind contour drawings, prompted mainly by the wonderful group activity instigated by Niff and Sutter over at Inkfinger … and that led naturally to doing some contour drawings with eyes wide open – looking at both the picture and the paper. This one was done in 2-3 minutes in the conventional way, trying to keep the penpoint on the paper at all times. The picture was chosen at random from a book – it’s Cellini’s sculpture of Perseus displaying the head of the gorgon Medusa. Medusa had the nasty habit of turning people to stone just with a look.

Only after I drew this did the underlying message and the synchronicity of my image choice become apparent. What is the Medusa but the Inner Critic who can turn creative enthusiasm to stone in the blink of an eye?

The inner critic sees the tentative pencil scratches on the paper. “You drew that? Better keep your day job.” Stone.

“Why are you wasting your time with this? Don’t you have something better to do?” Stone.

“You know, you’re really too old to try to learn anything new.” Stone, stone, stone.

The myth gives a very apt metaphor for dealing with such enemies, whether they are outer gorgons or those that lie within. With help of wisdom (Athena) and a magical mirror-like shield Perseus tracks down the Medusa in its den and catches it off guard. He never looks at it directly but uses a bit of subterfuge as he dispatches it. Me, I have my own style. My sword is a pen and it’s name is Practice. Like Perseus, I don’t argue with my medusa-critic or try to stare it down because I know such encounters can be fatal to the creative spirit. Instead, when I hear its snakes come hissing words of discouragement and defeat, I turn my attention back to the blank page and get busy. It can threaten all it wants but it can’t touch me. And one of these days I may finally have the strength to give it a mortal blow.