Making Room For Your Orphaned Self

Nancy Hillis, M.D.
May 22, 2016 · 3 min read
Experimental Study #5
Experimental Study #5
Experimental Study #5, Acrylic & graphite on paper — 7" x 15". Nancy Hillis

Making Room For Your Orphaned Self

In The Artist’s Journey: 3 Secrets Of The Masters online course we have wonderful discussions about painting process, story, influences, why we create, inner narrative, dialogue, and meaning.

One interesting topic we explore is the experience of creating a work and not liking it.

Sometimes we see these paintings as ‘ugly’.

Let’s Paint Some ‘Ugly’ Paintings

Years ago when I was painting landscapes and figurative abstractions my friend Sharon Mayes would call me and say: ‘Hey Nancy, let’s go paint some ugly paintings!’

It was incredibly liberating.

What if you allow yourself to paint whatever is coming through you at any given moment?

It’s freeing to just let these creations live…even the ones you deem ‘ugly’…and allow them to just be…to not go in and ‘fix’ them but rather to sit with them for awhile.

These experiences are so important. I believe this is a huge part of trusting yourself…

The Feast

I’m reminded of a story of a person having a feast. The groaning board of the table is laden with the finest fruits of the land and sea.

Wine and champagne fill the glasses to overflowing.

Steaming silver platters heaped high with succulent roasts and morsels round out the dreamy image.

The vision blurred through frosted windows.

Outside the glass house where the feast is taking place there’s an orphan with her nose pressed against the glass looking in beseechingly… forlorn and yearning to be invited in…

Will You Invite Your Orphaned Self To The Feast?

Will you invite back in the orphaned off parts of yourself? the parts you’ve rejected?

Will you allow yourself to experiment, explore and be astonished by what emerges?

Will you search and find your way as you paint?

Will you trust yourself?

Will you allow yourself to make ‘ugly’ paintings?

I believe that our so-called ugly paintings are absolutely vital to our journey and our experience as artists.

I believe that they’re often the nascent forms of something new that’s being birthed and sometimes they ARE the new thing!

It’s just that we’re having difficulty seeing or valuing it because it’s new, raw, and unfamiliar.

Let’s Live With These Raw Works

Hang them on your wall or store them away and look at them again in a week, a month, a year later and see what you feel.

You may find that what you found to be ugly is a work that is astonishing and alive.

This week in the course we’re delving into the mother lode topic of Composition.

I believe that ultimately composition is intuitive and is refined over time as our vision and voice evolves. Stay tuned for more on that topic!

In the meanwhile if you’d like to learn about The Artist’s Journey: 3 Secrets Of The Mastersonline course you can check it out here.

With love,


P.S. If you’d like to begin to lay the foundation of creating your deepest work by exploring your inner landscape and your big Why for creating, register for my free 7 day email course: The Artist’s Journey: Creating Your Deepest Work. Here is the link:


Originally published at Nancy Hillis.

Nancy Hillis, M.D.

Written by

Artist, speaker, Stanford trained psychiatrist and best-selling author of The Artist’s Journey® books. Currently teaching artists at

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