• James Carter

How to Deal With Criticism as an Artist and Make it Into a Positive

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

As artists, we all face at least one moment where someone is harshly criticising our work, and it makes us feel like crap almost every time, and many times, very enraged, and often feeling like we just want to give up on this project, or even just give up on the dream of being an artist in all.

Well, I'll tell you how to deal with criticism as an artist, artist to artist, I'm not some self-help guru who's going to tell you exactly what to do as I 100% know it will help!

No, I'm going to be honest with you about it, and the truth behind it is, is that it is really demoralizing to us, and to be frank with you, my methods of dealing with criticism as an artist may be completely different to how you may want to deal with them, or what works for me, may not work for you, there is no one simple magic solution to this issue, but there are things you can do to help yourself deal with receiving criticism.

Why do People Critique Artists Work?

(So, first things first, let's differentiate the differences between an artist critiquing your work, and some random comment, or your mate or family criticising your work. A fellow artist will most likely tell you what's wrong with your drawing, how to improve it, and offer you advice on how you can improve. Someone who is not experienced in art, or doesn't really know what they are talking about will usually say things like, that looks rubbish, or the head looks off, or it just doesn't look right. One of them is trying to help you, and improve your art, the other is giving their general opinion of the art)

So...... people critiquing your work, this can be for a multitude of different reasons. A fellow artist who makes a critique is most commonly trying to help you, and improve your art, as they may see something you are doing wrong, and try and help you correct your mistake by offering advice.

A strangers comment on your work, or family or friends, whoever isn't an artist, will usually just tell you what they think is wrong with the drawing, or just tell you it looks rubbish, and never offer you advice on how to improve it.

So... artists will critique your work as they want to help you improve, as they know what they are talking about, and understand the struggle, and also feel your emotions that you feel when being criticised; and other people will critique your artwork because it's what they think in their own personal opinion, a huge reason is that they just want to cause trouble, or want to see you get mad, they will always tell you what to do different, but never offer any advice to you, as these people don't understand the amount of hard effort you've put into your work, and think that art is easy to do, as it's "just drawing".

What is my Experience With Having my Art Critiqued?

Now, I know that when you are just starting out as an artist, taking criticism is actually a lot harder than some think it will be.

In my personal case, when I started drawing again, I just drew very simple graphite animal drawings in a simplistic attempted realism type way. As I slowly developed, after about a month or so, I drew a woman, and asked if anyone was interested in it (now, obviously, when you first start to draw and do art, you think your works are actually pretty decent, and you just know that practice is going to help you, but this is your best drawing to date, and you really want to show it off, and get people's feedback), well.... I got a few responses, but I got one response that hit me quite hard, and I basically ended up asking her what's wrong with it and she just went off on one big crazy spree of saying about how just everything in the drawing was wrong, and that it links trash and stupid, so I asked for more specific feedback, in high hopes of really wanting to improve my art skills, and the response to that was all about how the whole thing was off and so forth; just one big repeat, just a constant slander of how bad it was, and not once giving me tips on how to improve. Now this, for me, is the one true form of criticism that really irritated me beyond belief. Even now, I still receive criticism, but every time I do, I genuinely want to know how I can improve it and the vast majority of people will never respond to me, or just say the same things over and over again, which is a very clear sign that they were just trying to cause trouble.

How to Actually Deal With Art Critique

So, now we have our reasons, and why different people do it, let's really delve into how we as artists can deal with criticism on our artworks.

  1. SHAKE IT OFF. No, not the Taylor Swift song, but if it puts you in a good mood, then go pump the music. What I mean by shake it off, is to make like a duck, and ruffle your feathers after a big wind up, then carry on life as normal. So... obviously, you're not a duck, and you don't have feathers (if you do, I would advise you go see your GP), so this is personally one of my favourite ones to use, not just in art, but in everyday life in general. So after someone has just told you your art looks bad, don't get held up in the thought, if they can't offer you advice on how to correct it, then just say "ok" and continue your life as normal, it's not worth getting wound up by one small know it all who just wants to cause trouble. Go ruffle your feathers (wash your face, take a walk, get some coffee, or do some exercise), then don't let it worry or bother you, it's just one person's opinion, who couldn't even offer you advice, so overall, it does not matter at the end of the day.

