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What’s Wrong with this Picture? Learning the Value of a Good Critique

Being an artist can be tough, because everybody has an opinion about your work. Even art school can be cruel. You have to develop a tough skin if you want to be an artist!

That being said, there is an important distinction between a valuable piece of criticism and an opinion.

What is that distinction? Mainly, the person who makes the comment. If you value that person, then their comment means something more to you. If you don’t, then it probably won’t hurt as much, and their critique becomes just an opinion.

The bottom line is there are really no hard and fast rules in art by which we can measure its worth. Art is personal and subjective. And everyone has an opinion.

Because of that, I think it’s very valuable to surround yourself with people whose opinions and critiques are constructive and delivered in the right way.

I have friends whom I respect as artists who have credibility with me because I know their work and trust their eye. These artists have raised my art to a higher level. They give their opinion only when asked. And we support one another and have a safe place to do what we do, without judgement.

Yet even if you have that great support group, there will always be self-appointed critics who feel the need to let you know what you lack. I am always amazed when fellow artists or others give me unsolicited advice or criticism. (If you’re one who does that, you had better be Picasso yourself or you are only making enemies, in my opinion.)

My point is, it really doesn’t matter if the advice, criticism, opinion or whatever you call it is legitimate. . . it only really matters if it is from someone you respect. Someone you want to learn from.

Artists are often labeled as sensitive people. But the truth is, when you put your art out there you are essentially asking the world to look at what you do and to judge it. And that takes guts.

I don’t paint to put my paintings in a drawer. It would sound very mature and “together” of me to say that no matter what, other people’s opinions of my work do not bother me. But that wouldn’t be the truth and I don’t really believe artists who say that myself. We put ourselves out there, every time we show our work.

My paintings all carry a part of me, so the things people say about them FEEL like personal comments. If they love my art, I’m happy. If they hate my art, I have to decide if I value their assessment. If I do, my ego could easily be bruised.

But what I’ve learned from entering many juried shows, from being in critique groups, and from my art classes is that these situations can lend objectivity to my work and teach me valuable things. . . and ultimately, I need to use those situations to find other people who can reliably help me and keep growing as an artist.

If you find that criticism bothers you, and it’s to the point where it is keeping you from showing your art, maybe it’s time for a perspective change. Realize that if your paintings have no flaws, then you have nowhere to go. Embrace opinions. Look for people you trust to critique your work, and try to shrug off everything else.

Critiques will always happen. That’s a fact. But it’s how you deal with them that shapes you as an artist.

Read more articles from Michelle at michellemorrisart.blogspot.com.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

As a tried-and-true coloured pencil artist, I was often discouraged by teachers during my high school art studies, frowned upon at college and turned away from galleries I’ve approached (though I might add, with encouraging feedback).

You may wonder why I haven’t turned against my chosen medium, but in fact it's quite the opposite—I have persevered so much that I now have 2. . . read more

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