How To Handle Tough Criticism In Your Art Business

Published Apr. 12th 2013


Have you ever asked for constructive criticism on your art, your art blog, or your media kit only to find yourself feeling a little taken back by the harsh comments or painful truth that you received?

Have you ever received unwarranted, or unwanted, negative feedback simply because you have a presence online?

This week, four successful—and creative—business owners shed a little light on the subject by offering some wise suggestions for how to handle constructive criticism.

1. Don’t take critiques personally

Author and humanist, Jen Hancock, says, “Don’t ever take a critique personally. Yes, it’s about you, but the point of criticism is to help you do better.”

She goes on to say that “if the criticism is just mean and spiteful, be thankful you aren’t that bitter and thank the critic for the valuable lesson—then move on. There is no need to argue with a critic. It does no good. . . regardless of what sort of critique you’re given, be sure to thank the person for the critique, do some soul searching and decide what you want to do about it, then move forward with confidence.”

Sherry Johnson, president of Sherry Johnson Consulting, agrees. It’s important that you “don’t take it personally!” says Sherry. “Often criticism is given regarding a specific task or issue. Keep it where it belongs—which is with that particular task or issue. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they think you are incapable or a bad person. . . Constructive criticism at its best shows us alternatives and ways to improve.”

2. Separate your emotions from the critique

Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and the chief marketing officer of Voices.com, says, “Constructive criticism, when presented in a way that builds someone up and allows to them to see their greater potential (if action is taken), can make a dramatic difference in someone’s outlook and in their performance.”

“This is particularly true if the person giving the constructive criticism offers a realistic solution to the problem instead of simply pointing out flaws,” Stephanie continues. “Those who are wise learn from and are strengthened by constructive criticism—accepting those words humbly while being determined to apply the advice the next time they need it.”

“Separating the criticism from one’s emotions can be achieved by realizing that the person giving the constructive criticism intends no harm, allowing for the criticism to be viewed objectively and from a safe place.”

3. Remember that opinions are subjective

Artist and designer, Pablo Solomon, believes that “the quality of your art is not something that can be measured with a scale or ruler. Whether it is good or not is strictly objective.” It’s important to remember that whenever you choose to listen to a critique, to consider whether it is made with good intentions or bad.

With those thoughts in mind, Pablo reminds us that there are usually three types of criticism and each one can, and should be, handled differently.

• Criticism in publications.

“As Andy Warhol once said, ‘Do not worry about what the critics say about you—just count the columns.’”

• Criticism from professionals and teachers.

“Try to listen and to make adjustments in your work that might really help. But keep your confidence, vision and tenacity.”

• Criticism from unqualified jerks.

“While my natural inclination is to tell them where to shove it, I have learned that even ignorant jerks—sometimes even ignorant jerks who are trying to be discouraging and insulting—can accidentally shed some useful light.”

In the end, how you handle constructive criticism is entirely up to you. But it may help to start by rejecting those that you feel are intended to inflict emotional harm and stifle your creativity, and accepting those that offer you insight to help you grow as both an artist, and a business person.

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