Deep Thought Thursday: Necessities

No artist needs criticism,

he only needs appreciation.

—Gertrude Stein

True?

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38 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: Necessities

  • I think an artist needs both, but to be taken in and used and appreciated he needs both at the same time. The criticism needs to be cleverly sandwiched between some of the good things noticed. This is also effective for child rearing, employees, because otherwise it is harsh and the criticism stings. Sandwich the directions with good on both sides and the artist’s heart can hear it all.

  • True appreciation contains both praise and criticism.

  • Appreciation/praise helps keep us going.
    Constructive criticism helps us get better.
    A serious artist thrives on both.

  • Pushing our boundaries, interests and skills keeps us growing as artists. Constructive criticism is part of appreciation to me, and shows respect to the artist. Delivery is key – the classic feedback sandwich as mentioned is a great tool!

  • False.

    I require criticism to get better.
    I like appreciation but I can keep painting even if I don’t get it.

  • i have to say false as well…

    constructive criticism is a good thing…keeps us on our toes, so we don’t become too complacent with ourselves or our art.

  • True and False.

    Criticism is not necessary to the act of making art. Artists make art for different reasons and with different goals. If the goal is to improve one’s art, thoughtful criticism is very helpful.

    Appreciation is not necessary to the act of making art. I have many pieces in my stable that demonstrate this. I continue to create regardless. However, appreciation can fill my sails with determination on a windless day.

  • Deb G

    Do artists need criticism or appreciation? The idea is like asking if we need “food or drink?” or “health or love?”

    What good is one without the other?

  • Coming from Gertrude Stein, why didn’t she write “she” ?

  • Sari: As far as I can tell, Gertrude only appreciated the company of male artists. It seems as though she thought of an artist always in the masculine.

  • I have no evidence from reading our bio (and I’m not finished yet) that she was any kind of a feminist.

  • Wow, Alyson, you sure know how to stir things up! Personally, I think criticism about my work, or my behavior, makes me take a look at what I could be doing wrong, even if it’s painful. Many of us are blind to our mistakes and faults, so criticism can be an impetus to change.

    Of course, depending on the actual criticism, I might or might not “get it”. If the person making the critical remarks is trying to help, he or she will likely couch the terms in wise language (as suggested by others here in this thread). This could help me understand what the problem is and maybe even how to fix it.

    Appreciative remarks from others do feel a lot better than criticism. Again, consider the source to determine the worth.

  • As an artist I like to receiving the audiences genuinely criticizing and appreciation. it helped me to learn how my works have connected with the audiences and it helps me learning and growing.

  • Hm, is this another quote taken out of context? Will we all feel silly when Alyson fills us in on the full passage?
    If I can take the quote at face value, I’m with Mira. The artist works for him/herself. An outside opinion can be helpful, especially if it’s kind.

  • I am my own deepest, most severe critic. And yet, if a piece works for me, no one can tell me anything. I know what I know, and everything else is just someone else’s opinion. I appreciate others have their own ideas, but I’ll stick to mine, as I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I think it has to do with my age, and how long I’ve been working. If I’m working on a commission, I have to please the client, and therefore take direction. But if it’s just for me, from my own creative source, for my own pleasure, woe to the person who attempts to criticize me!

  • I guess I should add…There was heavy construction on a street where a gallery I was with was…Nobody was doing business on the street…One day, the gallery owner started to question my aesthetics, my creative style, as not being commercial enough…I said, you know what, I’m going to go & take my paintings right now, which I did…The gallery closed this march-but I was long gone & landed on my feet…I am now working with a deep & pure lady who is really supportive…I usually like to hear both sides of the coin, but when times are tough, don’t kick me…

  • Lillian

    Balance is very important… The elements of weather (snow & wind) make the sapling strong… Resistance training is used to make our bodies stronger too… The same is true of our creative efforts. If there is no resistance the growth is weak, if there is any growth at all.

    Too much criticism, especially from a source whose opinion matters, can crush ones creative spirit.

    Unearned, excessive praise loses it’s value. (We’ve all known someone who responds to every brushstroke as if it were a Masterpiece… In the beginning it’s flattering, but eventually it becomes if not meaningless at least a lot less believable.)

    Balance. Important in all areas of life!

    (But, if one must error, I would strongly recommend erring on the side of praise… There is already ample negativity in the world; a few extra positive thoughts couldn’t hurt.)

