Every creative person I know has these things in common:
We crave feedback, we want our work to be seen and we desperately want to know what our work says to the viewer.
At the same time, creative people hate criticism.
To be fair, everybody hates criticism, that’s a universal loathing. Criticism, constructive or not, isn’t nearly as much fun as being told our work is brilliant.
But artists need feedback. And that feedback can’t always be positive. It’s unfair to expect otherwise. And it’s also unfair to blame the messenger.
Remember, there is no right or wrong in art.
Every viewer brings their own experiences, aesthetics, and ideas to the work. Their response to your work is as much about them, maybe even more, than it is about you.
But artists need feedback.
So how to handle that feedback when it isn’t full of sunshine and roses? When it raises our hackles and makes us feel defensive?
First of all, embrace the process of the craft. And a huge part of being an artist is learning.
The most successful artists in the world open themselves up to new ideas and to constantly improving their work and their practice.
So think of feedback as learning.
And, like anything you learn, you’ve got to discern what holds value and what doesn’t. Not every new technique is going to suit you. Not every comment about your work is going to be relevant.
I’ve found that the best response to a negative opinion is, “That’s interesting.”
“That’s interesting” is open, not defensive. It’s a polite response.
“That’s interesting” doesn’t accept nor discount, it allows the space for consideration.
“That’s interesting” offers that opportunity to learn, and learning is part of an artist’s job.
“That’s interesting” gives you the space to choose to agree or disagree with the feedback after you’ve given it time for deliberation. It creates space for your ego to accept the feedback without feeling small.
So don’t fear feedback. And more importantly, don’t let negative feedback hurt you. Your job is to learn what holds value and what doesn’t fit.
And that, my friend, truly is interesting.
Actively involved in the contemporary art world throughout her career, Crista Cloutier is the founder of The Working Artist, an online business program for artists. Honored as an “Influencer in the Contemporary Art World” by LinkedIn, Crista’s work has reached artists in over 45 different countries. Visit www.theworkingartist.com/free-updates to join Crista’s mailing list.