Just for Fun: Dealing with Criticism

"Public Exhibition of a Picture" Joan Ferrer Miró 1888

One fact of life as an artist is unavoidable: ifyou show your work, people will expressopinions about it. Most observations arepositive, but some remarks can really shakeyour confidence. Learning to objectivelyprocess and deal with this feedback isessential to sustained success as aprofessional.

Criticism from instructors
This is the advice that will shape your work foryears to come. In the relationship between artstudent and teacher, each has seriousexpectations from the other, and feelings cansometimes get hurt. When a trusted instructormakes a cutting remark, it’s important toremember a few things:

  • Your teacher genuinely wants you to succeedand improve.
  • Your teacher has been where you are, and hashad experiences you haven't yet encountered.
  • Nobody’s perfect- your teacher might be wrong.

Criticism from the Public
At the opening of an exhibition, there's a lot ofchatter about the artwork- that's a good thing!Especially at a public opening, it shouldn't besurprising when a visitor occasionally expressessomething negative about the show. Before youget defensive, remember that each personattending is an invited guest, and that bypublicizing the show you asked them to look atyour work. After taking each negative commentwith a BIG grain of salt, a good response mightbe to say, “Wow, I never looked at my work thatway when it was in my studio. It's great to get adifferent perspective!”

Criticism from the press
Reading a review of your work can be scary,exhilarating and humbling all at the same time.It’s always worth the risk sending out pressreleases, even if a critic might publish somethingless than generous. If you do receive a mixed orbad review, as long as the story includes a photoof your art, visitors will form their own opinionsregardless of the critic's position. Keep a clippingfor your scrapbook and move on.

Criticism from your peers
Getting advice and opinions from your peers isso important that most artists actively seek it out.Other artists will look at your work from aperspective close to yours, but with subtleshades of difference that can reveal things youmight have missed. Set ego aside and beprepared to seriously consider this feedback.

Learn from unfair criticism
There's no getting around the fact that someremarks are just malicious. While it's generallynot worth wasting time on mean people, unfaircritique, if nothing else, provides a skewedglimpse into the mind of people who don't wantyou to succeed.

Harsh criticism may have exactly zero influenceon how you’ll make art in the future, but it doesgive you some idea of the concepts, bias andbaggage some people bring with them.Defending against unfair criticism helps youdevelop a thick skin while sharpening your abilityto communicate clearly about objectives andgoals in art.

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