Monday, October 17, 2011

Dealing With Criticism

I you are a human being, you've had to deal with criticism. Whether it's at work, school, or even at home, there is usually someone out there that will offer their advice, whether solicited or unsolicited, and it may not always be positive. Sometimes it is constructive, the type of thing that you probably needed to hear in order to improve whatever endeavors you are taking on. Sometimes it may be less than nice or even nasty. It happens. Everyone has to deal with it at some point in life, usually multiple times a day.

My current work in progress. Underpainting is completed.
If you are artistic and put your work out there, you probably deal with even more criticism than most. Nowadays, with social media and the easiness in which a person can get a website or blog, there is a plethora of ways to show what you are doing to the world. People can see your work from anywhere in the world. This is great, and yes even amazing, but what it also means is that you are now open to a lot more people critiquing what you do and, unfortunately/ fortunately,  the means to let you know what they think about your work. So how does one deal with criticism when it's not so constructive, and sometime, downright mean?

As some of you who have been reading my blog know, I was recently a featured artist on Artist a Day, an internet site that shows the work of an artist a day and allows the viewers to rate the work and comment on it. If you look at the link to my work on the site, you'll notice that there were some people who just did not like my work (and this is not the first time people have voiced a negative opinion about my paintings). One woman disliked it so much she felt the need to email me personally and tell me that the bars over the figure's eyes made her angry, not nostalgic at all. Now, like any human being, my first reaction was to start defending myself in my head and to anyone who was close enough to listen (in most cases, that's my husband). But once I calmed down a bit (and it didn't take long in this case), I started to think about what this really means and decided to take the criticism a different way.

1. People were "moved" enough by my work, positively or negatively, that they felt the need to write a comment (or email me). Now I don't know about you, but most things I don't like, I also don't care enough about to write a comment or think twice about it. These people took the time to comment. That's a good thing. My work "bugged" them enough to comment! They say (and I have no idea who "they" are) that if your art can evoke an emotion, then it has done it's job. It doesn't really matter what the emotion is, although we tend to want positive emotions. Think of the woman who emailed me to tell me she was angered by my work. She was ANGRY. That is an emotion. I affected her. She may not be buying any of my painting soon, but I made a mark, even if it's a small one, in her life.

2. I try to see if there is anything useful in a person's criticism. If there's something useful in what they said, then great, maybe I can learn from this. If not, I am not going to take what that person said personally. It's not like they are criticizing me as a person. They just don't like my paintings. People are entitled to their opinion and I am entitled to ignore them.

3. There is no need for me to justify my work or clarify misconceptions by commenting or emailing back. My artist statement states my intentions and reasoning behind what I do. I stand by it. If someone doesn't understand it or, more likely, doesn't agree with it, that's okay too. But what I learned, more importantly, is that writing someone back and trying to argue "my case" with them just opens the door to more frustrations, such as a "back and forth" arguement that leads nowhere. I don't need the added frustration and I don't need to change their minds so I don't try to.

Through all of this, I have come to the realization that not everyone will like my work. That's okay, in fact, that is a good thing. People come in all shapes and sizes with all sorts of tastes. If everyone liked everything, or the same things, how boring would we be? People who like my work are nice to have but I am not offended if someone doesn't like it. Plenty of people like my artwork, and more importantly, I like what I am doing. That's all I really need.


  1. You are rad!! That is my critique. Keep up the good work of keeping your chin up and forging ahead.

  2. Amen!!! you go, girl! Keep on keepin' on. Loved your post. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Great post, Jhina and a wonderful, positive attitude about evoking emotion. You certainly did your job!!