In previous posts I’ve spent some time discussing how to handle criticism of our work. It’s important to know how to filter through criticism to keep only the useful stuff. That’s an acquired skill. Budding artists tend to either accept all criticism or reject it all out of frustration. Neither choice is beneficial for advancement. Since I’ve covered this ground many times, I’ll move on to a more difficult topic: criticizing the work of others.
There’s a time and place for criticism, and carelessness can do irreparable harm. Budding artists need a lot of encouragement, so expert criticism needs to be truthful but also carefully delivered to avoid discouragement. And, even “expert” opinions can be wrong, which means that all criticism needs to be qualified when it’s given.
Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people who claim to lack artistic ability altogether. When I ask them why they think that, the typical response is that a parent or teacher told them so when they were children. How tragic! Every human being has an aesthetic side that can be beautifully and effectively expressed in some way if recognized, nurtured, and given the chance.
So, I’m more worried about criticizing others than I am about receiving criticism. How will my words impact that person? I’m not implying that my opinion is important at all, but some people respond like it is. I try to limit my artistic opinions to those times when someone actually asks for them and let them know that my opinions are just that – only my opinions.
Back in the 1960’s I was an art major at a private school. My instructor delivered brutal critiques because she felt she had a duty to prepare me for the “real world.” I’ll give her credit for making me tough-skinned, but I never encountered that type of brutality anywhere since then. If my instructor had been less brutal I probably would have been more experimental and confident in my work. This held me back, and I don’t want to do that to anyone else. You never know whose flame you might accidentally extinguish!
What are your thoughts today?