Five Things to Do When Someone Criticizes Your Art

Hello, young artist. I saw you on a forum, timidly asking how to deal with people who leave rude and critical comments on your art. You got a lot of answers, and I thought I would weigh in. I’m not the world’s most skilled artist, but I’ve been around the block a few times, and as a sensitive person who doesn’t like to see people hurt, I have some tips:

1. Feel Your Feelings.

Let’s be real here: your feelings are hurt. You posted your thing because you were proud of it and now maybe you feel a little stupid, especially if there was some legitimate gripe that you can’t stop seeing, now that someone pointed it out to you.

Back away from the computer and take a walk. Kick a rock down the street while you’re out there, or whack a branch on a fence. It’s very cathartic.

Go right now. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. You are not stupid, my friend. You’re growing. Go look at something you made last year, and compare it to your new thing. It’s better, isn’t it? It’s not perfect, but you can see improvement.

2. Parse the Criticism

The only criticism that matters is actionable criticism. If someone says “your art sucks,” that’s their opinion and it’s not something you can fix.

If someone says “your anatomy is weird,” that’s rude, and it’s not really specific enough to be actionable (you should always be working to improve in general, so unless they’ve got a tip about why your anatomy is weird, it doesn’t count).

If somebody says “your light sources don’t match your shadows,” that’s specific enough to work on the next time you sit down to draw.

I’m of the opinion that unsolicited criticism is still rude, even if it’s useful, but people who are out to yank your chain are not really going to be that specific anyway. And some people are well-meaning but not very tactful. Just take the bit that will help you continue to grow, and take the rest to the Round File.

3. Study Up

I’m really bad at hands. I draw animals most of the time so I fall out of practice with human hands a lot. So every couple of months I have to sit down with my Bridgman Hands book and practice like a beginner.

Some people are more Hogarth people. I’m not picky. Use a YouTube tutorial, I don’t care. Crack your books open, draw from life. Don’t make excuses for your work when you know it can be better. Just do the work to make it better.

4. Try Again

No harm in drawing the same thing over again. When I was a kid I drew a couple of the same things every year so I could see how I’ve improved as objectively as possible. I had a student last year who came to the same idea on his own. I think it’s a good one. There’s no reason you have to wait a whole year if you learned something, though. Just do it over again. Do it ’til you’re satisfied.

5. Don’t Give Up

Whatever you do, don’t give some rando on the internet the satisfaction of stopping you doing something you really enjoy. Be disciplined, do it with purpose, but do it! I believe in you!

 

2 thoughts on “Five Things to Do When Someone Criticizes Your Art

  1. Marty

    When giving a speech to a large crowd, the most common advice given to overcome the fear of public speaking is often to “imagine the audience all sitting there in their underwear”. The same advice could be given here about the people online criticizing your art.

    The main difference being that with the latter group, it is likely an accurate image.

  2. Veronica

    Probably true, though in the young artist’s mind, they likely all just look like him/her, but with a goatee.

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