How to Deal With Art Criticism from Your Spouse, Partner, or other Close Family and Friends

Several weeks ago, I received the following email from a discouraged artist:

I’ve been working on a sculpture for some time now that I thought was finished and at least four times [my husband] walked into the studio and completely upended my thinking by telling me he wasn’t fond of it. He loves the top two thirds but not the bottom third. I’ve listened each time he’s made suggestions and taken them to heart by making significant changes. And, each time the piece was improved upon. The last time I thought it was finished, and he didn’t, it got a little tense. After a few days of thinking about it, I whacked that bottom third off and I’m in the process of rebuilding it yet again.

We both struggle when it comes to the using art terms to describe something. I have to drill down, by asking questions, to what he really means. He can be terribly blunt. He at times doesn’t seem to value the amount of time and emotional energy that goes into the making of a sculpture even though he’s seen me working on it for weeks or months.

I, on the other hand, can be resistant and stubborn and it’s not easy to hear criticism regarding my work when he breezes into the room as I’m ready to pronounce it done. I usually come around but that initial reaction to his statements isn’t pretty.

I’d like to know how other artist/spouse teams handle this type of communication.

I grew up in a household where this was an almost daily question. As many of you know, my father is a painter, and my mother manages the business side of his career. They’ve worked together this way for over thirty years. As I recall, this partnership worked very well for them. My mom and dad seem to have dispositions that compliment one another. My mom has always been encouraging and optimistic, and this has helped propel my father forward, especially at times that he might have felt discouraged.

That doesn’t mean it’s always been smooth sailing, however. I know there have been times, even recently, when mom thought that dad was on the wrong track with a particular piece, or that a certain piece wasn’t as successful as my dad thought it was. I’m not privy to the conversations where these kinds of things are discussed, and I don’t know if there’s ever any tension when the two don’t see eye to eye artistically.

As I thought about the email above, I realized how complex it could be navigating criticism from a spouse, partner or close friend. The criticism can almost certainly never be taken objectively. I would also bet that this kind of criticism is never given in a vacuum. Whatever else is going on in your relationship and life is likely going to bleed over into the feedback about the art.

I thought this would be a great topic of conversation to open up on the blog. Before writing the post, I decided to reach out to a group of readers and ask about their experience and what advice they might give to this artist, who is struggling with spousal criticism. I want to thank all of those of you who responded to my email – your input really gave me new insights into the challenges of this issue.

The first thing I discovered is that the majority of artists I reached out to appreciate the feedback about their art, even when it’s critical. Some struggle, however, especially with the manner criticism is given. Other’s wish that a spouse or partner were interested enough to give feedback.

Education of the Partner/Critic

One of my first questions was how qualified do artists feel their partners are to give feedback? While some artists are paired with other artists or have partners who are trained in some artistic discipline, most artists have non-creatives as partners. This has a big impact on how an artist takes the criticism offered by a partner.

A partner with an artistic education is often better able to articulate their criticism, but many artists find that the lack of artistic education of a spouse can actually be an asset.

Sheila Bycraft, a fine art jeweler from Wardsville, Ontario, says her sister, who often gives her feedback, “doesn’t have any formal art education, but she does represent a large part of my target market, which makes her opinion invaluable.She certainly does not need any education to test out a new bracelet design for durability or to see if it gets snagged on things!”

I heard this sentiment a lot from artists. They felt that a partner critic could serve as a proxy for their clientele, who often might also not have much of an artistic education. Another artist said:

I don’t think it impacts their criticism. It may impact how they articulate how they feel, but not their feelings. If, as artists, we plan on letting our pieces leave our vision, our creation, and our care, we have to be ready for how the general public will view them, whether we like it or not.

Star Trauth, Miami, Florida

 

How to Communicate More Effectively

So, how can you build a better artist/critic relationship with a partner? Unfortunately there is no facile answer to give. Each relationship is going to have its own dynamic, challenges and opportunities. I would offer some of the following suggestions as a start however.

