“Mick Jagger 1975/76” Andy Warhol
Once Wayne Thiebaud, an American Art icon, wrote in a letter of recommendation that I possessed “confidence and inner resources”, I suddenly had more. Why are these qualities so important? Because it’s what separates the “men from the boys” in the wild and hypercritical world of art.
Artists often battle their inner critic. Although criticism is necessary to editing one’s creative expressions, it can also eat you alive, if you let it. The successful book “The Artist’s Way” brilliantly deals with the subject of the “inner critic.” Yet there was nothing in my prestigious fine art education that ever helped prepare me to balance confidence and criticism.
An artist client of mine told me a story of her son who was given an art class assignment to go to an art gallery or museum and to write about a painting. At the last minute her son approached her with his unfinished homework. There where no museums or galleries open so off they went to an ever-open Thomas Kinkade Gallery.
Her son turned in his completed assignment and his teacher proceeded to tear him in two. Proclaiming, “this is not art!” Now I tend to agree, but this is a kid, and he did complete the assignment. He was penalized for the rest of the year and his passion for art completely evaporated.
But would this have happened if it was a math test? I assert that the answer is no.
Art is so very personal that we often see it as representing ourselves. So when it’s torn to shreds or even mildly criticized, artists can be devastated, their ego pummeled.
As an artist you have to be open to criticism; there’s no way around it. And if you’re in business you need to welcome and respond to it. Particularly if your business is selling your art because your confidence will inspire collectors to purchase.
You also have to maintain perspective. Not everyone is going to like your work. Not everyone likes mine and I don’t care. Because I only need a few select collectors every month to like it enough to buy it.
Do you like every song you hear on the radio or every outfit you see? No. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Mic Jagger, the front man for one of the most popular long lasting rock groups of all time, explained to Larry King that he has always listened to the critics. Jagger stated that the key is discerning between criticism that is really only about a subjective preference and criticism that is actually constructive or insightful.