Let's Talk Criticism
Jump in to see how I learned how to take constructive criticism as an artist, how I figured out how to constructively criticize my own art, and how I discovered the hard way the power that our thoughts truly have.
In a lot of ways, art is one of the hardest fields for people to thrive in. Essentially, the artist is continually placing a piece of themselves in every project they present. Here, others are open to critique and criticize every aspect of it.
Oof, that’s scary.
Oftentimes, this criticism will come from multiple sources that will contain amounts of both constructive and damaging feedback for the individual. Although we can’t control how others react, we, as artists, can control how to take feedback well. Additionally, we can learn how to shape the criticism we give ourselves and other artists to be beneficial instead of hindering.
Here’s an example from my own life:
When I was younger, I used to look at my art and think, “this is not good because…” and from there I would spiral into comparison, insecurity, and doubt about my abilities (have you been here before, too?). This was not constructive or good because
Unfortunately, the seemingly small voices we allow to speak in our minds can have a big outcome on the trajectory of our lives. I began to believe these lies that were repeated over and over and over again. Eventually, I gave up on art and decided I didn’t want anything else to do with it.
That’s the power thoughts have.
Okay, let’s contrast this to something I thought this past month when I looked at a painting I made:
“I really liked the colors I used there...wow, the shading is on point!....that part would look better if I did it this way instead.”
Notice the difference? What changed in the span of a few years? Surprisingly, it was actually a class I took my Junior year of highschool. was taking post-secondary courses at a local community college and chose to take a simple painting course to fulfill requirements. (And, if I’m being totally honest, I only took it because it sounded more interesting than taking a random course on music enlightenment).
The course was set up in a way where everyone worked on their own, unique piece while under certain parameters. - Ex: we would all do a still-life of different objects or we would all paint a different portrait of someone in history - Additionally, the class would periodically place their work on display and everyone would choose something they liked or appreciated about another individual’s piece. Our professor was the only one who was able to criticize in any way, shape, or form. This was an important set-up because
This shift in mindset slowly seeped into how I saw all of my artwork going forward. It formed a new pattern in my mind and again, my thoughts had the power to change everything.
So, how can you apply this to your art story? I realize that we all have different challenges as artists and therefore different stories. But, in speaking to people, I’ve found insecurity to be a very common factor. Here’s a homework assignment for you. Next time you create any work of art, I challenge you to take a step back and find one to two aspects of your piece that you absolutely love and appreciate. Slowly, you’ll start to find your voice and story in what you create.
One last thing before you go: my art professor told us, students, this the first day of class and it has stuck with me ever since, “You may not like your art because it doesn’t look quite like you wanted to or doesn’t look as good as someone else's. But it is beautiful. It is beautiful because it is unique to you and no matter how ugly it seems in your eyes, you’re the only one who can make it just like that, and therefore, it has value.”
Have a wonderful day and may God bless you!
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Hi, I'm Abigail Dorn, the founder and director of Arts With Love.
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