Monday, August 26, 2013

Negative Comments and Art Critique

I love being an artist. I love being able to follow my heart’s passions in creativity. I believe we all have an artist in us and it’s just discovering what path that inner artist wants to take.

Look at the talent out there; painters, sculptors, woodworkers, blacksmiths, photographers, and jewelers along with those who work in fabric, drawings, glass, and more. For some people, their art lies in their homes in decorating or even in how they clean their house. Others turn their yards into beautiful gardens. There are those who like to build things or tinker with machines. No matter where people’s passions lie, there is talent. They love what they do.

One thing I have a hard time understanding about people, and I see it happen all the time, is that some artists or tradesmen feel they have to put others down. I am uncomfortable when someone picks apart the work someone else has done. Does that make them a better artist to find fault with other’s work? Who are they trying to convince? Are they trying to convince a customer to buy their work instead of the next guy’s? Are they trying to make themselves feel better? And to make it sound like their way is the only true way is also a put down to others.

Not everyone is up to “League Standards” (that’s League of NH Craftsmen) although there are those out there who believe that people who do not meet that criteria aren’t “real” artists. There are those who believe that plein air is the only way to paint, that working from photographs and solely in a studio is wrong. There are those who look down their noses at other artists and will make sarcastic comments like, “That’s not Fine Art.”

Yes, we need to believe in our art, promote our art and try to make sales, but does it help by finding fault with other artists? Yes, it’s important to show passion for what we do and with so many talented artists out there, it is tough. BUT, it’s important to do what you enjoy. What right do we have to find fault with someone who is passionate about their art?

Maybe I’m too sensitive. I am often told, “Artists need the hide of an armadillo,” but I also believe sensitivity can be part of the creativity. Maybe it’s my stand against bullying because of my experiences when I was in elementary and high school. Finding fault with artists feels like bullying to me. As a sensitive and an artist, it doesn’t take much to rip the rug out from under me.

For instance, last year I received some negative critique on my drawings. I was devastated and could not even stand to look at my drawings for months because I kept seeing what they saw. Yes, some of those comments will make me a better artist, BUT those words sucked all the joy out of me. I love drawing and it makes me so happy to finish a piece. To have that happiness crushed was horrible. What a terrible thing to do to someone. If the goal is to help someone improve, how could that critique have been given in a more positive way? It’s been almost a year and I still haven’t finished another drawing. I’m not giving up, but it’s been hard to get back on that horse. What right did they have to kill something that made me so happy?

How necessary is it? Don’t tell me that negative critique will make me stronger. Yes, it probably does, but is it really necessary? Negativity breeds negativity. Do we really need to find fault with one another? Who does that really benefit?

That said, I can be honest and say there is a lot of art out there that I don’t care for, but I can still allow that the piece is a work of art. Sometimes I will look at a painting and wonder what the artist was thinking. I may not like it, but there’s a part of me that also wants to understand. I can allow that artist the right to his own creativity. My opinions don’t make the artist. If it’s in her heart, she IS an artist and I have no right to take that away from her, nor would I want to.

I was at a gallery not too long ago and I didn’t like the work on the walls. The artist happened to be there and as I asked about his work and listened to him explain his techniques; I was fascinated by his process. We had an enjoyable conversation. I still didn’t care for his work, but I walked away feeling really inspired and happy. Art isn’t just about what’s hung on the walls. The artists put part of their souls into the work.

I love that there are so many forms of art and feel blessed to be around talented people. I am fortunate to have artistic friends. It’s important for artists to support one another. There’s camaraderie, something in an artist’s make-up, an understanding that other people cannot grasp. Artists are a breed unto themselves.

For me, it’s not about the particular art, technique, or style. After all, we are free thinkers and we don’t have to like everything that others do. It’s about supporting the creative process and finding out what goes on inside an artist for her to be able to do her art. To fully celebrate art, we must encourage one another in whatever creative process drives us. We don’t have to personally like the art. It’s about the artist and the creativity.

This all said, we need to reconsider what we say when we talk about our work and others’ work. What is the point of negative comments? What and who do they serve? Wouldn’t it be much better to make note of all the positives? I would much rather hear an artist talk about his process and his joy about doing his work than for him to be pointing out the negatives of the work in the next booth. I want to hear her expound on her passion for how she works. That is so inspiring! It makes me want to run home and be creative… never to do what they do, but to follow my own desires.

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