Face painting personal trainer: the creative process and your inner editor


One of my favorite designs that I wear for events, but which came from another artist originally.

Writers have a little voice that makes them want to rewrite every line until it’s just right. It’s called the inner editor. There is a place for the inner editor, because once the rough draft is finished, she helps the writer trim, tighten, and perfect the end product. But if a writer allows the inner editor to have free rein during the first draft, the likelihood is that the writer may never make it out of chapter one, much less finish a book.

As it turns out, artists have inner editors, too. Again, allowed to show at the appropriate time, the inner editor can be helpful in honing skills, gleaning from critique, and becoming a stronger artist. Unfortunately, if an artist lets the inner editor have input at the wrong time, it can squelch creativity.

These are some thoughts which come to all artists during the creative process:

• This will never be right
• This isn’t good enough to share with other artists/people
• You’re not as good as that artist
• You’ll never be very good at this
• Don’t paint today—wait until you feel more creative
• Start over or just give up
• You’re not a real artist

These thoughts are not necessarily produced by your inner editor, but if you have a tendency to give in to negative thoughts and it is coupled with an overly active inner editor, it can cripple your creative process. What can you do? Here are some suggestions.


Set up a consistent creative practice time each day. If you’re a busy parent or work another job, this might seem impossible. If you miss once in awhile, don’t worry about it, but aim for every day. By scheduling this work time, it will help. Joining a face painting group such as “Inspiration to Paint” (on Facebook) is also a great way stay motivated to practice daily.

Turn off negative thoughts (and your inner editor) during practice time. If negative thoughts threaten to overwhelm you as you work, listen to an audio book or music to force your mind to think about something else. Creative practice time is not inner editor time. Tell your inner editor it can come out at the end of practice time to help you decide what you would change or try out in your next session.

Attempt designs by other artists. Maybe you’re stumped for an original idea. That’s okay. Warm up by copying the work of an artist you admire. Your work will not be a twin of the original, but it’s a good way to learn.

Just remember if you photograph and post your practice image that you should give credit to the original artist who came up with that piece in the first place. The term “inspired by” is reserved for original pieces you create which were sparked by someone else’s art or technique, and they have your own style to make them unique. When you copy exactly, or only make minor changes, your work has become a replica, and other artists will notice if you try to pass it off as your own. (An extra tip is that for contests, use your own unique ideas, not replicas. You’ll always be best at being yourself!)


This incorporates a technique Natalie Davies (and several other artists) use in their butterflies. I adapted it for this mermaid design and added some custom bling and an under texture, making it one of my favorite designs.

Sketch your ideas on paper in advance. Whatever your current drawing level, this process will help you think of stronger and more varied designs which you can paint during your practice sessions. Sketching as part of your brainstorming process can give you more confidence when you pick up your brush.

Understand creative time is for you. Fear is a huge creativity squasher for artists. What if no one likes what you created? What if other artists think it’s terrible? Well, so what? When you create art, it isn’t for other people anyway. It’s for you. While it’s true that sometimes you will be planning designs you can use for events and parties, creative time is still for you to be an artist with no strings attached. You don’t have to please anyone, and try to shake off the feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder, ready to judge your work.

Just paint. Paint good stuff. Paint bad stuff. Don’t worry about the results. If you invest in a daily creative time, the results will take care of themselves.


One of my favorite before and after shots. The left side is when I began face painting. The right side is a few years later.

When it’s time, let your inner editor participate. The inner editor is not a bad gal when it’s time to evaluate your work honestly, but you’ll have to stay objective and not let her hurt your feelings. Honesty can sting a little. As long as you remember that the artist you are tomorrow will be better than the one you are today, the inner editor’s critique won’t bother you as much.

P.S. Even the inner editor isn’t perfect. I noticed at least one error this morning, so I came back in to rewrite today, even after this post was published. It’s okay to go back and evaluate again with your inner editor after time has passed. Often that’s when you see the good and the bad more clearly!

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by Clownantics.com to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.

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