How can self-awareness help your craft?

Self awareness as a technique for learning

Day three of 8 day pose of Brian by Julie Dyer HolmesWhat does self-awareness have to do with art school? Consider this, Studio Incamminati Instructor and painterĀ JaFang Lu said the following to me and my classmates (more than once) this year (and last), “I can share my knowledge with you but I cannot tell you how to manage your tendencies.”

What does she mean by ‘tendencies?’ I confess that at first, I had no idea. Given my background and religious upbringing, I figured she meant something for which I must feel deeply guilty. Like what? Well, perhaps something such as The Seven Deadly Sins?

Then as I continued to receive challenging, constructive criticism about my painting, I started to realize what she meant by tendencies. Anyone feel vulnerable for me yet? I am about to share some kind of embarrassing habits I have. But guess what? Being aware of oneself is, I have learned, extremely important to know. Why? Because I want to learn ways to manage my tendencies – that’s why.

So before I share some of my dorky, goofy habits that have gotten in the way of my painting progress, check out this fantastic article on self-awareness. It will blow your mind! And, if you are a teacher or a parent or a coach or an artist, I hope this article helps you, too.

My Tendencies

Alright, here goes, I am now sharing my most embarrassing tendencies: 1) I am not particularly analytical 2) I am not methodical and 3) I am not organized. So, now that I have completely bared my soul to you, dear reader, I need your help pulling me back from the edge of the cliff.

Well, not really! The truth is I am quite relieved to be aware of these tendencies. And, it’s not because I am doing the Daily Affirmation. It’s because I have developed strategies and tactics to address each of these tendencies.

Self awareness in action a more organized palette for Julie Dyer HolmesI am using the current figure painting (shown above) to address these tendencies. How? I am limiting the painting to black and white and every value in between. I am working from the shadows (dark) to the brightest areas by organizing the paint I mix on my palette (see the photo of paint mixed from black to white). This is a very counter intuitive way for me to work. But, what I am finding is that by organizing the values on my palette, I am more comfortable being more methodical about my paint application and it is easier for me to analyze what values need to go where.

Am I becoming more analytical? Who knows! Do I feel as if I am making progress? Ummm sort of? Do I feel as if I am changing how I am wired? Kinda but I also know that the more methodical and organized I can become, the better I will be able to address painting problems now and in the future.

Whew! This art school stuff is hard work. But maybe you already know that? Share your war stories here.


  1. Beth Clary
    October 13, 2017

    Oh-oh … just read your article AND the self-awareness article. Looks like I’m in deep trouble!

    • Julie Holmes
      October 13, 2017

      Hi Beth, Woohoo – sooo glad you read each!

      Even though we’re not engaging “The Art of War” (although some days it feels that way to me) there is tremendous value in situation awareness aka “Awareness is the first step!”

      Onward into the fog, right?


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