The term art critique makes many an artist cringe. The problem, however, isn’t art critique. It’s our understanding of it.
Hi my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help people like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice.
This is the 4th video in a 5 part series called a Guide to Developing Your Unique Artist Style and today we talk about a super important, valuable and necessary ingredient to discovering artist voice: art critique.
The first problem we face is our understanding of the term. Because the phrase includes the word criticism it is easy to connect art critique to receiving only negative feedback. A lot of us have a subconscious, or conscious belief that critiquing art is only about the things that have gone wrong in an artwork. This misconception stops artists from asking for feedback when that is exactly what art critique should be: feedback on your art.
There’s another problem with feedback: not everyone knows how to give valuable feedback. (I wrote a separate article on this and have linked it below this video.) Feedback is not always of quality so not only can you worry about people only pointing out things they don’t like or that went wrong in your work, they can also offer you bad advice! No wonder so many of us feel vulnerable or insecure about asking for feedback about our art.
Here’s the truth: feedback is a source of information. And just like we have to try to sort out fact from fiction in our world of biased news, we have to consider the source of our feedback when it comes to our art. There are several things to consider:
What kind of feedback are you looking for?
If you want to know how to be more accurate in your drawing, well, this is very different from asking if your art is any good, or asking if someone might want to buy the work. Ask yourself: what information am I seeking out to inform the decisions I make in my art?
Ask the “right” people.
Whose feedback is more valuable to you about the accuracy of your drawing: your fellow artist friends or your non-artist partner? The feedback is only as valuable as the people you select for the questions you ask. Non-artists can offer very valuable feedback about how they experience a work, what kinds of stories they see in your art, etc. but if they don’t know techniques they probably aren’t the people to ask those questions.
When is it time to ask for feedback?
I see a lot of artists online sharing finished artwork who say they are open to feedback. I find this a bit puzzling: why ask for feedback when the work is finished? OF course, you can always get feedback to learn and apply the information to your next artwork, but why not instead ask for feedback at different stages of completion to really help you make the best artwork you can?
Sometimes I think people are really seeking affirmation that they are artists, that the work is inspiring or “good” when they post this way online. If you want to share a finished artwork to celebrate it, you should! Making art is hard work and it deserves recognition. But you also don’t need to pretend you want feedback either if you are seeking affirmation about the work. The more honest I’ve been with myself and others about this, the happier I’ve been with my art.
Sift through the feedback to make your own decisions.
You are the authority about your art, no one else. So take the feedback you receive and ask yourself: which ideas resonate with me? Also: which feedback triggers me? Triggers generally mean there is truth somewhere in the feedback you find threatening. Take time to reflect on the feedback and your response to it. Choose the feedback that you feel called to act on and work with it to improve your art. Ignore the rest.
Feedback is an absolutely key ingredient in refining your skill and developing your voice. It’s part of the formula for excellence mentioned in research on expertise by Anders Ericsson. And it’s the one thing I see beginning artists avoid regularly. It’s a real shame, too. That feedback is exactly what helps a beginner move from beginner to proficient to expert more quickly. It’s how to improve your art!
I will note a lot of us here are highly sensitive folk. It’s completely okay to feel sensitive, vulnerable, or even hurt by feedback. Be sure you take steps to honor your emotions and help you more through them so you can make the most of the information feedback provides.
Also consider what stage you are at with your art and how you receive feedback. I’ve written about this and I’ve linked the article so you can be sure to dig in and reflect on this as well.
It is useful to have key phrases prepared so when people provide unwanted, unwarranted, or ill intentioned feedback you are ready to reply and don’t feel caught off guard. Saying something like “thank you but I’m refining the work more before I seek feedback,” or, “I’m not looking for feedback at this time” can offer you an easy out when the “wrong” person shows up offering you feedback.
Do you want feedback on the art you are currently creating?
Feedback is so important I decided to host a Facebook Live weekly Q and A on our Facebook Page Becoming Artist Strong. I’ll give you specific feedback on your art and answer your questions about developing your unique artist voice.
Post your question or the artwork you want feedback on to the Facebook page, inside our Facebook Group, or tag me @ArtistStrong on Instagram. I look forward to seeing you Fridays at 12:30 Eastern Standard time.
Don’t worry: if you can’t make it live, the replay will be available on the Facebook Page, so start sending me your questions. Be sure to pop on either way to learn from other’s feedback and questions.
Now, it’s time to Be Creatively Courageous: Post a question you can ask others about your art to gain useful feedback.
Next month I’m hosting a series of free workshops on finding voice as well as sharing experiments that can help you find the right way to promote your art. If this sounds interesting be sure to sign up for the webinar here.
Next week I am offering a mini-workshop that walks through this month’s video series to help you create actionable steps to find your unique artist voice. See you then!