How to deal with criticism as an artist

Criticism – let that word sit there a moment.

Dealing with criticism is just part of putting ourselves out there, right?!  I have received inquiries in the past from my readers about how to deal with negativity and criticism.  This article will give you some tips that I hope you will find helpful. Today I want to take some time to explore how we can stop letting this type of criticism get us down.

I know better than anyone, that it’s the negative stuff that stays with you, even if 98% of your messages are just lovely. It doesn’t matter what you do, there will always be someone who finds a fault, especially when you are in a subjective field, like making art.

By the very act of creating, and sharing those creations with the world, you are opening the door to other people’s opinions. It’s part of the deal, so let’s learn to deal with it in the most graceful way possible:

Reflect on the critique.

Take some time to read what they’ve actually said. And ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this person someone who knows what they’re talking about, or is he/she an internet troll?
  2. Is there any merit to what they’re saying?

There are times when criticism is valid, and may just have been expressed in a less than ideal way. For example, if someone left a comment complaining that the photos you share of your artwork are too dark, you could look at ways to improve your lighting. If they moan that your nose is too big, or your voice annoys them, delete and ignore.

There are also times when other artists or teachers may offer constructive feedback about your art. It can feel like a personal attack, because as artists our work feels like an extension of ourselves, but it’s important to know the difference.

Make choices that are right for you.

Like I said before, no matter what you do, and what direction you take your creativity, there will be people who have something negative to say. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control, is you and how you handle it.

You’re not going to please everyone anyway, so remain true to yourself.

Understand your spotlight.

Having an online presence will always attract attention (of all kinds). There is no magic bullet for cutting all criticism from the web, but you can put certain measures in place to limit the impact:

  • If you run an online community, draft strict guidelines about what is and what is not acceptable, and follow through with removing anyone who gets nasty.
  • