This post arose out of a conversation I had with my little cousin (who is now 19 and in her second semester of college, so I guess she’s not so “little” anymore, lol). Around Christmas I asked her how her art classes had gone, knowing that she had planned to major in Art and had likely faced a rocky transition into college art classes. Boy, I didn’t know the half of it.
“Oh, I changed my major,” she replied when I asked her. “I took an art class and the teacher basically killed my desire to do any more art.” She went on to describe how the art teacher had insisted on each student doing dozens of drawings each week, ostensibly to “practice their skills,” but then apparently had used the opportunity to harshly critique rather than build their skills up.
She seemed pretty buoyant about the whole thing, and about her future in her new major, but I was sad about it. While we spoke, I encouraged her to keep at her art, even if it was only a hobby, and not to let it go just because of one teacher, whose opinions were not fact (and whose art teaching methods seemed a bit suspect).
Now, my advice, while perfectly fine, is easier said than followed. How often has my enjoyment of my own art been tainted because I didn’t get the reaction I expected from my audience? How often have I doubted myself and my abilities because of an offhand judgmental comment from someone else? When I make art, I am literally displaying part of my soul…and when someone else finds it unworthy or is indifferent to it, I am wounded as a result, even if I gamely try to continue on.
This is a dangerous path for us artists to travel; once we start prioritizing others’ opinions of our works (especially the ones that seem meant to destroy our desire rather than perfect our skill), then we can easily lose the passion for our art that we began with. And yet, many of us fall victim to this specifically because our art is so close to our selves. We have to actively combat this problem, otherwise the creative fountain within us will be stilled–not by lack of ability, but by the anxiety that comes from wondering whether anyone else will like what we make.
I leave you with this point: art, in whatever form it takes, is a subjective thing–the beauty of a piece can’t be quantified completely. Thus, no one else’s opinion is more unbiased than your own opinion when it comes to your artworks. If you like your work, and other people like it, that’s great. If you like your work, and you’re the only person in the world who likes it, so what? Art is meant to soothe, to inspire, and to be enjoyed rather than to be cut apart and analyzed to death like a dissected frog in a lab. If it only soothes, inspires, and brings enjoyment to its creator, then it has done what it was designed to do already; other people’s positive opinions are just icing on the cake (and the critical people don’t deserve a slice of the cake).
(now I just have to follow these words of wisdom when it comes to this blog! LOL)