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How to Deal with Negative Criticism

How to Deal with Negative Criticism

Amy Wilson | ArtBistro

Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen – that person that you’ve just been dying to have come to your studio or look at your portfolio finally does… and they don’t like what they see. But instead of being crushed by the experience, how can you respond to negative criticism in a way that turns the whole situation into a positive one? In this article, I’ve laid out a few things you can do to learn from your visit, rather than simply feeling hurt by it.

Take Note

Does Your Self-Esteem Need a Makeover?

1. Pool party! How do you feel? :

Excited to check out hot bods
Freaked out
That's my worst nightmare

As soon as your visit is over, take a few notes on what was said, while everything is still fresh in your mind. Strive for accuracy in these notes – don’t accentuate the parts you want to remember (or are desperate to forget), just write down what factually took place. Think about how the visit unfolded, what happened first, and then what happened next, and record all of that. We have a tendency to dwell on certain moments and to exaggerate them in our mind; if you can get down a clear record of what actually happened, it will help you to follow up with the information you received in a positive way.

Be Honest with Yourself

Once you have this information down, think back a little bit to the way you were feeling right before the critique. Ask yourself what your expectations for the visit were – and be really honest with yourself. Sometimes we set our sights so high that anything less than what we dreamed of sounds like a total disappointment. If you were determined to get a solo show out of a gallery director visiting your studio, you might be crushed if he or she simply concluded the visit with “Let’s keep in touch.” This is unreasonable – there are many very plausible reasons why someone might not jump on your work right away, and only one of those reasons is that they don’t like it.

Search for Constructive Criticism

When you come to the point where you feel as though you’ve recorded what happened accurately and really considered your expectations (and perhaps taken a break for a little while, if it was an especially difficult critique for you), it’s time to really start to take the visit apart in your mind. Think about the substance of the conversation. Did the person give you constructive criticism, maybe even tossing in some concrete solutions to problems that they saw? If that’s the case, acknowledge that while they didn’t really connect to your work, at least they think you’re up for improving it down the road – in fact, it sounds like they really want you to succeed, even if they don’t feel like you’re succeeding right now. This is the kind of criticism you should take very seriously, because it sounds like this person really has your best interest at heart.

Take Some Things with a Grain of Salt

But were the things they suggested totally out of left field and not at all anything you would ever consider? In that case, maybe you and your visitor just have other things in mind for your work. You ought to respect their opinion but take it with a grain of salt and realize that the two of you may never see eye to eye. It can be an amazing experience for an abstract painter to get a critique from a photorealist painter, but only if they acknowledge and respect from the beginning that they both approach their practices very differently. You can learn a lot from these conversations, but that doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate everything suggested into your work.

Next: They May Be Petty or Just Plain Mean →

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