Explicitly Talk about How You Would Like to Receive Feedback About Your Work

One of the biggest issues seems to be that many artists have fallen into unhealthy communication and criticism with their partners without even realizing it was happening. Some artists are lucky to find that their partners are naturally good at giving feedback, but others have, over the course of decades, fallen into poor communication habits with a spouse, partner or close family member. A partner’s poor communication about your artwork can lead to resentment and conflict. This simmering resentment can grow by tiny increments into a cauldron of conflict over the course of years.

If you are just beginning a relationship with a partner, it would be a great time to have a formal conversation about what you need in terms of feedback and how best to communicate with you. Even artists who are decades into a relationship can benefit from a dialogue about how they would like to be critiqued. Sometimes a partner is communicating poorly because you haven’t provided any instructions about how to better  communicate.

It’s also reasonable to expect that your communication with a partner will evolve over time, just as your relationship does.

Naomi VanDoren, an artist in Oakland, California agrees with this approach.

Have a conversation with that person about what kind of feedback you need and when. It’s important to have them understand that at certain times you’re not looking for feedback or are not ready. Tell them to not give advice unless asked for and to “sandwich” the critique it between compliments if you’re still unsure.

What to do When You Disagree with the Criticism

Hopefully, as a relationship continues, a partner will become better and better at communicating, and will develop a better eye for your work. Even so, however, there are going to be times when you feel your partner is wrong.

You can’t please everyone, nor should you dilute your artwork in order to do so. Some get it and some don’t. That doesn’t mean that you should only listen to those who “get it” as that may also stunt growth as you may become funneled into a style that “works”. Staying true to yourself is the way to appreciate and learn from criticism. Even tho many of us are so closely connected to our art, remove yourself from it and realize that the viewer is not criticizing you as a person but just what he or she is seeing in front of them and that they care enough about your success to be honest.

Madeleine Fia Matsson
Brooklyn, NY

As an artist, talented or not, you are always lonely. You try to make your dreams come true. You try to follow your feelings and way you see the world via your creations. And nobody I repeat nobody can that take away from you. Keep on creating you will get always critics; you will get always rejection, but keep your dreams and go on creating the way you think is right!!

Mark Pol

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 

Basically, hand him/ her the brush and tell them to show me what they mean. It stops them in their tracks😜 I also try not to let someone have too much say or power in what I’m creating, it’s from my soul/ experience/ esthetics and what I think works.

Melanie Fergusen

Oakley, UT

To stop feeling bad about negative criticism always remember the person is not talking about you, not criticizing you, but is talking about a product outside yourself. That product is not you and you are not the product. Nevertheless, the best approach to hear others’ views is to discuss all the things that are working well on a piece and why. This can be built around the elements and principles of design or simply gut reactions. Never take any one person’s opinion as definitive.

Valerie Kent
Cavan, Ontario

 

Attitude

Know in your heart that they truly love you and have your best interests in mind. Then LISTEN. Try not to bring your feelings into the mix. That will close your ears to what they have to say to you. What they see is what collectors see – listen and be open

Marie Tippets
Dana Point, CA

Usually harsh criticism has more behind it. If you can figure out what the individual’s motivation is and understand your own sensitivities to any criticism, you have a starting point to determine if you can negotiate an agreement with the other individual or if you have to learn to tune it out.

Deb Marvin
Independence, Kentucky

What do you Think?

Does the artistic education of your partner matter? How has partner criticism impacted your work? What have you done to build a better artist/partner relationship? What advice would you give to an artist struggling with criticism from a spouse, partner or friend? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

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33 Comments

  1. Art criticism from my spouse can be a very tricky thing. Is the criticism really about the art? Is the criticizing partner really interested in improving the art piece? Or does it go way deeper than that, as in control?
    There are times, when a criticizing partner has to be put in their place. They don’t feel the art the way the artist creating the piece does. The artist should rely more on their own judgment. Because only the artists know what they are trying to express.
    Personally, I like to discuss my art with other art friends. They have a better understanding of what we’re going through and can express constructive criticism in a proper manner.

