How To Conquer The Cancer Of Criticism

Unfortunately, criticism is something that we are all rather too familiar with. We begin bearing the burden of others judgment from a very young age and the problem is that we end up becoming overly self-critical. In fact, we will often jump in to criticise ourselves and things we have done before anybody else can even open their mouths to suggest there is something not as good as it might be.

Criticism, however, does not have to be all bad. If we can learn to accept another’s analysis of our work, for what it is, their opinion, then we can digest what they have said later and see if it has any validity. Sometimes we reject another’s critique out of hand because we don’t want to admit that things might need to change, that perhaps we’ve made a mistake.

Who Are Your Critics

As an artist, it is important to realise that there are different kinds of critics in the art world, and their opinions are not all equal. So who are these people? They fall into four main categories

  • Relatives and friends
  • Yourself
  • Professional art critics
  • Teachers and mentors
  • The general public

Let’s take an in-depth look at them.

Relatives and friends

When you are a budding artist one of the most damaging forms of criticism can come from your spouse or partner and other relatives or friends. The problem is that we are used to listening to these people and often accepting their advice.

However, when it comes to our artwork they are not necessarily experts and in all probability, they aren’t. All they can do is offer you an opinion about what they like or don’t like. They do not have any technical expertise and are therefore unlikely to be able to offer you much in the way of useful appraisal. This is further compounded by the fact that we often want to please them and so we may change something in our painting on their advice, even though it may be the wrong thing to do. The other problem here is that when you are beginning you are so unsure of what you are doing that you might turn to anyone for help, whether they can actually help or not.


My advice regarding relatives and friends is to politely accept their assessment and then just ignore it until you can find some one more knowledgeable, whose opinion you do trust. You must learn to develop a bit of a thick skin because there are always going to be those that like your work and those that don’t. And if you take the judgement of others too much to heart, you’re in for a rocky road.


art critics photo


Self-criticism also has its place. It is, in fact, a vital part of producing an artwork. However, we might like to think of it as evaluation rather than criticism. The word carries so much negative baggage along with it. Yet, if I do not stand back and critically appraise my current artwork I will not be able to see either if, or where I have gone wrong. Worse than that I will not even be acknowledging that I may have made a mistake or two. 

In order to deepen my art practice, I must be able to critically appraise my own work from a non-emotional standpoint. I have to be able to realise that an art practice is built on the foundation of making mistakes and failing forwards. If I don’t get this important point I will have a great deal of difficulty progressing.

The other important aspect of self-criticism is developing your intuition.  Learning to listen for and hear that voice within, which will guide you more truly than your ego.

Professional Art Critics

There are times during your art career, where you may have your art critically appraised by journalists, competition judges and other art critics, who make a living at making critical appraisals of artworks. The higher you rise in the art world, the more you will come under the microscope of the professional critic.  Although they have much experience in appraising art, you must remember, that they are still expressing a personal opinion. A judge is highly unlikely to choose a competition winner with a piece of work he or she dislikes.

At the end of the day, there will be as many opinions about your work as there are people in the world!.

Teachers and mentors

Of all the people who might criticise your work, teachers and mentors are probably the most valuable of those who will offer you a critical appraisal. You would do well to pay attention to what they say and attempt to put into practice what they are advising you. Of course, nobody is infallible and you must use your own unemotional judgement to determine whether you think their advice will improve your work or not. This is where it becomes important to be able to listen to your own intuition because it will always guide you well.

The general public

The general public is a very similar category to family and friends and you can apply the advice given for that category to this one.

So, as you can see, there are many aspects to the subject of criticism, and it will serve you well to listen to some and discard the rest.



Pix Credits :

First Photo – by johnhain

Second Image  by Slimdandy