How to deal with criticism guide for artists. Being an artist means, in most cases, putting your works in front of the public. And there, in the audience, there can be anyone. There are our friends, our relatives, colleagues in the art course, other artists, people who happened to be by chance who do not understand anything about art, listed critics, militant critics, and so on. Inevitably, someone will not like your works – paintings, drawings, sculptures -. Someone will find them beautiful. Someone else will find them pleasant, and others will not be able to form an opinion. Others will not see positive adjectives. Still, others will hate and despise them explicitly, giving voice to their harsh criticisms. This article will explain how to deal with the complaints addressed to your works of art with the right approach and philosophy.
How to accept criticism of your works of art
Being an artist automatically means being exposed to criticism, often hostile. The problem is that hardly anyone is ready to face – let alone accept – criticisms leveled against their works, skills, vision, and creativity.
Of course, we all know we can improve. We all know that some of the most important works of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and company have been despised and that even Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is far from exempt from fierce detractors. And yet, when we receive criticism, we often feel the pinch. And this also happens and above all, to beginners, precisely because they are not used to showing others their creations, to come out into the open, to meet the judgment of others without filters of lotus drawing.
How not to face criticism
The wrong way to deal with the criticisms leveled against our artistic works is, in most cases, the same way we take to face the very first criticisms leveled against our creations by someone other than our eventual teacher. A companion from the painting course, a brother, a friend, a parent, a stranger who makes a negative comment under the photograph of our work published online: our instinct, in this case, is, in fact, not to accept criticism.
It means that our brain will immediately run away to look for factors capable of proving the wrongness of that same criticism. So we will think that that person has never painted in his life, that he does not understand anything about art, that in reality he just wanted to make us rude, that obviously, he did not appreciate our work that probably does not like our style.
It is not simple to trade with an adverse judgment
It is not at school, it is not at work, and it is even less so in the case of our works of art: when we decide to exhibit something, it is because, after all, we are proud of it, we are satisfied with the result. Yet, we have to put it into our heads. Our first paintings were published on social networks, our first canvases exhibited in a small exhibition, even our hypothetical works displayed in a real gallery, or even in a museum. In all cases, they will face criticism, often hostile. Of course, many times, someone who doesn’t understand art will criticize your works. But is this a good reason not to listen to their opinion?
Never underestimate the inexperienced eye
Most people have no artistic skills. Therefore, it is expected that the negative criticisms leveled against a work of art come precisely from people who have practically never picked up a brush or a chisel and who have never studied art. Should we, therefore, overlook their criticisms, positive or negative?
Of course, an expert’s evaluation is more valuable. But we must not turn a deaf ear to the opinion of the inexperienced, for the simple fact that the public is mainly made up of people without experience. And that’s not all: those who have no particular artistic skills, those who do not know any technique, see something that the artist is no longer able to see, at least not at first glance.
Think outside the box
To explain this concept, we can make an example outside the world of art. In certain types of martial arts, the champions, the professionals who compete at the highest levels, continue from time to time to confront simple amateurs and sometimes even beginners. Because? Because amateurs think outside the box and often follow their instincts, identifying weak points in the opponent that the most experienced athletes would never see.
The same happens in the world of art: it often happens that, looking at an artistic work with pure, naive, “innocent” eyes, one identifies errors or characteristics that an expert eye would struggle to find. So it is good to take into consideration the opinions and criticisms of everyone, but learning to distinguish constructive criticism from useless ones.
Being able to distinguish constructive criticism
Practical, constructive criticism is that which – faced and accepted by the artist – leads to a kind of relief. It might seem paradoxical, but it is. When you decide to be open to criticism and to interpret them as potential moments of growth, these become precious, so much so that a severe and focused criticism can be more beneficial than hours and hours of practice and study. Not infrequently, a well-done critique can explain something that the artist himself could not explain. However, the case of destructive criticism is different.
In this case, the evaluation is flawed in terms of seriousness, and instead of aiming to describe the work and its characteristics, it seems to want to punish the artist somehow. That’s not all: malicious criticisms are often purely subjective and not accurate, immediately setting off the attack. When the complaints fall into this second group, it is good to note them anyway, identify the disturbing passages, ask ourselves why those observations make us feel particularly bad, and, once understood, move on, recognizing the weight they have to these malicious observations.