    1. Oh Meike, ditto 5000%! My wife/manager/agent who takes 100% of my earnings isn’t shy to express her opinion after a casual glance. It’s hard to remain upbeat that the woman I love could be so blunt, so I pout . After I examine the painting in question some time later, I usually see she’s right (is any wife EVER wrong?), take off my chastity jock and fix the problem.

      HOWEVER, it is a great fun when she does this, I ignore her, and the painting sells in no time!!!!!!!

      The word CONTROL here is key. Paint on Meike!!!

    2. Well said. The artwork is your vision, not theirs. It has to satisfy you that it’s correct. Trying to creat towards someone else’s vision is tricky. That’s why portrait commissions are such a minefield – of the clien’t expectation (muddled up with all their emotional feelings for the subject of the painting) and how you see the subject without all the emotional baggage.

  2. My husband is my biggest supporter and my go-to critic. He is not an artist and he is color blind. His degree is in business management – with initial studies in engineering. I paint portraits and large seascapes and do have an art education. I have found that he has two astute “Critiquing” areas that I pay attention to. And we keep it to those two areas.

    1. If he points out an area that “disturbs his eye” I know I need to figure out WHY. I don’t expect him to have the solution.

    2. If he says it needs “excitement” then I know that I have not captured my audience’s attention or imagination. But, it’s up to me to figure out why.

    He does not critique before I am ready for it and ASK. I have found that critiquing too early is too disruptive to my ability to stay on course with my ideas.

    One last thing – if he walks into my studio when I am in the first stages of mapping out a painting AND he says “that’s going to be a good one!” I know I have a strong composition.

    It’s important to not take things personally!

  3. HI Jason,
    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this issue. My wife frequently dislikes my paintings and/or sculptures. But I persist in creating my work, because it expresses what I am feeling at the time.

    When I first began painting, I created a peace that I particularily liked. My wife took one look at it and said, “Good Luck getting anyone to hang that in their home”. A few months later, it was one of two paintings i entered into a show. A few days later, we were in a glass class together when I received a call form someone at the gallery who expressed an interest in purchasing one of my paintings.
    We met him the next day and to her surprise, he selected the one she hated!
    It just proved that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She could not believe that he loved it and wanted to hang it in his home.
    So much for criticism!
    She still does not like some of my works, but no longer feels others feel the same way.

  4. My partner is not art trained but represents a clientele who like the subject matter but are not art trained usually, though often knowledgeable in the natural history area of what I depict. I value his support and comments but usually he is positive where I still see imperfections or where it did not meet my expectations. However it is still sometimes a viable piece and one is hard put to judge what the public values when looking at art. They often like things I don’t think well done but it sparks something in them so from a selling point of view it is tricky. However one wants to put one’s best work out. Sometimes the untrained person sees things the artist who is close to it does not. I value friend’s critiques but usually they are “too” positive which does not help me grow.

  5. This article made me laugh, only because my husband and I go through this periodically. Not too much any more because we’ve worked out most of the “kinks” in his criticism. First, I don’t allow him to see any of my work before it’s done. You can’t judge a piece of art before the artist has completed what they are feeling. When I’m done, I always ask for his thoughts. It’s easy to tell when he’s not crazy about one of my paintings because he will be a little quiet, and say, “it’s nice, but….” It doesn’t always mean I will change it, but I do take note of it. On the other hand, if he likes it, he gets really excited about it and will tell me how incredible it is. Then I know, the composition must be good.

    Since I do abstract paintings, I realize not many people like abstract, or connect with it, but many DO. So as long as I am happy with it, I will put it out there to my followers to see what kind of reaction I get. I have also had my husband freak out when I scrape off and gesso over a painting that I’m unhappy with, when he actually loves it. So his critiquing can go both ways, good and bad. Again, it is one person’s opinion and art is subjective, but I have to feel good about something before I show it. I’ve had plenty of paintings where I’ve started over.

  6. “And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth – the critic.” -from the narrator in the 1981 movie, “History of the World: Part I” (1981), directed by Mel Brooks.

    Love this quote. Puts a little perspective on criticism. Hey, everybody needs a job!

