About those critics

A friend from high school asked me a question.

“How do you take that next step when you don’t want to hear the criticisms…. constructive or not? I am a big believer that art, whatever the medium, is a personal expression… So how can one tell you what you created is wrong?”

What a great question as we try to do good work, try to be helpful, and try new adventures.

I have so many thoughts on this. Here are the big three.

  1. What you do with your time is your business – especially when it comes to creative efforts. If you’re doing something you love, keep doing it. If you’re doing stuff you don’t love, try something new. The trick is to be all-in. If your focus is there, that applause you hear is coming from your heart. And that’s what matters – not what anyone else thinks. How can anything creative ever be “wrong”?
  2. It takes time to get good at something. And while it’s great to be good at something, getting there is the big energy lift. When you try something new and have to adjust and think and adjust some more, that’s when you get the “wow” feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. You’re on your own path. And where it takes you is your own delightful mystery.
  3. Popular isn’t always great. I’m thinking about a museum I visited in Paris that features the work of the Impressionists – and has a few rooms dedicated to art that was popular when the Impressionists were not popular. The “successful” Salon paintings were huge and impressive. Each one depicted dynamic themes from myth or history. And each one looked almost exactly the same in size, style, color, and content. At the time, the critics hated the Impressionists with their loose lines and incredible depictions of light. But what art do we value most today? The Impressionists who took a new path to create something new.

One of the things I love about trying new stuff is that you don’t know what you’re doing. For me, that means I have to read. Or take a class. Or find people who are doing what I want to do and spend time with them. Or find a mentor. And then I have to think, and to listen to my muses, to the voices in my head as I take my first baby steps down a new path. I like being bad at something and getting better at it. You never know what’s inside you until you wiggle it around and let it out.

On a related tangent, unless someone asks you to critique something they’re working on, please don’t offer advice even if you think you’re being helpful. How many of us love unsolicited advice? Are there any hands up? I’m thinking not. 🙂

AND please don’t be your own, worst critic. When people are really good at something, they make it seem easy. You know new things aren’t easy – they take time. And patience. And diligence to stick with something that’s new. We know that but we can be so tough on ourselves. Please treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend with gentle, kind understanding and genuine support. “Look at what you made! Awesome!!”

I’ll end with one last quote from this high school friend:

“Kindness is a free emotion that can make someone’s day… even change their life.”

Oh, my, do I love that. It’s never wrong to be kind. To friends. To strangers. To your dreams. To your art. To your work. To your life.

Thanks so much to Jen for inspiring this post. I hope I answered your question! Here’s some of my new art – bags made from a large, recycled conference sign. The muses told me to do this 🙂

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4 thoughts on “About those critics

  1. Nice, Janie, and I LOVE those bags! I think that Thumper’s Rule is such a good one, in art and life and God knows, politics (no, not holding my breath): If ya can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.

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  2. Janie I loved this post. Especially about the inner critic! A friend shared a quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt. It changed the way I viewed my art. Through my own eyes and not anyone else’s. Once I ‘got over myself’ I created in a new and better way and learned to love my art. I’m so enjoying your blog – and your bags . . . stunning!

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