Attitudes and criticisms
about art and performance are an ongoing part of any creative personal
development. If you've ever hung a painting in a gallery or walked out to
greet your fans after a performance onstage you know how valuable these times
Recently I have seen several bulletins posted on my MySpace account where
artists present a new work that they have recently finished or works that
are in progress. Some simply invite you to visit their page and
look. Others ask for your input, your critique. This can be a touchy
subject. When I browse other people's works among their shared pictures or
portfolios (and I admit, I spend more time doing that than I should) it strikes
me how the majority of comments left for works are the bare minimum of what I
would consider feedback. "I like this." "Great
colors." "This reminds me of Picasso." You may have
comments like this on your photo page too.
When I get a bulletin, however, that actually ASKS for my input and feedback on
a specific work, I feel obliged to give it. I take the time to consider
the work presented, I explore other works that artist has done. Then I
send a message that usually ends up being longer than I expected to share my
thought and opinions. Those ruminations often end up being as wide and
varied as the works we see here everyday. It's not an easy thing to
critically examine a work by another artist, especially one you don't know
About a week ago I got one of these bulletins. It was from a young guy who
had done a painting overnight and wanted feedback. I thought the work was
awful. I had already seen his work and there's a lot of promise
there. Great movement and color and use of negative space. The new
work was flat, technically flawed for a number of reasons and his color choices
were more likely defined by which colors he had available than the colors he
might have used if he had taken the time. It was rushed, amateurish and
well below the standard that I could see that he was capable of. I took
all of these things into consideration, and then wrote to him and let him know
specifically about which areas of the new painting I felt could use some
improvement. It ended up being a long dialogue.
After it had been sent I felt bad about being so harsh to his work. It
made me remember my first group gallery show where I lingered around a painting
of mine to overhear comments from gallery goers. Big mistake. Two
women examined my painting and then verbally tore it shreds. They
laughed. They pointed. I was devastated. I actually had to go
behind the gallery during the opening so nobody would see my cry. (Yes,
they were that mean).
Of course, they didn't know who I was. I wasn't wearing a name tag.
I would like to imagine that if they had known I had created the work they would
have chosen their words a little more carefully to lessen the blow of their
displeasure with it. An experience like that can teach a young artist a
great many lessons.
Regardless of how much you buy into the artistic stereotype, your artwork is not
you. An attack on it is not personal. One a painting, sculpture or
photograph is placed on a wall to be exhibited it takes on a life of its
own. The communion between art and the viewer is theirs. The artist
isn't involved. What you, as the inventor of this work, know about its
meaning is irrelevant. Your job is over. Art has its own job to
do. It doesn't need assistance. If it does, then there's a
Criticism shouldn't be taken personally. Everybody hears a bad review or
comment about their work eventually.
Not everybody likes my work. It used to bother me. Nowadays if
someone sees my work and says "I don't get it," or "That's
nice" with that particular tone of vague disinterest in their voice, I can
easily let them walk away without trying to push my art on them. If they
don't get it, they don't get it. Plenty of people do. There's a
whole world of art out there, surely they can find some that pleases them.
So next time you invite the world in to see what you've made, be careful.
Be thick skinned. Keep your mind open and try to see your own work through
a new set of eyes.
If someone invites you to view their work and give them feedback, take them up
on their offer. The more input an artist has, the better the output.
We have a phenomenal artistic community and we should use the resources at our
fingertips to all grow together.