Receiving Criticism on Your Artwork Gracefully

Sooner or later you are going to receive some criticism on your artwork. This criticism can come from anyone you've shown your artwork to; a friend or relative, a teacher or gallery juror or even an editor or a renowned art critic. 

Here is Webster's  Dictionary's definition of criticism:

 the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing

: the act of criticizing someone or something     

: a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something    

 : the activity of making careful judgments about the good and bad qualities of books, movies, etc

None of the definitions above except maybe the last one, tells me anything I would like to hear about my artwork.  Or for that matter, anything that might help me improve my artwork.  That is why, I believe in constructive criticism, which defines as: 

criticism or advice that is useful and intended to help or improve something,often with an offer of possible solutions

There is a big difference between the these two types of criticism. Let me give you an example of each kind so you can recognize them if you get some criticism.

Criticism "Your painting lacks depth, does not have enough values and your drawing technique stinks."

Constructive criticism " Your painting could be improved if you  added a wider range of values, especially in the darker range."

As a teacher I try very carefully to always give constructive criticism if I feel my student would benefit from it. Actually, I have invented my own form of criticism, which I like to call, "compliment what is well done first,  then identify a skill that needs improving and tell the person how to improve it."  A comment I might make using my form of criticism might be,

"You have done a great job of drawing in this piece. I really like your drawing style.  What could make your painting even better would be to work on adding a wider range of values to your art work, particularly in the darker range."

Now, how do you respond gracefully to the first type of criticism? Take a deep breath, do not burst into tears, call your mother, or run screaming from the gallery. Smile, say thank you and see you later. Then exit quickly.  Immediately call your best friend, husband or me and vent. Then take a walk and more deep breaths and think logically about the criticiser. Who is she or he? Are they qualified to give this criticism? For example, is their artwork so perfect that they know everything? Perhaps they do. I have heard lots of criticism from art instructors at very expensive art academies.  Then, resolve to yourself that you will never, ever take to heart something disapproving mentioned about your artwork. You have to tell yourself, you love making art and you are going to continue making art and you are going to get better and better and better at painting or drawing or sculpting or whatever it is that you do. 

You can print this out and post it where you do your artwork.