Especially at the start of your art career, criticism or just negative comments about your work can ruin your confidence pretty easily, EVEN if it is just one person in a Facebook forum. If you receive those unpleasant, unasked comments on your artwork, it is definitely not a great feeling BUT here is what I’ve learned over the years on how to deal with those things.
DON’T LET YOUR EMOTIONS GET THE BEST OF YOU
One of the most important things you have to remember is, to remain calm! I’ve had massive problems with that because I wasn’t able to control my feelings that well and a lot of the time they just burst out.
By reading through a lot of art forums, groups and profiles over time I realised that I am not the only one that can’t control themselves when someone touches a nerve but it is NEVER good to do that. Even if you can’t think of anything else after that and it really got to you, remain calm, thinks about it, sit back and then respond to it (if you think it IS indeed necessary).
Consider who the feedback comes from and then navigate how seriously you need to take their criticism. They might just have a bad day, have a different taste in art or just want to be an internet troll which you shouldn’t pay much attention to.
DON’T LET THEM DEMOTIVATE YOU
Of course, it is not amazing to hear negative comments or just general criticism about your work but what it should never do to you is demotivate you. Even in a Gallery or at a market, if maybe nobody pays attention to your work or if they just walk past with “the look” (I hope you know what I mean), don’t let that get to you. Of course, this might not happen to everyone. I would say I am speaking more to the artists that focus a bit more on “weird” topics, that get “the looks” every now and then.
I know it is quite hard sometimes especially if they’re right in front of you at a market and more than 60% have this reaction but it could be for all sorts of reasons that you might not even think about.
Again, it might just not be their cup of tea, maybe their friend forced them to be there, they might just be there for the free food, their hamster died this morning or maybe that .. that is just how they look when they’re very impressed.
You never know!! And that is exactly why you should not spend the rest of the day or sometimes even WEEK thinking about it and letting it get to you.
INSTEAD, LET THEM MOTIVATE YOU
I always got more motivated as soon as someone said “you can’t do it anyway”. I get a weird kick out of it when people laugh at me for things I want to do in life or also now when I receive criticism.
You can’t change or work on others but what you can do, is work on yourself and grow! I don’t mean that you have to change yourself for others to please them of course but what I mean is that if someone tells you that you can’t paint this, sell that or whatever they might say. SHOW THEM you can!
It is very hard to stay motivated through some of these interactions and sometimes of course they still get to me as well but what generally helped with my motivation, when it comes to anything in my life, not just art, is to apply this. This “method” (not sure if you could call it that) helped me a lot with section 1 AND 2 of this blog and to control my emotions.
This can’t be applied to every comment of course. If someone just tells you that they don’t like the colour palette or shapes that you use then... I am not sure how you would apply this one. This one is more for the criticism on growth, the whole “If you continue like that you will never make it” sort of comments.
UNDERSTANDING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Constructive criticism is more of a help than anything else I would say. It is the feedback that provides specific and actionable suggestions and helps you to improve your artwork. It does NOT solely focus on the negative, it also considers the positive aspects and is fundamentally different to normal criticism.
Especially if those repeat themselves, the topics that they mention are something that you should definitely consider working on. People giving out that sort of criticism mean good in MOST cases and want to help you to improve. Of course in the end, if you’ve considered and tried out whatever they’ve suggested and it doesn’t work out for you then you don’t have to follow it but I would say It is definitely worth following their advice if you haven’t tried it.
WHEN TO TAKE ADVICE FROM OTHER ARTISTS
A lot of people in the art world try to advise you on EVERYTHING. “Maybe you could try painting that”, “Maybe use this instead of that”, “Maybe try out a different style”, blah blah and way more.
Even though... I think you can probably ignore most of them, know when NOT to. I learned that a lot of the people that tell you things like “paint this maybe, it will sell” don’t have a clue about what they’re talking about.
Some people actually HAVE a clue about what they’re talking about and then it is definitely not wrong to listen. The difference is with these that the right ones usually don’t say “DO this” or “CHANGE that”, they will tell you to “try out this gesso” or “have you ever tried this with your work”, and unless you’ve already tried it out and can’t stand it, I would give it a go.
I would consider these comments from the WRONG people indirect criticism and from the right people it’s more of a “Hey, this worked for me and now I want to help you out” vibe.
ASK FOR A SECOND OPINION
I hope you all have that one friend that tells you exactly what they think about because when it comes to art and criticism and you don’t know whether to believe that person or not, this is when this friend comes in handy.
Ask for a second opinion if you’re unsure, honest friends usually give you pretty good constructive criticism and tell you what they like and what they don’t like about it. (unless there is nothing to criticise and you just got an internet troll on the other side of the screen).
PROTECT YOUR CREATIVITY
What I see happen a lot of the time is that some artists lose their authenticity and their creativity. They actually start worrying about “will people like it” or “will it sell” and I mean, I’ve done the same things a while ago and let me tell you, It doesn’t lead anywhere. It might be good pocket money for a while but down the track, all it will do is make you tired of what you once loved and it doesn’t get you any success.
YES, you can accept criticism and work on yourself and your art and try out different suggestions from other people but you should never change your work completely cause somebody once said that they didn’t like it.
What you should take from this as well is, that you can’t make everyone happy. There is always going to be someone that has something meaningful to say. It is part of normal life and even though it might be that part of the art world that makes it more uncomfortable, it can also be one of the most important aspects of a successful career. Some are helpful and some are complete .. bull-shirt. It is very important to know the difference and also to react accordingly. Instead of setting the Internet troll’s house on fire, you could just ignore it and instead of letting them bring you and your artwork down, let them motivate you instead to grow!
If you’re pleasing everyone, you’re doing something wrong.