  7. My wife has an extensive background in art. So her advice is almost always constructive. However, I am very defensive about criticism. Initially I will reject it, and defend my choices. She having a very thick skin and confidence beyond the norm. Happily, turns and goes back to her own business. Leaving me alone. Once I stew about it for a while I realize she is right and I make the suggested adjustments. We often laugh about this process as I proudly present her with the completed painting. I swear the paintings she gives this feedback in sell faster then the others. Just don’t tell her that.

  8. What do you do if your husband tells you not to do anymore art until you have sold what you have?? I am not at all comercial and find it very difficult to approach galleries.

    1. Hilary, keep painting. If you have a storage problem you could either rent or borrow some space or even give some away. Painting is not about selling art it is about creating art. Hopefully your spouse can support your need to do that.

    2. It depends on how much “stock” you have … but you can tell him a gallery won’t even be interested in carrying your work until you have a “body of work” – a collection of consistent work to offer on a similar subject, so you can’t stop now.
      Selling isn’t everything. And if it’s timeless, it can be quite heartening after 30 years, that someone finds it all of a sudden “timely”. Sometimes artists have forward-vision. They are perceiving something well before the general public does (i.e. van Gogh) and people catch up with them ten years later.
      In any case, artists have Art in their blood. They can’t stop creating, visioning, engaging with their world. You might be very grumpy if you feel you are not allowed to paint.
      On the other hand, you might investigate a medium that doesn’t take up so much space. When I didn’t have much room, I did drawings, watercolours and chalk pastels as they only take up a paper’s depth to store. If you are working on exhibition canvases with a 2 inch profile, you will run out of space quickly.

  9. Good topic. My husband and occasionally son, are the ones I ask feedback from. I wait until I am ready and open to suggestions and reactions. Sometimes they have trouble occasionally, expressing in artistic language that I can understand. Sometimes when that happens I use it as a reachable moment. Or ask a question for better clarity. Sometimes it helps sometimes not. On the whole, their input is often valuable. However, one painting of roses that was almost finished, drove me crazy. I was stuck on trying to paint one of them. It was a nightmare. The other 3 rises were done but this one was a bear! I asked for my husband’s feedback in the beginning but eventually stopped inquiring. It wasn’t helping. I was my own worst enemy and needed to work it out on my own. Everything was going wrong. I need to paint a work of art that I can live with. So, I ploughed through. Finally, I considered it finished. Over a year later. The one rose is as good as I can make it and that’s good enough! I hope the public will feel a sense of pleasure when they look at the painting; that overall it will make them feel good when they look at it. At least the rose that was so difficult doesn’t seem to ruin the rest of the painting!! Yet, if it does detract from someone’s experience, I know I can’t do it any better. It’s the best I am capable of. The work is finished!

  10. My husband was also my biggest supporter and my go-to critic. He didn’t have an art background but had great decorating skills & color sense from our years of owning furniture stores. He also had a background in picture framing and I depended on him for “great” selection of mats & frames.

    When he first started a bit of critique, when I thought I was finished, I resented it sometimes, but learned that he was the voice of a collector & 95% of what he suggested made the art look much better. At that point, I had the habit of stopping and thinking I was finished just a little too soon! I finally learned when I’m finished (in my mind) to have his critique – – adjust a few areas and we both critiqued it again. He also pointed out things he liked, so it was a nice balance.

    One day I told him I thought I had reached another level in my art, with the current piece I was doing – – he sat quietly for a few seconds & then said “I think you’re much better than you know.” That was the ultimate compliment he had given me regarding my art!!

    From him, I have learned to buy the best frame & matting I can, to show off the art in a classy way. He has now passed and I miss him in many ways – – -Just be thankful you have a spouse or partner with you that takes an interest in your love of art!

  11. I text works in progress to my sister, who has no art background and she is always completely honest with me. I appreciate her feedback because she totally represents my target audience. If she is lukewarm, I work to fix what bothers her. As others have said above, it’s my job to figure out why she isn’t thrilled with the piece or what is it about that particular section that bothers her. When she texts back with exclamation points, I know I have solved the problem. Most of the time, I am happier with the piece after her input — even if I may have been defensive at first. I find the distance of texting helps immensely with the critique as I don’t have to respond right away, I can take time to stew — and we don’t see each others’ faces or hear tones of voice.

