BEWARE OF CRITICS

Updated: Sep 15

Always listen to criticism, as it could be an opportunity to learn something valuable. But beware! Keep in mind that your critic, “admirer” or even your tutor is not necessarily noble-minded and might even be jealous or malicious. So be critical of critics. And steer clear of wet blankets. Those who are closest to you, like your mother or your spouse, may be the most insensitive as regards your art and your passion for art and have the least comprehension for it.


Case in point: One of my students had very little confidence in her abilities. She chose to paint a very childlike subject of a fairy figure in a landscape, with a pond in the foreground and a rainbow arching over the sky. When she showed the finished product to her spouse, the latter responded with “what did you learn from THAT!” My poor student felt terrible, and probably also questioned the value of her classes.


Neither of them realized how much she had learnt while painting that picture: Colour mixing, glazing, shading, blending, composition, perspective, and a little bit about how to paint water and reflections convincingly. The next step was to paint another picture, put what she had learnt into practice, and develop her skills and confidence further.


She never came back for another class. She probably understood my explanation of the value of what she had learnt, but the harm was done. She was totally discouraged.


Don’t allow negative criticism to trip you up like that. If you paint a picture, you gain knowledge and skills and will reap the rewards when you paint your NEXT picture – and the next, and the one thereafter. Practice makes perfect. The Afrikaans idiom for that is: “Oefening baar kuns” – practice gives birth to art – which is even more applicable to our lives as creatives than the English expression.


Remember why you are painting: Because it is your passion, your latest interest, your incomprehensible desire, whatever. Why put the restrictions of time, achievement or applause on it. You never have to stop doing it or reach a plateau of any kind.


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