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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Shoulding on Art

Take a look at the above-featured drawing. What do you see? What do you think when looking at it? How do you feel when observing it? What projected inferences do you maintain about this piece of art? Do you value it? What do you imagine about the artist who created it?

Suppose I told you that the person who designed this work of art was a biracial (black and white) boy who grew up in the abusive homes of both biological parents, as his posttraumatic stress disorder was incurred in childhood. What result would this information have in regards to your opinion about the art itself?

Perhaps you knew the boy’s undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in childhood led to him being bullied by other children and educators alike. Would this impact your perspective regarding his drawing?

Maybe if you knew the boy left home in seventh grade and was a resident of a children’s home, a place in which he created this work of art, your opinion would change. What do you now think or feel about the art piece?

Perchance your viewpoint is unmoved by the facts I’ve provided about the artist thus far. It may benefit you to know that the boy grew into a man and is now a disabled military veteran who spends his days trying to help people improve their mental health.

Has your assessment of the art changed in relation to the added details? Imagining you are unmoved by anything referenced herein, and that you consider the drawing an unsightly attempt at a self-portrait, would you be open to ridicule from others for not considering the artist’s story when determining the worth of his art?

Suppose someone says to you, “How dare you not like this drawing? It’s beautiful!” Would you reconsider your original assessment?

If another person states, “You’re a bigot for not liking this drawing, because people with disabilities shouldn’t be judged according to the standards of able-bodied individuals.” Would you accept the criticism and readjust your previous perspective?

Does the value you place on artistic endeavors require information about the artist in order for you to deem works of art valuable or not? From what I can tell, this is precisely how many musical talent shows are judged—using an artist’s backstory to generate support of mediocre performances.

Are you equally influenced by sob stories about how a singer’s single mother who worked three jobs was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? What utility is there is in knowing an artist’s backstory when determining whether or not you value a work of art?

I am the artist who created the above-depicted drawing. The art class assignment was for students to create a self-portrait by not looking at the paper, using only reflection from a mirror as guidance, and to use minimal interruptions from the drawing medium and the paper (don’t lift up the marker, if possible).

In no way do I expect others to appreciate my drawing. More importantly, I think it would be absurd for someone to value the piece of art based largely on any information I’ve provided about my identity, disabilities, or otherwise.

Using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I don’t maintain rigid should, must, or ought-type demands regarding others and their assessment of my art piece. In other words, I’m not going to should all over others with my irrational beliefs.

How about you? Will you allow the commands of others to dictate how you perceive artistic works? Are you willing to hand over your critical assessment of art to postmodern adherents who claim things such as “there is no objective standard of beauty” or “art is subjective”?

Maybe you watch a movie that was created with propagandistic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards and you consider the film trite garbage, though you don’t want to be called a “bigot,” so you praise the art for merits unrelated to its entertainment value. Is that how you choose to live your life?

If so, fine. Are you also willing to tolerate and accept that many other people who reject DEI principles aren’t “bigots” for doing so? I’m unbothered by the opinions of others who deem my above-displayed drawing as ugly trash.

After all, I’m not entitled to the appreciation of others. Likewise, no one else is immune from my subjective critique concerning their works of art. In the words of lyricist Common on “The 6th Sense,” “If I don’t like it, I don’t like it; that don’t mean that I’m hatin’.”

I’m not shoulding on art, nor do I accept the demands of others who should on me and my perception regarding the art of others. How about you, dear reader, where do you stand on this matter?

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


American Film Institute. (n.d.). The American Film Institute’s commitment to equity & inclusion. Retrieved from

Common. (2009, October 7). Common - The 6th Sense ft. Bilal [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from

Eden Gallery. (2021, September 23). Postmodern art definition. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 12). Stop shoulding everywhere. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Common (rapper). Retrieved from

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