  • Pick your sources with care.

    I always show my works in progress to my wife. While she’s no artist (she is a psychotherapist) she’s got a heck of a good eye. On a gut level I know she’s on my side, so her suggestions about what to change in the paintings are constructive. If she can convince me to make a change in a certain area, I’ll follow her advice. If not, I’ll consider finding another solution of my own.

  • I think this is false. While praise is always appreciated, criticism is necessary to keep pushing ourselves. Even though its not always easy to take, its needed.

  • To critique is not the same thing as to criticize…
    Everyone who went to art school knows a critique is vital to the learning process, whereas criticism can have a basis in some sort of hidden agenda and come from ignorance–a general pervasive ignorance and an ignorance of art history and contemporary art…

  • P.S. I watched a DVD on Picasso’s Damselles de Avignon ( spelled incorrectly), but I’m sure you know which painting I am referring. For 8 years after he painted it, Picasso keep this large painting in his studio. Those who saw it thought it frightfully ugly. It is now considered a major work crucial to opening up modernism. What if he had listened to criticism?
    Perhaps he would have painted it over or destroyed it by making it *pretty to please*. This question Alyson is asking is vital and profound in the implications….IMO

  • True! Instruction, Yes, Criticism, No. Appreciation, definitely.
    We’re sensitive creatures.

  • In order for a critic to be constructive, they have to have a good understanding of the goals and intent of the art. It seems this is frequently missing.

  • She is absolutely right, artist’s do not need criticism. Now critique is something we do need, which is another thing altogether. It takes a very strong person to have their work (or themselves) criticized by many people and to keep on going.

  • The perceptive Ms Stein was absolutely correct. Artists are often “sold” the idea that criticism makes us better artists by those who love to criticize, and then shamed into not rebelling by being blamed for having thin skin. Criticism is a SUPPRESSIVE, containing, limiting mechanism, designed to STOP action, not make it better. Critiques are welcome only when SOUGHT by the artist … otherwise they become criticism. Cheers, Gertrude! Bravo, Sari & others who refuse to take it lying down.

  • What was the context of the quote? That clearly has a bearing on any response to the quote. :)

  • Lillian

    It is important for the artist to weigh carefully the timing of exposing the work to outside input. Allowing comments of any kind (positive or negative) too early in the creative process may contaminate the artist’s thoughts & feelings and alter the natural creative flow…

    Assuming “constructive criticism”, since mean spirited remarks truly serve no purpose… The artist must learn to pick & choose which criticism/praise has value to their creative growth.

    If one is “working for hire” then there is often more room for “guidance”… But even then we must maintain creative integrity. ~ Years ago, as a young licensing artist, I was unable to talk an art director out of her idea for an illustration of “line dancing pigs” (I’m not making this up, it’s just an embarrassing example to illustrate what can happen if we don’t use good creative integrity.)… Of course when she presented the work to the company’s decision making team the idea was rejected (I wasn’t there when it happened, but I would guess the idea was blamed on the artist!)…

  • I agree with Nancy, Sari, and David.
    When I taught life drawing at Otis College of Art and Design in L.A., I had the freedom to change the critique format. I was seeing too many students criticize the other students, yet they didn’t know what was working and what was not. They only achieved animosity. The rule I imposed was that the criticism concentrate on what was working (magical, alive, fresh, successful) in the art, and why it was working. It was amazing but within a couple of weeks they whole dynamic of the class turned around, and not only did the students learn a lot faster and more information, but many of them looked forward to the critiques.

    Michael Newberry

  • I agree with Deb G; I need both. Too much appreciation, and the weird me thinks it’s mindless gushing. Too much criticism and I begin to ignore it. But a healthy balance… viola!

  • …and I agree with Lillian! Well said.

  • Gee whiz, Alyson, I am increasingly convinced that Gertrude was a self-indulgent egotist with an impermeable sense of entitlement, born at the right time, with enough cash in her pocket to be invincible.
    Hurrah for her, and for the artists who were lucky enough to be judged worthy of her support. Gertrude didn’t want criticism. When writers and editors critiqued her writing she shook it off like water on wax. In this quotation it seems to me that she’s speaking only of herself.
    As for me, I am exceedingly choosy about who I actually INVITE to critique my work, but I value the responses that the general public has. I learn from everyone as to whether I am communicating adequately. It’s informative for me to be at my gallery, or in a place where my work is, and be a fly on the wall eavesdropping, when people don’t know it’s my work. I learn.
    This summer however, I did have to seclude myself to just get work done without anyone else commenting. I love being alone in my studio and working. Which is what I’m going to do now!

