Seeking advice and being open to critique

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This website is dedicated to trying to help you to use your creative power to change your 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 focused 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 that focus on business matters 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.

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 or a similar 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 truly invaluable as it shapes and informs your technique.

Now, there are many important differences between being critiqued and being criticized. Learning to spot the differences between critiques and mere criticisms can help you avoid a lot of potential heartache.

To be clear:

  • 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 criticized is almost always unpleasant, while being critiqued can be a very valuable and good thing.
  • You should actively ignore criticism, but intentionally 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 and call the shots 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 sense of 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 version of an established art form that (more likely than not) already has its own generally-accepted set of rules.

When you are actively seeking advice, you will most likely find that some artists will not be as willing as others to share it. Unfortunately, there are many secrets keepers in the art world. Some artists can be fiercely protective of their personal techniques as they seek to maintain uniqueness, but this is short-sighted.

The love of the art itself is more important than any artist’s need to keep their personal methods under their hats. If we love our art, we will share as much of our hard-earned knowledge as we can in order to encourage, inspire, empower and educate new artists. Not to mention that when artists share their techniques and wisdom freely, there is an interplay between artists that can breathe new life and vitality into the collective artform.

Remember that art is communication and that without communication, art will die.

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. By intentionally seeking out the knowledge of others and by paying our knowledge forward, we keep the art world dynamic, full of growth, development and relevancy for many years to come. Seek out that communication and sharing as you will contribute to not only your own growth but the strengthening and betterment of the art world as a whole.

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