  12. Jason,
    I agree strongly that the ‘conversation’ needs to happen about what kind of critique you want, and when. I think it’s also important for an artist who wants honest feedback to make it safe for people to give honest feedback. Two phrases that have found useful are, “Please don’t say anything yet. I’m not ready.” “Can you tell me more about why this piece makes you feel ___?”

  13. My spouse criticized my drawings in a negative way, so I put them away and did no art for years. I tried every craft on earth and was instantly bored. I did not realize I was miserable not making art. When I began painting his comments were meant to be constructive: “you missed a window.” I came to realize he had no appreciation for art unless it looked like a photo. And that’s OK too.

    I learned never to stop creating. If I feel a bit cranky, I probably need to get my brush wet.

  14. For many years I had a public art and a private art. My father was my biggest supporter but also my biggest critic. He only liked “pretty” pictures, landscapes, animals, florals etc. My heart leaned more towards surrealism, fantasy etc. It was such a contradiction for me and it was really tough to be without that approval. As I started to show my work off course the more accepted genre took the lead and I paid very little attention to the former. I receive good accolades and approval which meant I painted only landscapes but it left me wanting. I am gob struck by artists that are not afraid to put it out there. I have a few artist friends who give me excellent feedback. They are the only people I now pay attention to. They do not critique my subject matter instead give positive suggestions regarding composition, value, texture, different materials to try – etc. and I grow under their mentoring. My painting has become a marriage of my private and public art. I am painting bigger, stronger – leaning towards movement, texture, the abstract which seems to be a third way of bringing everything together.

  15. I receive fairly good feedback and critique from fellow artists, in the local art community and from some of the other local artists who are represented in our gallery, but the most help that I get is typically from my wife, for two reasons. First she always tells me what she really thinks and second because she is not a painter. She has a very good eye for design, an aesthetics that probably derives from her appreciation of music and has the ability to raise issues about what the finished piece would or could look like. She comes to the piece more from the perspective of a potential purchaser. Usually my question to her will be, “Take a look at this–do you think that it is really finished?” Of course I sometimes disagree with her comments, but typically, after some further conversation, I am able to make an improvement in the piece. The improvement may take a direction different fro here initial criticism. As to handling criticism, well, I grew up in New York City and I have a much thicker skin than the average resident of Michigan, where I now live!

  16. Hoping this is appropriate as I’m more of an inventor/designer/developer.

    When approached or sharing my idea w/others, they always feel the need to intervene. I have learned to listen, and take a small breath, then politely respond, “That’s an interesting angle (or feature). I’ll have to think about it.” They seem satisfied with that answer. It’s my “brain-child” but best to let a suggestion enter my subconscious. With this approach, something good is bound to enhance my design.

  17. Constructive criticism is always a good thing, but as artists we need to learn to look critically at our own work and not necessarily let the opinions of others influence our decisions. We may be chasing the wind if we are always adjusting our work to other’s criticisms. There is a reason why art students are expected to “defend” their work. The artist must look critically and accept or change what they’ve done. That’s hard, I know. Whether listening to the comments of a non-trained family member or a highly respected artist and art-trained friend, I have to work to make sure the vision is mine and not just a reflection of someone else’s ideas/aesthetic.

  18. Me: I think I am finished with this painting, what do you think?
    Wife: It is beautiful, I would really like to keep this one, you are so talented.
    Me: Thank you Linda. I will wrap this up and get started on the next painting.
    Wife: But you are going to fix the sky a little, right ?
    Me: What do you mean, fix the sky, I thought you said you liked it?
    Wife: I do like it. But the sky needs a little work here and there. You did ask for my opinion.
    Me: I can’t believe this. I have worked hard for three weeks on this painting and now you say you hate it.
    Wife: I don’t hate it, I am just saying do something with the sky, fuzz it up a bit.
    Me: FUZZ IT UP A BIT! What are you talking about? There is no fuzzing up. I don’t do fuzzing.
    Wife: Stop being so defensive, I like it, just blend the sky a bit more, fuzz it up a little.
    Me: I was finished and ready to start a new painting and now I have to totally rework this one because
    you want more blending, more fuzzing up. I am an impressionist every stroke is precious.
    Wife: Well do what you want then. Why bother asking my opinion. Why do you always do this.
    Me: I don’t know why I bother, I hate being an artist and you hate my art and reject my vision.
    Wife: O please, stop being such a baby. Do you want to go out for dinner?
    Me: Dinner!, Well yes, where do you want to go?

