Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

Over years of making art, essays, and classes, I’ve learned that our mindset is the most powerful and influential tool we have as artists. It’s not talent, or expensive pens, or a fancy art school education that makes or breaks our art. It’s our mindset.

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to have a perfectly positive, everything-I-make-is-great attitude. That’s unrealistic, and at times, ignorant. Instead, I think the artist mindset we need is more similar to what psychologists call Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

According to Wikipedia, EQ is:

“the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”

When I started applying this idea to creativity, I started thinking of our mindset as our Artistic Intelligence (AQ?). And I’m defining AQ as the capability for us to recognize how we’re feeling when we’re making art, label those feelings accurately, and use our knowledge and resources to guide our thinking and behavior to manage our feelings in a way that allows us to make the art we want to make.

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

This idea of Artistic Intelligence is something I’ve been incubating in my head for a while now. We’re not taught as artists how to directly deal with the mental struggles and obstacles that come up when we make art. We’re expected to figure it out on our own, leading many artists to get overcome and quit.

And it’s understandable why people stop drawing. Those difficult feelings that sneak up on us when we sit down to draw—the insecurity, doubt, fear, perfectionism, and expectations—those feelings are hard to deal with.

And on top of that, we’re ashamed that we have these feelings at all, and have the assumption that we should be able to just get over them. This leads us to ignore them, shove them down, and become unaware of the power these feelings have on our minds and art.

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

The sparse advice that does exist out there on overcoming mental obstacles as an artist is just a pile of unhelpful platitudes and cheers to just “stay positive”, “trust yourself”, and “follow your heart”.

Well, how the heck are we supposed to trust ourself when we’re in the midst of self-doubt and self-criticism? You can’t just wish these thoughts away.

And I think that leads to one of the overarching problem. Many people believe that becoming an artist means getting rid of these feelings. They think: if I were a real artist, I wouldn’t have so much doubt. If I were a real artist, I would just know how to draw in my own style. If I were a real artist, I wouldn’t hate what comes out of my pen onto the page.

But I don’t buy into that. These feelings of discomfort are a part of artmaking, just like they’re a part of life. And building a strong Artistic Intelligence doesn’t mean getting rid of those feelings, it means being able to see them clearly and manage them.

We can’t remove struggle and obstacles from our life. Sometimes making art is just difficult. But we can learn how to deal with uncertainty and strengthen our resiliency.

Why You Need to Build Up Your Artistic Intelligence. Christine Nishiyama, Might Could Studios.

And then, when those difficult feelings creep in as we work, we’ll have the knowledge and resources to not get sucked in, and instead to see them for what they are—normal, natural feelings that we can manage—so can keep making our art.


What do you struggle with most?

This topic is a big one, and I’m working on more resources on how to built up our AQ. Which mental obstacles do you struggle with the most that you would like help overcoming? Let me know and I’ll be sure to address it in the future!

​Join the group discussion in Might Could Studiomates or comment below to share your thoughts with us!

4 Responses

  1. I struggle with how art is supposed to be “for” other people and be so grand to justify making it and committing oneself to being an artist. I struggle with how heavily loaded the label “artist” is and how everyone projects so many ideas onto artists without their permission. Like how artists dress a certain way, or that an artist must focus on a particular thing because it won’t make sense to anyone. Artists are lazy, artists are unfocused, artists are illogical, irrational and unintelligent. Artists are overly sensitive and overly emotional. Artists are dramatic and don’t understand social rules. Artists are born that way and because they are lazy they ride on their “talent” because by their nature they would never work hard to develop any skill. There are more heavily loaded ideas about artists. But I despise the fact that it is wrapped up in capitalist ideas. It is a product to sell yes. But I don’t like how art is seen as only more valuable if you do sell it and the more an artist sells, and the more people want to shine up to the artist rubbing elbows with them being all high society. It is deeply personal to me and I despise other people so easily manipulating and changing my experience and relationship with it. I despise that people don’t know how to look at art because they don’t know how to look at or be with themselves or other people as human beings rather than walking robots with floating shiny veneers. It takes training to learn how to look at art as it does to be with ourselves and other people to take down the constructs and the fake surface image. People don’t understand that art can do more to show us who we are than any mirror. People would rather not look and would rather project perfect stories and images to the world every second of their lives. It’s natural to some degree. But if you look around it is rather like an addiction that people have. And everything including art becomes caught up in that self involved addiction to false and shiny veneers. Art has always carried the weight of the greater human psyche and I don’t expect it will ever be free to simply be free and unfettered by human “great expectations”.

    1. That is definitely a lot of expectations to live up to! I can see why that would be such a struggle, and I agree that it’s unfortunate people have preconceived notions about how an artist should make art, live, and just generally be. It kept me from claiming the title artist for a long time too, because I didn’t exactly fit in that stereotype. But I think it’s gotta be up to us to say “to heck with them” and forge our own path. Other people will always have things to say and opinions no matter what we do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. My biggest struggle is discipline to stick with it. Once I’m in, I love it! But I’ve gotta get “in the zone”. My other struggle is those times when I know I have at least a half dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but nothing is coming out on paper. I just stare at an empty page. I’m still working at being a doodler & just drawing for the heck of it; not a project to be posted.
    Thanks Christine!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 Responses

  1. I struggle with how art is supposed to be “for” other people and be so grand to justify making it and committing oneself to being an artist. I struggle with how heavily loaded the label “artist” is and how everyone projects so many ideas onto artists without their permission. Like how artists dress a certain way, or that an artist must focus on a particular thing because it won’t make sense to anyone. Artists are lazy, artists are unfocused, artists are illogical, irrational and unintelligent. Artists are overly sensitive and overly emotional. Artists are dramatic and don’t understand social rules. Artists are born that way and because they are lazy they ride on their “talent” because by their nature they would never work hard to develop any skill. There are more heavily loaded ideas about artists. But I despise the fact that it is wrapped up in capitalist ideas. It is a product to sell yes. But I don’t like how art is seen as only more valuable if you do sell it and the more an artist sells, and the more people want to shine up to the artist rubbing elbows with them being all high society. It is deeply personal to me and I despise other people so easily manipulating and changing my experience and relationship with it. I despise that people don’t know how to look at art because they don’t know how to look at or be with themselves or other people as human beings rather than walking robots with floating shiny veneers. It takes training to learn how to look at art as it does to be with ourselves and other people to take down the constructs and the fake surface image. People don’t understand that art can do more to show us who we are than any mirror. People would rather not look and would rather project perfect stories and images to the world every second of their lives. It’s natural to some degree. But if you look around it is rather like an addiction that people have. And everything including art becomes caught up in that self involved addiction to false and shiny veneers. Art has always carried the weight of the greater human psyche and I don’t expect it will ever be free to simply be free and unfettered by human “great expectations”.

    1. That is definitely a lot of expectations to live up to! I can see why that would be such a struggle, and I agree that it’s unfortunate people have preconceived notions about how an artist should make art, live, and just generally be. It kept me from claiming the title artist for a long time too, because I didn’t exactly fit in that stereotype. But I think it’s gotta be up to us to say “to heck with them” and forge our own path. Other people will always have things to say and opinions no matter what we do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. My biggest struggle is discipline to stick with it. Once I’m in, I love it! But I’ve gotta get “in the zone”. My other struggle is those times when I know I have at least a half dozen ideas rolling around in my head, but nothing is coming out on paper. I just stare at an empty page. I’m still working at being a doodler & just drawing for the heck of it; not a project to be posted.
    Thanks Christine!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *