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Can Magical Thinking Make You a Better Artist?

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Magical thinking features in the best fairytales, films and novels written for children. Painting has properties of magic built in.

Here are some properties of Art you can think of as 'Real Magic.'

  • For artists, the dimension of time is repealed while at work in the studio.
  • For art-lovers, pleasure becomes a condition of mind. While they contemplate creations of fine Art in public museums or their collections at home, the worries of  everyday life fade away.


  • Medical science recognises the significant effects of pain-control experienced by patients who enrol in art courses or join art groups.

Psychologists report beneficial changes in behaviour when clients undertake various forms of Art therapy such as pottery classes, wood-craft or painting.

So, what is meant by the term 'Magical Thinking?'

This refers to a belief that certain events cause effects that aren't related in fact and aren't supported by any scientific evidence. Well known examples include:

A benefit of some kind received after praying to a sainted figure.
A lottery win after rubbing a lucky charm such as a rabbit's foot.

  • In other words, magical thinking is the belief you can effect change in the real world by something you do. Because his experience is so limited, it's natural for an infant to consider himself the centre of the universe. In adults, it's an extreme form of vanity. 

A classic example of magical thinking in children's literature occurs when Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. She drinks one potion that shrinks her to a tiny size, then a second that makes her a giant. Each change gives her new adventures, some exciting, others scary. Children enjoy scary adventures from within the safety of home, where, as they believe, nothing really bad can really harm them.

  • Like young children and the superstitious, beginners sometimes wonder if alcohol or narcotics will make them better artists. Popular folklore focuses on stories of the tormented genius, fuelled by drugs and drink. In fact, finding a genius painter or writer who did it while stoned is difficult indeed because making art is hard work.

Picasso had a reputation as a 'hard drinker' but he knew better than to combine drink and painting. He kept daytime for socialising and worked at night – in silence and the solitude that is essential for making art. With his enormous output of paintings, drawings, sculpture and pottery, Picasso counts among the most prolific of artists.


  • Truth is, real-life artists don't swing between 'binges' of art-making and 'skiving-off.' All else - except their loved ones - comes second to Art.

Not so long ago, many young men were seduced by the myth they were better drivers when they'd 'put away a few' at the pub. The statistics of road fatalities show up the tragic flaw in that belief.

If you feel you need a 'high' – one that's reliable and without horrible side-effects – here's my best suggestion: make a collection of your favourite music to play in your studio. Remember, your studio is whatever space you put aside for artwork every day.

  • A schedule for your studio time is the vital first step in becoming a professional artist. You may be able to dedicate only 2 hours of the day or evening to making art. So, make those 2 hours count.

May you achieve success by whatever standard means the most to you.©Dorothy Gauvin

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