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October 7th, 2019 - 12:09 PM
Wow, this week’s Campfire was exciting! When it began to snow, we built a huge fire ~ and believe me, we needed it.
Feedback From Artists
Watching the snowflakes melt as they dropped into the flames that warmed our campfire circle was hypnotizing. And an American Native Flute player provided traditional native music and it was magical. Our conversation went well into the night. The conversation was focused on feedback from artists, families, and Facebook about our paintings. I again took a place on my Soap Box and engaged in a lively conversation that sounded like this.
I believe that the act of painting creates the opportunity to open a conversation between, the artist ~ “the Creator,” and the viewer. No great painting can be done in a vacuum without input and reaction. We claim we only paint for ourselves but that is false. We all desperately crave feedback and want to know what our art says to the viewer. We are fearful of criticism, of looking foolish, or we fear appearing ignorant. We all know that in order to grow, we must face our fears head on and do our best. It is hard enough to receive feed back one on one, but when done at a show or in a group, getting a critique of our work can be completely paralyzing.
I attend a large convention every year of like-minded painters. One of the most attended events of the convention happens in the evenings when a professional artist critiques the work painted during the day - in a public forum. Unfortunately, many professional artists are not effective communicators. What might be a passing observation by the person giving the critique can be like a knife in the heart of the artist whose art is being critiqued. Two different times, I was approached by an artist who was packing their car in the parking garage, intending to quit the event and even quit painting all together. The artists told me about how upset they were because of what a “professional” artist said about their work in such a public forum. Hoping to soften the effect of their negative experience, I asked if I could take a look at their work. They agreed, and after our conversation and my observation, they learned how to improve their paintings and they felt a sense of confidence and courage to continue painting.
Room for Growth
Some artists with sensitive hearts should never be asked to do a public critique. Feedback can’t always be positive. It’s unfair to expect otherwise. It’s also unfair to blame the messenger. Everybody hates criticism, constructive or not. Criticism isn’t nearly as much fun as being told that our work is brilliant. But if you are told that your work is brilliant, there is no room for growth. For an artist to develop his craft, others must witness his work and this often makes an artist feel uncomfortable. We go through life wanting to look good and avoid anything that makes us look bad.
Think of criticism as feedback
From an early age, most of us have carried around memories of being criticized (of one reason or another) pertaining to the art we created when we were young. From our first creations made with crayons and paper, we know that a huge part of being an artist is learning. The most successful artists are open to new ideas. They strive to constantly improve their work. We can’t change what people think or even control what they say, but we can change our reaction to criticism. Think of criticism as feedback, and feedback facilitates learning. Like anything you learn, you’ve got to discern what feedback is valuable and what isn’t. You chose what comments about your work are relevant. If you are talking to other artists and they want to know your opinion, open by saying, “What is missing for me is,” and this makes whatever you say your personal opinion and gives the artist freedom to enter listen or not. Said this way, it doesn’t accept nor discount, and allows space for consideration. It’s a polite response. This response offers an opportunity to learn, to deliberate, and grow. It creates space for your “artist ego” to accept the feedback without feeling small. Likewise, listen to anyone who offers feedback, and especially listen to his or her comments of what is what is missing for him or her.
Don't Wait for Perfection
To grow as an artist requires that you get your paintings out of the studio and enter them in competitions, shows, and galleries. Do it now. Your fears will always be there. Remember, as we learn and grow, the bar gets higher for us to measure up to. The viewer does not know your goals and plans; they love your work just as it is ~ if you don’t tell them what’s missing. It is up to you to grow or not grow. Don't wait for perfection. It is only an idea that you hold that isn't true. Accept that the work that you do now is the best of your best work. Show it! Enter a competition today! Look up: Call For Artists on Google and enter a show now!
"The eyes of the world are waiting to see what you have to say."
I have coached many students over the years. My goal as a coach is to help students discover their own style by instructing with a method that allows them to grow as they are. If you want increase your knowledge and skill to bring your art to the next level, I invite you to watch my YouTube videos, consider phone coaching with me, or attend a workshop in Mt. Shasta where we discuss art, passion and life with other artists around the campfire. All the information is on my website, www.stefanbaumann.com.