It’s really exciting to get praise and “attaboys” for our artwork. It feels great when everybody in the show seems to like what we have produced. It’s awesome when the judges give us high marks and collectors seem to be connected and excited to see our work.
And boy, does it ever SUCK when the opposite happens. Bombing, or feeling that your hard work was disrespected, overlooked, or judged to harshly isn’t much fun when it happens to you, is it? It is bound to happen to evenyone from time-to-time. Even worse is when a judge or show promotor comes up afterward to tell you exactly where and how you failed. It’s tough to accept critizism. It’s hard to hear harsh words, or even honest comments that are less than flattering. When we’ve put a ton of time, effort and energy into a project, the harder it is to hear someone tell us that it just isn’t very good, or that we could have done better.
Learning to accept critizism and critique, and learning how to use it as a tool for improvement is the thing that will help you improve beyond everyone else. So how do we go about it?
First, it’s important to accept the fact that things don’t always make sense – It’s as simple as that! You will occassionally have problems selling a piece that you thought was great. Not everyone will like your best work. Someone will get an award, or judged higher in a competition, and yet, you know your work (or someone elses) is far better and meets the elements of composition much better. Whatever it is, it doesn’t always make sense…but it happens! ACCEPT IT AND MOVE ON.
If critizism is constructive and offers suggestions for improvement, it can be invalueable. However, not all critizism is helpful, and frankly some may even be damaging, but how are you to know if you are unwilling to even accept that it may have merit. People can be crude or rude, and put your work down. Listening to what critics or judges say isn’t fun. But even the most harsh/hateful critizism can point out areas where we can improve. You have to realize that not everyone “sees” things the way you do. Regardless of their credentials or education, the judging of, or critiques we receive are just opinions…nothing more, nothing less. In many cases, judges simply gravitate to work that appeals to their personal taste. (and let’s face it, they are often quite arrogant about their likes and dis-likes.) Many judges are really not qualified to judge every aspects of art. ie. is a landscape artist the best person to give critique on a 3-dimensional sculpture?
To illustrate my point, I’ll tell you of a personal experience at a recent art show. I had worked feverishly to complete a sculpture in time for the show. I knew the detail was accurate. I had paid close attention to what I’d been taught of the elements of art in the composition, and had spent hours painting it. Yet the judges were far less than impressed. Their private comments left me wondering if I’d done anything right. They were harsh, and in some ways disrespectful. Little was said positive. I went away from that show, very dejected, and questioning my ability or desire to continue sculpting. Little more than a week later however, I had an opportunity to have the same sculpture judged by one of the leading 3-dimensional female artists in the country. She spent a long time examining the piece, then took several minutes to tell me what I’d done right. Lastly she said, “I think this particular area might be better presented if you’d try this….” Oddly, it was some of the same comments that I’d received from the earlier art show, but done in a positive way.
I’ve concluded, there are two types of comments we receive on our work. SOME POSITIVE-SOME NEGATIVE. They can both be helpful, and at times both need to be disregarded. You’ll occassionally get comments that are hurtful, and praise (like “You’re so good” or “It’s cute”) that are useless in terms of improving. Opinions…everyone has them. Every critic has their own idea of what something should look like, or what color it should be. It’s O.K. if you don’t agree with them. The fact that a person has taken the time to comment on your work, whether positive or negative, means that it has touched them in some way. NEVER GIVE-UP! CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO IMPROVE. Learn from the experience, and if you felt you received a bad critique, judging or disrespect….DEMAND OF YOURSELF TO OVERCOME THAT EXPERIENCE AND MOVE ON. In the end, you’ll be a better artist for it.