  2. Breath and Relax. Now this one is a little similar to the first one, but it is a little different, all this tip is trying to tell you is to just relax about it, if it winds you up, then go for a walk, get some fresh air, or go take 15 minutes of just doing what you want to do to relax. Or just even have a break by going and making a coffee. Because all you need to remember, is that everything is fine in that present moment in time, and that you are okay, you will get better at art.

  3. Don't think twice about it. Now, this one is a little bit like one and two, but all this is saying to you, is don't second think it, take one moment out of your day to think about this one critique once, and see if it offers you any value, and if not, then don't get caught up in it, just let it go, and relax about it, because there are more people who do like your work, and that one person's bad comment, doesn't matter in the long run. There is no point in wasting two moments on a stupid comment that just wants to wind you up, so just spend a moment on it, and that one moment should be just looking at it, because the more you think about it, the more it will irritate you (and.... if it's on social media as a comment, and it bothers you so much, just delete the comment off of your post).

  4. Recognise when Someone is Trying to Help you. So this can go either way this one; many people who are just starting out in art do not like their art to be critiqued, even though someone may be trying to help them, they usually come up with an excuse of "But that's my style" that's just a fast way to not accept the help and learn from it. Most people who are just starting out don't want criticism, they just want to learn by themselves and watch videos about how to draw, and that's all well and good, but as you progress your skill and knowledge further of art, you 'need' to have it critiqued by people, it is the only way to learn, as many of us just know that the art looks of somehow, but we don't know exactly what is wrong, and if we do, we don't know how to fix it. So that is why it is always good to reach out and ask for criticism on your work. Don't just shut down every person who is giving you feedback, listen to them, listen to what they see and listen to their knowledge and how to improve your art.

Reach Out for Help, and Seeking Out Criticism

Reaching out for help. No one likes to admit when they need help, but like it or not, the only way we learn is through the help we are given, and the advice we receive. That is why we should see out help, and that help often comes in the form of criticism, because how can someone help you improve your work if your not even prepared to hear what is wrong with it.

Seeking out help is always a good thing in my opinion, because it will help you improve your work SO much faster, and you get tips from some of the top artists.

How to do this? To seek out people who will help you, just go on Instagram, find an artist you idolise and love their work, then just send them a message, with the picture, and ask how to do something. For me, for example, when I was doing a drawing and I needed to draw some white fur, but I didn't know how to do it on white paper, I just messaged Bonny Snowdon Fine Art, and asked how I to draw white on white, and she replied the next day with some brilliant advice.

So you see, the world of artists is a very good community to be a part of because we all are in this together, and we all want to help each other.

So how do you get them to help you and offer advice, well, we're not going to be your mentors, but artists are always happy to give someone some help and tips tricks and advice. All you do is just send them a message asking for some help, specifying what you need some help on. Just don't ever spam them, and send them links to your videos, and asking for likes, for me, anyone who does this is pretty much immediately blocked, it is beyond annoying.

How to Turn Criticism Into a Positive

Well, to turn Criticism into a positive, all you need to do is look on it in a positive light. Listen to the critique and work out how to improve your art, because that way you progress so much faster, and you will soon be at a point where the critique doesn't matter at all, because you get WAY more positive comments about your work than negative comments, but do please bear in mind that criticism is not always a negative point, many times it is just people trying to wind you up, but a lot of the time, just see it as help, and accept that help, because remember, that person has taken time out of their day to try and help you improve your work, and soon, you will be at a stage in your work where you can help others, and help critique their work in order to help them.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, I am really enjoying writing these, please follow me on my social platforms, and keep up to date with these weekly blogs, and send me a message as to what you would like to hear me talk about next week. Thank you so much for reading, have an awesome day, brilliant week, and a fantastic life!