Dealing With A Critic - Part II

7:31 PM

Continued from Dealing with a Critic....

Criticism: Who Needs It?!!

Critics. We all have them. Both internal and external. We usually have a love/hate relationship with a heavy emphasis on the hate. Because we identify strongly with our work, with the struggles of bringing it into this world, let alone finding the courage to share the work, we tend to take criticism to our very hearts.

The word “oh” uttered without enthusiasm is enough to make us want to curl up and hide. Well-meant but non-constructive criticism can cause us to avoid artmaking for years. And, let’s face it, some criticism is not well-meant, constructive or beneficial. It’s rare, but it does exist. So how do we cope with these demons? How do we keep from succumbing to the potent, toxic, highly addictive, poison of criticism?

We start by recognizing it for what it is–another tool in the toolbox of artists.

And like all good tools, we must evaluate it and determine its usefulness to our work. We need criticism in order to grow. We’re often too close to our art to see where we can/need to improve. We set ourselves up when we ask open ended questions like “Well, what do you think?” to unsuspecting, non-artisan individuals. Especially spouses and significant others. They often answer from a position of what they like rather than from a base of artistic knowledge.

When they criticize the very thing we’re most proud of, it hurts! Why, didn’t they see all the toil and the hours and the tears and the frustration to get to this point?!! Ummm…no, not really. Spouses don’t usually get it. They try to be honest and say something neutral that won’t hurt our feelings because they know they’re in emotion-land-mine territory.

Some thoughts on using criticism as a tool:
  • Instead of asking open-ended questions, ask specific questions....“I’ve been working on getting stronger lights and darks in my painting. Do you see this as having a stronger value pattern?” (Be aware that you may have to educate them on values, but that’s a good thing!)
  • Try the criticism on for size. See if there's any truth in it at all. (The more the advice or comment bugs us, the better the chances are there is some truth to it!) If the criticism fits, use it as motivation to improve! If the advice doesn’t fit, see yourself physically dropping the criticism into a trash can, and walking away. Kick the can, if necessary! The trick is to not go back and dig that piece of advice out of the trash and let it start to hurt all over again!
  • Ask yourself if you’re taking the criticism personally and why. Evaluate whether the criticism is directed at the work or at you as the artist. Many of us get tangled up in separating the art from the artist. Once you’ve established which is being criticized, evaluate the criticism for relevancy.
  • Never ever, ever, never take criticism personally!!! Criticism, simply put, is another person's opinion. It may or may not be relevant or valuable. Opinions come cheap and often unsolicited. They're often said (shared) without thought as to how they might be "heard." 
  • We give the criticism its power - to hurt, wound, irritate, annoy, dismay, or otherwise, harm us! When we take away the power, we take away the sting.
Criticism is just another tool in the tool box - sometimes it's handy and just what's needed. Other times, it's the wrong tool for the job. In this case, you should feel free to dump it in the nearest proverbial trashcan!

P.S. I see Blogger is up to its old tricks of messing with the type - sorry for the micro-sized type!

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