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Sunday, May 7, 2023

Taking Advice & Criticism

As an artist, you’re more than welcome to do things your way and screw whatever people will say. At least in some cases and up to a point.

If you’re making art in a manner that is personal and/or for your personal satisfaction, pretty much anything goes as long as you’re fine with it. You make the rules and it can be as messy or orderly as you wish, as distorted or accurate, as minimal or elaborate, as chaotic or harmonious. Interpreted in one or more ways. And in such cases, hearing unsolicited advice or criticism can grind your gears. How dare others assume you care about their opinion and claim your work is anything but perfect or only your own? If you’re sharing, it is to have it admired or at least respected. And as self-centered as that may sound, that is quite valid. Artists get a pass to be self-centered. That is how they connect and stay in touch with themselves.

However, if you’re trying to make art to be a part of something greater (e.g. a team project) or aiming to reach, move, and mark others with it, you might want to consider taking advice and criticism. Since, in this case, there is more to factor in besides yourself.

Artists, especially while starting out, can be touchy about their work and not handle negative feedback very well. It may feel like a cruel attack, disapproval, and condemnation - even when that isn’t the intention and it was delivered with tact. Hence, although sensitivity is an asset for artists, this is where they must turn it off or bubble wrap it. Over time, then, after being exposed to countless feedback, painful or not, and managing to not be completely discouraged, they may develop an unshakable confidence that could baffle people and make them wonder where it comes from. It came from enduring and dodging a lot! From internalizing and purging as required, too.

If you don’t seem to be developing such confidence, there is likely more at play. Whether it is unhealed wounds (making you extra vulnerable), deeply-rooted insecurities (making you your worst enemy), or something of major importance being at stake and getting you out of your character (making you dread mistakes). And if that is so, you should reflect and work more on yourself. As otherwise, you won’t be able to move forward with ease on your artistic path and will instead be tempted to hide your work and take it to your grave. If not also obsessively perfect it with no end in sight and even procrastinate completing it with the excuse of “needing more work”. High standards are great, but this is crippling.

Remember, you get better by admitting, instead of denying, any errors or shortcomings in your work to properly correct them and continue improving. Advice and criticism, when constructive, will lead you in that direction. See yourself as someone who is growing and evolving, not as whatever you’re making that could use revision. Try not to get too defensive.

Once you have your feedback, use it to guide your decisions. Sift through it to find what best serves the purpose of the work. This can be tricky, but can also be mastered with practice.

By listening attentively, looking for where the person giving the advice or criticism is coming from and where they are going with it, whether they are genuinely trying to help you or not, how much they know and understand what they are saying or speaking on, and how much it suits what you’re attempting to accomplish.

Some people will only seek to tear you down, hold you back, or sabotage you. Consciously or not. You could simply ignore them but sometimes it is best to not have them around as they can be convincing and sway you despite your efforts not to be.