Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning to Just Say "Thank You"

"Celebration!"
Pink Spring Tulips
From my sketchbook


It always amazes me how hard it is, when someone compliments my work, to just say "thank you." After all, it is a comment sentence. Instead, I want to point all the things that are wrong, or are simply not right or could have been better. Sound familiar? Let me share a story with you.

While taking a class with an international instructor several years ago, the instructor told the students in her class this story as a way to illustrate the value of just saying thank you. She had a solo show in her hometown, and one of her friends, a doctor in town, approached her about a certain painting in the show. The doctor already owned several pieces by the instructor and complimented her on the artwork.

Instead of just saying thank you the woman listed all of the flaws, things not right, things that could have been done better, etc. After the painter had finished with her long list, she mentioned that it was not one of her better works and she really didn't like the painting very much. The doctor then informed her he had just purchased the painting! Eek!!! Now what?!! Needless to say she lost a sale. She also felt she had lost some credibility in the friend's eyes. I vowed I would never do that (rolling my eyes as I typed that).

And yet, I do sometimes. Every artist I know does. Why is that? So that folks know, that we know, the painting isn't perfect? Personally, I don't believe it's possible to paint a perfect painting, but if I ever do, it will be the day I hang my brushes up for good. Do we say what we think is wrong before someone else can say it perhaps to remove the sting? I'd love to know if you do this and if so, why think you do, as well as if you don't and why you don't.

Most folks don't see anything wrong with a piece of work until you tell them, especially if they've already fallen in love with it! Why would anyone want to undue that?!! Most of the time they'll even disagree with you about something being wrong! So, I could tell you all things wrong or not right or that could be done better with the painting at the top of the post, but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to practice keeping my mouth shut, my heart open and move on to the next painting!

5 comments:

  1. That is actually a sad story.

    I hear what you are saying because when I first started doing art, I made that same mistake, like I had to apologize for it not being perfect. But I quickly learned that what I thought were mistakes other people liked so I quit pointing them out.

    Then I (self) discovered that I didn't care if my painting was not perfect, it was a learning experience and I would just say it was a learning experience.

    In the beginning I thought I could only post my best work. Not anymore. If I make a mistake on a painting I just keep going and trying things that I would normally not do for fear of ruining it.

    Geesh, I am getting long-winded here. I would never offer a critque for someone unless they asked for it.

    In conclusion (how on earth did I get started here), I love your tulips!!!

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  2. Oh, I agree with you, Teri, it has become more about the process and the learning and less about the end product over time. But still, every once in a while, I do find myself "explaining", and I have recently witnessed a couple of artists "justifying" their work, and it just kills me!

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  3. Sigh. Been there, done that. But I am learning (slowly) to just graciously say "thank you".

    Something that helps me not to do this is to remember that the painter and the prospective customer often look at a painting from two completely different perspectives. When someone buys a painting (according to what I've read.... but can't remember where I read it) they buy it because they have an emotional reaction to it. It reminds them of something or someone they love, or perhaps somewhere they've been or would like to go, or simply brings a bit of beauty and color to their lives. Whereas the painter tends to look at their work from a more technical aspect (this is too light, dark, detailed, undefined, you name it) and thus sees the "errors" more than the emotional punch of the art.

    That's my story any way.... and I'm sticking to it! :-)

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  4. I see what you are saying especially when it comes to a potential customer. I think some artists are just embarassed when someone praises their work.

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  5. Teresa, I really don't know of an artist who hasn't done it, and it's a tough lesson (at least for me) to learn.

    Lori, you may be right, it may be embarrassment.

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