Posted by Jon Conkey
As an artist who has spent most of his employed life in the arts, (in many diverse fields), I have had to humble myself to criticism many times for shear lack of credentials. At first, this was very uncomfortable to bear, I hadn’t known the gift of honest opinion, insecurity of the “self”, (my own), always stepped in and “botched it” for me, (like a reflex). After-all, how dare someone tell me “what they really think”: Right! I have since learned from my folly, and furthermore, now cherish the “morsels of truth” that others seemingly can’t hold back from sharing with me from time to time.
As an art student, I loved my teacher, (platonically: get those thoughts out of your head!)), he was a master artist, he could draw and paint better than real, and he approached us all as equals, as well as, a friend. I always tried to do exactly what he instructed of me, and I progressed rapidly. Yet some others in the class did not.
I could see the “wince” on other students faces as he approached with his conte’ crayon to make the “needed” adjustments to their masterpieces. It was at this time that I was first introduced to the art of remaining humble, while completely “under-fire”. Though students paid their “teacher” to teach them how to “draw and paint”, they resisted his instruction every step of the way. They knew there were problems with their work, (and they could not figure it out without help), but they also knew what it was they were trying to achieve; (their perfect vision). It was this discrepancy that led to their resistance; they knew they were wrong, but they knew no one could possibly know what they “really meant to do”, ( hence, get your conte’ off my masterpiece).
Learning to accept criticism is the key to finding those missing “links” for an artist. In this day and age of “political correctness”, one need not look far to see shallow compliments and a true lack of substance in criticisms on most “art blogs”. If you like something about someone’s art, why not tell them precisely what it is that you actually like about it. If the need to “enlighten” someone to some obvious flaws crosses your mind, it helps to point out the good things first, (the more the better). This way, when you get to the “knitty gritty”, they will still be glowing from the “accolade preamble”.
As an artist who wishes to be great, (because I am too weak in the mind to know better, and I could really use the esteem, money, fame, yacht, etc.), I embrace those brave enough to let it all hang out, (I am referring of course to opinions, and not the “models”!). One may indeed get to a point in life, where continuous failure in one direction may lead to the possibility that someone else’s opinion may in fact tell them what they already know, (they are really crummy!). Now, what to do with this valuable information! Well, by listening to “others” or “them”, an amazing thing happens, we become aware of what our efforts are actually communicating to those “others”. From this, we can “adjust” our work to get the result we are looking for; then we can use the same system again: “what do you think of this piece?” By gaining continuous feedback, we see directly what others are seeing of our vision, and what adjustments may bring the desired results to the viewer. It is important to note however, one need not act on every comment offered, (nor break down and cry either), some critiques will miss the point completely, others will hit you “like a ton of bricks”, and still others, will show you how ignorant some folks can truly be, (try not to hurt these people). Either way, by accepting criticism (at face value), and not resisting it, (which is the natural tendency), one learns to “see” through the eyes of other’s, (taking the good, and rejecting the bad). Using this “humility tool” to read the accuracy of one’s attempt to communicate their conception to the public, opens many doors which would otherwise remain closed. Also important to remember, is that you are the one in charge of your creation, everything else is just a “suggestion” based on what you have offered for evaluation. As the artist, you are the creator of your image, no one knows but you what it is you are trying to say. Take the input of others to make your statement exactly what you want it to say, using “them” as the “tool” to let you know when you are truly achieving your goals. An old saying from Jesus, “practice who you say “I am”, until others say “you are”. Cheers