Steps for Coping with Criticism

Here is my new formula for coping with criticism.

Step 1: Ask: Is it true?

If yes . . .
Step 2: Does the critic have credibility?

If yes . . . What can I learn?
If no . . . Did I do my best?

If no . . .
Step 2: Why was it said in the first place?

If either, and above all:
What can I learn?
How can I share this experience with others? (The
key here is to deal with it and move on, not to dwell on the criticism
or make it the focus of someone else’s attention. I want other people
to focus on positive things, not criticism I might have received.)

I think the first and last questions are paramount. “Is it true?” and “What can I learn?” apply to every critical comment you might receive. Anyone else have great insight into this subject?

See "Cope with Criticism" (tomorrow’s edition) and "Listen to the Critics," both in the Art Marketing Action newsletter. See, also, "Listening to the Critics" from a previous posting on this blog.

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8 comments to Steps for Coping with Criticism

  • Art is subjective, Look at the goal you were trying to achieve…Example: were you trying to paint a picture similar to Monet’s in style? Some artists get criticism for changing their known style and the critics don’t understand that the result IS what the artist was trying to achieve… In this case if you are trying to change or “loosen up” it is better to introduce style changes slowly to your collectors. I had a friend experince this and she received quite a number of e-mails saying what was wrong with her “new work” -when in fact the new work was in line with another current popular style.

  • Thank you for your blog about criticism. I’ve been very sensitive to criticism. Taking it very much to heart or on the other side where people say, “Oh I just love your work” thinking they will love my artwork enough to buy it. I was trying to please others and not myself. After reading many self help books, my ego has put aside both sides of the positive or negative aspects of the comments. Now I really listen to what is behind the comments and make adjustments according to whether it is true or not. “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie is one book I recommend and another is: “What you think of Me is None of My Business” by Terry Cole Whittaker.

  • Longtime listener, first time caller:) I think for myself as a self-taught artist, I’m finding that if I focus on what I think will sell, it never works…the same is true for doing things that I think my viewer will appreciate…it never works that way…if nothing else, if you stick with your vision, you will find people who will resonate with your approach…remember, you don’t need the entire world to like your work…and if the critics love or hate your work, you’re still getting a reaction, and a reaction is better than nothing!

  • Alyson what a great topic. As a Digital Artist, I have frequently had to filter out comments from individuals who look at work done digitally and see it’s value as “less than” traditional art. At a showing last year, I overheard a person who did not know I was the artist say “that’s not art, it was produced on a computer and printed, the computer did most the work”; after a stiff drink to calm myself – I tried to look at it from their point of view — and what I realized is that they probably have this view that with a click of a button it was created. They probably did not understand that my process involves several layers, several different programs, multiple hours of creation and experimentation to get the right effect and then control steps trying to get a quality print that I believe represents what my vision was. I think knowing this and then trying to educate others on the process will help all digital artists in the future.

  • David Castle Art

    I apply my own “goals filter” for reacting to and coping with criticism. My overall goals are very focused on sales, so I give myself permission to quickly let go of criticism that isn’t relevant to my sales. So, for example, the viewer that comments their children could have created my work I am able to easily let go of as irrelevant… my increasing prices and sales indicate a solid market for my work! My clients wouldn’t pay for my work if children really were bringing home work like mine from school. I’ve not had to deal with press cristicism much, but that could potentially have an impact on my sales, so applying Alyson’s approach is a solid place to start.

  • claudia roulier

    Since art school I have tried very hard to produce sound work on many levels trying to avoid critism which we had after every project. At school it worked well because the teachers and students got to know me after a while and I usually produced “good” work. However after coming into the “real” world where no one knew me it took a solid round of critism a good long while to sink in after my hurt feelings and then anger abated. Critism certainly has it’s place and a wise artist will listen and evaluate.

  • phillippa lack

    At a recent show, I carefully explained, showing photos, to a fellow artist the process of applying resist to silk and painting. The reaction I got was, “So it is just like painting by numbers, right? you just fill in the spaces?” He seemed nice, but I was left with the distinct impression that I’d just had a Right Royal putdown!!! Did I not say the right things? or did he feel that silk painting was not art?

  • Phillippa, what a great opportunity to evaluate what you said and how you said it! I imagine a different approach would elicit a very different answer. If not, perhaps respond with, “Actually, it’s nothing like painting by numbers.” Or, if you feel it’s a positive thing and would help your viewers relate to it, go with that interpretation!