not to draw

Recently we heard that the daughter of one of our Facebook Group members had her art put down by her art teacher. But not in a constructive way, in a way that made her want to stop drawing. When she posted what had happened, many of the group said that similar things had happened to them. Ironically some of them now sell their art and one even became an art teacher. Sandra and I have both had similar experiences with people putting our work down and we shared those experiences in one of our podcast episodes ‘Dealing with Negative Feedback.’

Here are a couple of things we’ve dealt with:

My own experience happened when I had nearly finished my graphic design course at college. I went to a company that a tutor suggested I visit. They told me “I don’t think you’ll make it as a graphic designer, if you’re lucky you might be able to get a job in a printers”. What use was that to me? None, whatsoever. It was demoralising and pointless. Why not say, ”I would suggest you work on X. Here’s a couple of exercises I suggest you try. This is a good book that will help you (the internet wasn’t around back then). Anyway, I got a job in graphic design quickly after that. Way quicker than many of the other students.

When Sandra was learning how to paint she received an email from another artist. It pulled apart her painting, listing everything that was wrong with it… in bullet points! She hadn’t asked for criticism and this was not constructive. Fortunately, she got over it. And if you’ve seen her paintings now, you’ll know that she’s silently blowing a raspberry at that insensitive artist. In contrast, she also received constructive criticism from another artist. He offered encouragement, but made a suggestion on how to improve her composition.

What do they know?

Let’s face it, what exactly does the critical person know anyway? There are so many different art styles out there that it may not be that your art is bad. It might simply not appeal to their taste. And did you even ask for a critique? I can almost guarantee that there are artists’ work that you just don’t get at all, but regardless they are making a fortune. Likewise, there might be artwork you love that doesn’t make much money at all. And if you’re drawing just for fun, then whether they think your art is any good or not is completely irrelevant. All that matters is how creating art makes you feel.

What Criticism is worth listening to?

If the “so-called“ expert does feel that your art is not up to scratch. For example, if your drawing skills are not that strong, there are more constructive things they could say. They could encourage you to practice certain things. They could point you to tutorials and books to strengthen your weaknesses. They could suggest ways of practising or offer you drawing exercises. They could point out where you are going right as well as wrong. Encouragement makes you want to draw more. Unconstructive criticism makes you want to give up.

So if someone criticises your art, think: have they offered me anything in the way of advice that will help me improve? if not disregard what they say, and carry on doing what you love.

Even a Hollywood actress once got negative criticism from a teacher

And remember, even a famous Hollywood actress once got negative criticism from a teacher. They told her that she “might do ok if she was prepared to settle for the fat girl parts.”

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