Whether you’re an artist by profession or art is a hobby, perhaps the most difficult aspect of creating art has nothing to do with figuring out how to get your art noticed but how to handle it when your art does get noticed – and is openly criticized.
The fact is that no matter what you do or don’t do, you’re going to have a cheering section and at least a few people who are going to find fault. This is true in virtually every area of life, but particularly when you’re dealing with something as personal and subjective as making art.
In some ways, handling criticism is just part of the deal: when you create art and share your creation with the world, you’re automatically opening yourself up to critique. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to handle criticism as graciously as possible.
Consider the Source
Before throwing your paintbrushes in the trash or listing your camera on eBay, think about where the criticism is coming from. First, consider whether or not the person is actually someone who knows what they’re talking about or whether they’re someone who simply enjoys expressing negative opinions. Second, consider whether what they’re saying has any merit.
In some cases, the criticism is valid, even if the one dispensing it chose their words poorly. For example, if you post a photo on your website and someone remarks that it looked too filtered, you may consider perfecting your editing techniques. On the other hand, if someone is criticizing your subject or even if they make a negative general statement about your work as a whole, then it may be best to ignore them.
Sometimes, you may receive valid criticism from an instructor or another artist. Because artists tend to see their work as an extension of themselves, handling criticism like this can be the hardest.
In the end, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to impress everyone. If constructive criticism is coming from a valid source, then it may be worth considering, but the ultimate goal is to create art that you’re proud of.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
Attention, both positive and negative, is the byproduct of an online presence. While there’s no surefire way to completely cut out the negativity, there are a few things you can do to limit it.
First, consider turning off comments on blog posts or set it so that each comment has to be approved before it’s posted. While you may still have to face some unkind comments, you’ll be able to prevent them from making their way to your page.
If you have an online community and you want to foster open dialogue, implement firm guidelines about what type of dialogue is and is not acceptable. If anyone violates your rules, remove them from your page.
Lastly, recognize that you don’t have to engage with everything that is posted on your website, and you certainly don’t need to reward those who are intentionally unkind with an emotional reaction. If someone says something unkind, you can simply thank them for their feedback and move on.
Dealing with Your Feelings
Handling criticism can hurt, and working through negative feelings is essential for your sanity. Some people find that talking through their feelings with a sympathetic friend is therapeutic. For others, writing it down in a journal helps them let go. Figure out what you need to do to process negative feelings in a healthy way.
Next time you receive negative feedback on a piece of art that you poured yourself into, determine whether or not you can use it to improve. If not, feel free to move forward and focus on the people who support you.