This website is dedicated to trying to help my readers to learn how to use their creative power to change their world. Everything ties back to this connection between creativity and business and the way in which the two can interact to create change in your life, empowering you to direct your life in the way you want it to go.
So far, I have focussed much more on the business end of things and we’ve talked a lot about self discipline and ethics and values and all of those things. Really, that stuff is pretty foundational and it is often lacking in the lifestyle of the highly creative person (let’s be honest). This is why I’ve spent a lot of time building up a good information base on those topics. I’m going to delve into the arts side of the conversation a little deeper in the coming months, because it is important to cover all the bases and to seek balance.
Receiving critique is a necessary part of our growth and learning process as artists. If you care about becoming masterful in your work, you should seek out knowledgeable and skilled artists in your same area of work. Ask them to look at your art, and actively seek out their advice. It is always good to have fresh eyes on your project, and the advice of weathered and wise artists can be really invaluable as it shapes and informs your technique.
Now, there are many important differences between being critiqued and being criticised. Learning to spot the differences between critiques and mere criticisms can help you avoid a lot of potential heartache.
So, to clarify, a critique is (or should be) a fair and balanced evaluation of your work, while criticism has a tendency to be more negative, focusing upon your faults or mistakes. Critiques are generally given by experienced artists, while criticism can come from any old Joe who just thinks he knows a thing or two. Being criticised is almost always unpleasant, while being critiqued can be a very valuable and good thing. You should actively ignore criticism (unless there is any useful information within), but actively and regularly seek out well-informed critique.
Not all critiques will be as valuable to you as others. Even highly qualified artists have varied views on how things should be done. And sometimes, people just do not give good advice, even if they themselves seem quite skilled. You are still in charge of your art and your technique, you make the decisions here. Learn to take what is valuable to you and leave behind what is not. Grow a slightly thicker skin, too, because sometimes critiques can sting a little. It’s all good, it’s all for your growth as an artist.
As with most things, there is a balance to be sought. We can be appreciative of a genuine and well informed critique while simultaneously tuning out ignorant criticism (of which artists always receive plenty) and picking and choosing pieces of advice that we feel apply to the way we want to work.
In order to create this, we need to balance our own humility with our desire for autonomy and control over our art, our ability to learn from our mistakes with our need to think independently and stick to our guns. It can be difficult at times, but it is the only way to forge the path to our own individual, unique perspective within an established art form that already has its own well-accepted set of rules.
Whenever you’re seeking out advice or critique for your work, the most important input will always come from you. Provided that you are honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, it’s completely valid for you to maintain the right to make the final call. After all, your art is a reflection of yourself and only you are responsible for that!
Unfortunately, there are many secrets in the art world and good advice can be hard to come by. People can tend to be protective of their techniques as they seek to make their own unique mark in the art world, but this is short-sighted. The love of the art itself is more important than an artist’s need to keep their personal methods under their hats. If we love our art, we will share as much of our knowledge and experience as we can in order to awaken, encourage and educate new artists.
You’re very fortunate indeed if you find a community within your art world where people are generous with their time, advice, knowledge and wisdom. Learn as much as you can from them, and be determined that you will also be generous with your knowledge. In this way we keep the art world dynamic, full of growth, development and relevancy for many years to come.
I’ll link here to an article I wrote with a similar theme to this one, which lists some ideas for places to start looking for like-minded and experienced artists. Be proactive in your search because the payoff of finding a great, supportive community is really hard to overstate.