    Two days later
    Me: OK Linda, I did everything you suggested, do you like it now? Am I finished now?
    Wife: Wow that is so awesome. It really is fantastic. Very talented man. You should double the price.
    Me: Do you really think so? You honestly like it. Really? Do you think other people will like it?
    It does look pretty good. I can’t wait to start the new painting.
    Me: I love this woman.

  19. My husband is good at critique when I need his input. He generally has a good idea of what my art is about, as a whole.

    But I know he struggles with why I paint, thinking that I am better at a lot of other things when I get the chance to paint. It releases energy in me.

    He adores my fine art jewelry, and has indicated he is in favor of me spending more time creating new jewelry sets.

    The conflict enters in about how much art materials I store, if I really need all those panels, when what he meant was that I have too many canvases. I create pastels on panels and acrylic paintings on canvas. The storage and moving to a new home with studio is causing such questions.

    I have given away so much that I did not understand his question about panels until we sorted out that he meant my gallery-wrap, painted canvases. Hmm. The conversation continues, and I am packing with an eye to consolidate things where possible.

  20. I live with my sister who is very critical of my art. There are very few of my paintings she likes and often those she does I would never put up for sale. One of my impressionist landscapes that I enjoyed painting and really like, she said she hates. Since we are very different people and she’s type A, I’m type B we often disagree on a variety of issues. I’m learning that I just shouldn’t ask for her opinion of my art. I have about 32 close artist friends I can get genuine feedback from. Plus I have the blog group, the academy group and another artist Guild group for support. I think non-artistic people will frequently judge a work of art solely based on whether or not they would purchase it. Remember everyone has a right to their opinion. You don’t have to own their opinion. Consider it and move on. Paint what brings you joy.

  21. Wow, where do I begin having all this great feedback above my own thoughts…

    Firstly, we [artists] have all been there! In my case, I certainly have had some interesting connections with past and now present [live-in] boyfriend. Let’s just say…I have been to hell and back again with a few corrupt dudes. (I’m being nice).

    Thankfully, now that I have matured into a confident, “Don’t tell me what to do” kind of woman, I no longer attract that kind of man and currently have an amazing boyfriend who thinks everything I do in art is wonderful. Lucky me.

    Now, I’m not saying that my experiences make me superior to everyone else who wrote above my comments- certainly not. But, I am saying that experience sure helps you understand, at a deeper level, what you may to listen to and tolerate. For example, here’s how I structure the critical feedback from my man:

    1. Is is constructive criticism?
    2. Is the critique coming from a humble, knowledgeable artist and designer? And
    3. Does he [or she] have good intentions? In other words, not jealous or secretly wishing he, or she, could be an artist, too?

    Now, how I negotiate heavy criticism is by saying…”Honey Bunny, it sure seems like you would like to be an artist”, and kindly hand him the paint brush.

    You just can’t take this stuff personally because… well, it won’t really matter 10, 20, 30 years from now when you’re sitting on that porch, in your rocking chair, looking back on life. In due time, you’ll really wish you told them to stick-it where the sun doesn’t shine and take up their own form of expression.

    “Baby, I love you… but don’t you have a tool box or a drawer in the garage to reorganize?” I’m just saying… stand up for yourself; there’s nothing worse than the feeling of someone else squashing your dreams.

    After all, what is art? I mean, can we truly sum up it’s profound meaning in one paragraph?

    Well, I’ll give it go…

    To me, art is an arbitrary language of thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and perhaps, a mirror reflection of our souls. A self portrait depicting the deep, magical wisdom [which we ALL possess] as human beings having an earthly, spiritual experience. Our conscience is what makes these manifestations possible.

