Critiques - Detrimental to Growth
I have been given the blessing to help other artists to advance in their personal growth and it is one that I take with great seriousness because I see it like a gardener with a new vulnerable seed. This has brought me to this topic.
Time and again throughout my artistic life and when I teach, I am asked to give critiques. I have been given critiques and I have seen these been given to others with such ease and without forethought that it makes me very upset. I do not give critiques and it is not because I am weak and I don’t want to hurt feelings but it is because I find it repulsively counterproductive and a practice that should be abolished in the art world. Just because it has been done, doesn’t mean that it should be.
When I speak up about this topic, and I will give you my reasons in a minute, I am told that I can’t handle the truth or rejection, but it is quite the opposite. I can full well handle the truth. In fact, real artists are always seeking the truth. As for rejection, why is it needed at all? I call these bully tactics and I have watched in disgust as the bullies yell louder and quell those with smaller voices to pull back.
My reasons for the absence of critiques are quite logical and I give you three main points.
An artist is always practicing for their entire life. They are constantly evolving and are only as good as their next piece. Not their last but their next and so to call judgement on an artist at their current level of progress is futile. No artist is born a Van Gogh or Rembrandt or Picasso. Great artists have lifetimes behind them and still they are not complete when they pass away.
Every artist who puts in a solid effort already knows what they have done wrong. Not only do they know, blatantly, or intuitively, but they focus on only that. So much so, but it is my experience that they negate all that they have progressed forward on for that almost insane desire to do better. So to tell them further what they have done wrong and add to that will only drive them deeper in the hole that they are already in. I myself, and artists that are 10x better than me still see everything thing that they do not like in their latest work and dwell on it. This self flagellation never goes away. It is the artist way and what makes great artists greater.
An artist is not only working on their craft (materials and medium) but they are working on their inner journey. A person who is critiquing does not know all what has gone into the work up to this point. The power of inner process is given over to the person giving the critique. The person giving the critique can never see the entire process and thus the action is flawed.
With these three facts alone, what possible good is it to have a complete outsider, whether friend or not, make a comment to point out negative? What of the achievements of that artist? Of the progression so far? Why are those tossed aside? Why does society think it is okay to be so grossly judgmental of the artist who is already in an inner turmoil already? I see it like someone has seen a wounded dog and thus someone gives it another kick and then shouts, ‘what’s the matter, can’t you handle the truth!’
I am not at all about coddling, in fact far from it. I speak the truth to emerging artists. There are no pipe dreams in the world of art. No grand success stories of quick wild riches to the top. But I do recognize a seed filled with doubt and it is my duty to nurture that seed in the areas where it needs to be nurtured.
That art is a long inner process of self awareness and although technique is very important, it is the inner journey that is vital. At the same time that one is learning to master the tools and medium, the artist is also learning about where his or her heart sings and what they are about so that it comes across for all to see. Those externals about whether the line is straight do not matter one bit today, because next year that line will be straight. The journey of the artist is deeply internal, full of doubt and struggle and having such little support and understanding, and yet they still push on, generation after generation.
No, I will never critique. I will always point out the magnificent and growth, and by doing so, I assist the artistic soul move forward.
Those are my thoughts.