  • Perhaps Gertrude’s perspective was from all the criticism she received for her undoing of the language and its rules. At times criticism is without the perspective of the artist and the intension of the work. if you put your work in front of others and get a strong reaction good or bad, at least there is reaction!

  • Kate Klingensmith

    I want to get critiques from people I respect who will be able to tell me what’s working and what’s not in my paintings. I don’t want my home and studio to be a repository of bad paintings that no one wants! Art school taught me not to be afraid of critiques. Critiques are important if an artist wants to grow. But I’m talking about constructive critiques here!

  • I’ve always felt that, like many have stated above, that critiques and criticism are two different things. However, I also believe that both are important for an artist to learn to deal with. Constructive critiques are essential (in my opinion) for an artist’s growth. They help us as artists to see elements of our work that we might be blinded to because we are too immersed in the work.

    But, criticism – the nasty, no holds barred, rough and tough bite to the bone kind, is also important.

    You can never be rid of those that use this kind of criticism. They will always be there, lurking, ready to pounce. They will bash you, bash others, and sometimes they will do it with wit and charm. You can choose to not associate with these people, but if you ever want to exhibit publicly, then you have no choice but to put yourself out there where they may be. Going through a rough criticism, instead of a critique, can be helpful to the neophyte and experienced artist both by allowing them a glimpse at these kind of people and their actions. You have to deal with them at some point, you have to know how to respond. The response doesn’t have to be a scathing rebuttle of their words, but you can’t just leave their words hanging – that gives them more power (and often will cause the offending person to just amp up their efforts).

    So, yes, criticism can be helpful to the artist, in my opinion, because it can help them to develop the necessary toughness to deal with the crap that will inevitably be thrown their way at some point in their career.

  • I have a question for everyone here who is not an art student.

    How can you not know? Isn’t making art and being an artist an expression of your unique self? What is the point of being an artist if the result is a community potluck?

    Michael Newberry

  • Michael,

    If what you are referring to as not knowing means not knowing your work well enough that a critique may help you, then I would say it’s not about not knowing – you know what you are trying to express, but sometimes it isn’t coming out right.

    I would think most people have problems communicating sometimes, even if it’s just saying something to the person next to you. Since art is an expression, a sense of communicating, I would think that’s why it is sometimes helpful to have other people give you feedback. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in a project you can’t see the forest for the trees (I know a little cliche, but I think it works here).

  • Lillian

    Unfortunately our society has lost much of what was once commonly referred to as “social graces”. One of the graces was the art of thinking about what one is saying and how those words will affect the listeners… Ask anyone who is “too” fat, “too” thin, “too” tall, “too” whatever; a major segment of our society feels compelled to make unbelievably rude and hurtful remarks with no regard for the person’s feelings. (Some of these graceless people have identified me as “too”… and I’m speaking from experience.) Usually these people are not making these comment with any malice, they are just so egocentric they don’t realize how their word can hurt.

    If an artist intends to sell his/her work people are going to make comments, some good some not. It’s important that we remember to judge the source, pick and choose which comments have value and which to ignore.

    They used to call it “growing a thick skin” and it’s still valuable advice… If one allows these comments to hurt, anger or affect us in a negative way we are giving the “perpetrator” power in our lives… It takes time. We develop more confidence as we grow and mature gaining an inner peace helping us to be less vulnerable to the “slings and arrows” of the world we live in.

    I believe it is equally important that we not join the ranks of the “graceless people”, that we practice the art of thoughtful speaking and by so doing not only set a good example but also bring more grace into a world that is in dire need.

  • David Bushell

    Criticism is needed in all facets our work, writing, and networking. I openly ask for criticism but I ask for constructive types that will open a door to improvement my work. I have been working on my Artist Statement by reading Alyson Stanfield’s course and have been working hard to improve my descriptive writing. Each time the statement was rewritten a new viewer was selected to get fresh criticism to grow on. The later viewers of the Statement all gave me the same response, “Can I see some of your art”. Through Alyson’s course I learned a lot about myself and how to put “criticism” to work to improve my message.