    The bottom line, for my personal journey, is to be true to myself.
    It’s art that I’m creating- not theirs.

  22. When I get to a stopping point in one of my paintings, I often consult my sister, also an artist, but who is very different in her subject matter. She knows the language of art and can point things out to me.

    I often feel that I get so involved in one aspect or another that I don’t see it while I’m painting – I see just what I have been focusing on. Then I have to get a distance from the work and meditate upon it. I set it where I can walk past it from time to time during a day and see it afresh.
    Back in art school, there was a mean-spirited artist who went around behind young, timid artists criticizing their work by saying things like “Women shouldn’t be allowed to paint. They only ever do sickly sweet landscapes”. To me he said “Don’t you ever think about light?”
    I went home enraged by the first comment. What were women supposed to do? Laundry?
    I did a series on laundry as a result of his criticism. I had a lot of fun with it. A local museum is now collecting the series I did. His comment made me think about subject matter.
    As for the landscapes – they are a great entry-level subject matter on which to learn to paint, but they don’t always have to be pretty.
    I also began to think about light: light and dark, chiaroscura, good tonal compositions. One of my favorite subjects now is light and shadow. Shadow attaches objects to the ground. Shadow defines the light. The brighter you want something to be, the darker your shadow must be. They compliment each other, play off each other. It’s true for realism as much as for abstract work.
    My late husband was uninformed in his criticism. He liked it or he trashed it. There was nothing in between. He didn’t like my experimental work and highly personal works but I persevered. I just didn’t show it to him. If I wasn’t working on it, I just covered it over with something else. He often said, “I don’t know why anyone would buy it”. Buying isn’t everything. But this work represents the most significant work of mine BECAUSE it is personal and heartfelt. It too has gained recognition. But I would always consider what he said and then make my own opinion.
    My current companion has an architectural background, and I’ve dared, late in life, to try some realism and architectural subject matter. With my astigmatism, I often get “reality” wrong. I trust measuring my source material to get the base drawing architecturally correct and I still can get things wrong. I trust and encourage his vision. He tells me what is needs correction and he will often tell me how to fix it. His opinion is greatly appreciated. We have long conversations about it. It’s a joy, after so many years who can discuss my work and to have someone encouraging and supporting what I do, .
    What can you say to those who don’t?
    . Wait until I get to a stopping point and then you can tell me what you think
    . Before you say anything, please tell me first what you like about it, and then what you thing might not be working for you.
    . You can’t just tell me you don’t like it. You have to tell me why you don’t like it.
    . You can say “Thanks for your opinion. I’ll think about it”, and then let it go, or think about it and see if there is something in it.

    And stand up for yourself. If the person is not knowledgeable, you don’t have to say that to them, but you don’t have pay attention to their opinion. It’s just one opinion.

    Find someone who will give you good feedback.

  23. All of the above comments were good – some even made me chuckle as I think about my own situation. My husband of 36 years has always been supportive of what I’ve tried, even quietly wincing as a new box of supplies arrives or I’ve come home with a bag of goodies from local art supply stores.
    He only gives an opinion when I ask for it – and while not art trained, he’s always ready to give an opinion, which gives me reason to think on it. He’ll pick out that something that I inwardly know is wrong, but can’t quite put my finger on it. After he’s given me his opinion, I call up an artist friend and ask her to give it a critique. She can put it into art speak, and that is probably where the best help comes, although it was hubby’s eye that helped put aspects of the piece I was questioning into perspective.
    My best chuckle came when I showed him a painting, and he was sad I’d painted over the under painting, which he really liked! (It was nothing but dark areas of paint on a lighter background!)

  24. OMG, i am stuck with my husband who tells me he hates everything. When I ask him why, he says to “make you better”

  25. Never ask for criticism from somebody you live with. It’s asking for trouble, regardless of the professional capabilities of that person. Your relationship adds a weight that is not necessarily deserved and is so difficult to parse that it’s never going to be settled in your mind. It is also a terrific breeding ground for doubt and other negative feelings.

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