Cut To The Quick – Is There Such a Thing as Comforting Criticism?
Comforting Criticism – well that’s a kind of paradox, isn’t it? Nobody really wants criticism – we don’t want to be told that our fledgling creations aren’t quite up to scratch, that we didn’t get it right. Is there any value in criticism at all, we might ask? There are two things at stake here – one is our precious ego, and the other is our fear. That fear that we are being seen for the fraud that we really are ( well so we tell ourselves), and the fear that we won’t be able to get it right at all. The fear that we are so bad, so dumb that we won’t ever get it right stops creativity in its tracks.
Man, that gremlin – does he sit on your shoulder sometimes, because he’s certainly spent a lot of time sitting on mine in the past? So this leads me to Comforting Criticism. – Just what is that really? I have heard it described as an Oreo™ cookie. Why? Because you give some pithy comments upfront, followed by something mushier and follow-up with a last, slightly challenging sentence. In other words, your criticism is offset by some encouraging comments.
There are different ways to view criticism. We can take it too hard and get upset and even angry with the other person about their observations. Or we can be a bit thick skinned and say to ourselves ‘well is that true? What do I honestly think about that? Of course, any persons critical viewpoint is their opinion about the matter at hand. So obviously some criticism is going to be more valuable than others. If you are taking an art class and your tutor comments about something in your work that could perhaps be changed, and they explain why it needs to be, this is a lot more useful than one of your classmates commenting on your work, when they don’t necessarily have that much experience. However, that doesn’t mean to say that you have to dismiss the criticism out of hand, particularly if they have painted for longer than you have.
The trouble with criticism is that our fragile egos don’t like to think that we haven’t got it right, and it’ll go to bat for us, when that may not even be helpful at all. And the problem with comforting criticism is that we may be receiving a watered down version of the truth, which is not helpful either.
It is my belief that criticism certainly has its place in the scheme of things. And my positive response to it rises in direct proportion to the regard with which I hold the criticizer. If it’s someone who I consider knows more about the subject than I do, I’m very happy to listen to their thoughts on the subject at hand.
This Weeks Question: What has been your reaction to criticism of your work? Do you find it useful or do you fear it?
Look For Next Week’s Post: An artist’s biggest fear, what do you think it is?