Criticism & Feedback on Artwork

Photo by  Debby Hudson  on  Unsplash

After my first art show in June of 2018, I was asked by a local professional artist if I would like to come to his studio to watch him paint and learn about his art techniques.

Because I’m not dumb, I agreed.

Over the past 6 months since I started going to his studio, my art has improved by about a million percent.

However.

One part I still find difficult, and noticed once again this week, is how hard it is for me to open myself up to criticism and commentary on my works-in-progress paintings - even though I know the process is helping me improve and get better.

So, what the hell’s up with that?

My mentor always tells me “I’m not criticizing you, I’m just pointing out areas for you to fix.”

To which I always reply, “Yup, totally understand!”

But still, it is hard sometimes. Just this morning, he had to tell me not to justify what I’d done every time he points out an error. I hadn’t realized I was doing this, but he was right, every time he found a flaw in my painting, I would hurry up and jump in to defend myself with the reason I did that, or with how it was unfinished. He asked me, “Did you grow up with a lot of criticisim? From your mother, or your father?”

“My mother,” I told him. “She could criticize without even saying a word.”

“Ahh,” was the reply.

Hearing Honest Feedback is Part of Being an Artist

I know he understood, but it still makes me realize that I need to become better at hearing critical comments and not getting immediately defensive. If it’s that hard for me to hear stuff from someone who is genuinely trying to help me improve, what will it be like when someone criticizes my work in public? Or when I have to deal with a hater on the Internet?

Not everyone is going to love the type of art I create. Not everyone is going to think I am actually good at it. And some people will say mean or hurtful things no matter what anyway.

I won’t be able to escape some form of criticism or commentary on my work if I want people to see my paintings. Its just what comes from the territory. There’s only so long they can sit in my studio unseen.

I admit I am probably a little more thin skinned than most. It could be because of my personality type - INFJ - and how I am a little more prone to being sensitive to insults, negative feedback, and criticism. It could also be partly because I was raised by an extremely critical parent and as a result I feel a constant “not good enough-ness.” Or maybe a combination of both of those things.

But I have a burning need to create. I’ve turned my dining room into an art studio. I definitely can’t turn my back on art because I’m scared someone won’t like my work (and by extension, me, says the little demon in my head). That would be silly.

So I’ve been working on being okay with hearing feedback. And actual criticism. And criticism disguised as helpful feedback.

All of that stuff.

How to Deal with Criticism so it Doesn’t Bring You Down

I think the biggest takeaway for me to learn, and you if you struggle with this as well, is to always understand the intent of the feedback you are being given. Is the person trying to offer advice, help, or an educated opinion? Chances are their feedback isn’t intended to be hurtful. It’s meant to point out what you aren’t able to see so you can improve and learn.

Is it damn good advice? Really? Photo by  Frame Harirak  on  Unsplash

Is it damn good advice? Really? Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

Is it something you asked someone to tell you, or are they offering their opinion even though you didn’t ask for it? Try to brush off unasked-for criticism. Sometimes people online and in person will offer their thoughts whether you wanted to hear them or not. If their comments are overly critical and they don’t have experience or education in your particular area, disregard and roll on. NO point dwelling on ignorance!

So, what do you think? Is one of the skills you need to develop in any artistic pursuit the ability to handle feedback and criticism with grace and without getting too “butthurt?” I think so. Leave me a comment if you agree…or don’t agree!