As an artist, each one of us puts our heart, soul and passion behind each piece of work regardless if one is better than the other because each one is special to us. I don’t want to know an artist that doesn’t feel that way because if they don’t put their heart, soul and passion behind each piece, none of that work is worth the time to view it.
Artists express themselves through their work in ways most of us can’t even fathom. Sometimes they put their inner secrets and desires buried in their work that the viewer may not even see. The problem is the work becomes an extension of the artist’s inner sanctum. When they display their work they open themselves up in ways that can seriously scar the artist as they are at their greatest vulnerability. To give a visual, it’s like a soldier going into the war in the desert with no water, food, clothes or weapons and stands before thousands of the enemy warriors with guns pointed.
When I decided to display my work back in 2010, I accepted that scenario because it comes with the territory. Many want to be artists or pro artists that haven’t displayed their work before don’t understand the task they are undertaking. Some, know exactly what they are getting into, so the decide to show their work but refuse to attend because they don’t want to be out shined or hear criticism.
I can’t stress enough how strong a constitution an artist needs. It doesn’t matter what type of art they partake in; it could be music, fine art, performing art, literary or culinary arts… each one faces the exact same adversity every single moment their work is on displayed.
What each artist must understand is that you will face two kinds of people in this world. One of them is someone who adores and gushes over your work. They worship the ground you walk on, they appreciate and can even relate to your work. Then there is the kind that absolutely detests your work. Some of them may come to the light when they really sit back and understand your piece, but some won’t regardless what you do.
Those are the people no artist wants to face, but must if you want to continue to be an artist. The real test isn’t facing these people it’s what you do and how you allow the criticism to impact you after that matters.
Some will be absolutely crushed and give up immediately. Some will show less frequently and/or not show up to shows where their work is on display. Some will remove contact forms, close social media and make themselves scarce to avoid the vulnerability. Some will shake it off and continue down the path they chose. Some will become combative towards those individuals.
I’ve been showing since 2010. In that time I personally showed up to each show and invited those to give me their opinion and open up their minds to my rebuttals. Some of the criticism I received was absolutely brutal and hateful while some I recognized came from lack of understanding the passion behind the piece. Let me share some of my critiques:
“Jason’s work is probably the worst I’ve ever seen. A two year old that is blind and lame could shoot a better photo. His skill could be matched only by a sloth and the sloth may do a better job. I wouldn’t want to share the same air as him in a show, and lucky for me we’ve never been in the same room for a show because I would run him out” @davidc posted in a forwarded e mail to me
“How can you call yourself a Christian and promote evil the way you have. You are the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever seen and may God save your soul as you mock his very grace” – Anonymous Show Attendant
“I will never go to one of your shows he’s corrupting people with his offensive portrayal of Christianity. He’s just offensive his work is.” – Anonymous poster to my Facebook Page
Yes these are real attacks I’ve experienced. I am showing them to you because I want you to see what artists sometimes open themselves up to. With comments like that it could make someone shy or sensitive run for the hills giving up their dream and passion. Ironically I am that person… shy and sensitive but when it comes to my art I am a rock!
What I want to get across to any artist looking to display their work is that you can take the criticism and turn it into something amazing. Use it to better yourself.
“BUT HOW CAN I DO THAT?”
Well, you know someone else out there feels the same about your work as they do, they just decided to keep their opinion to themselves. The one that spilled his guts gave you something to grow from. You can change or evolve some or all of your work to better suit their taste. You may not convince or change everyone that thinks like them but if you don’t try to make your work appeal to them, none of them will change. The likelihood of changing 10% or more of these like minded individuals is a real possibility.
You can also use it to inspire more work and continue your passion to express yourself and challenge yourself to break free from your comfort zone to WOW your audience.
If you do not take criticism well, I suggest either finding another hobby or keeping your passion to yourself and close friends only because you must have an iron clad heart or it could destroy you or your passion for art.
Remember, an artist should NEVER do their work or create pieces for any one person’s opinion as it does not matter. An artist should make each piece and be proud of it because nothing else really matters in the end.
Even if you get criticism no artist is required to change. They have the right to say screw it and continue on the same path as they always have and it someone doesn’t like it… deal with it. They can change to try to reach more people but that’s up to them.
We as patrons should also respect the vulnerability the artist faces and be kind when critiquing. Give the criticism as you would want to receive it. Hateful comments don’t always change things for the better even if you had good intentions behind it.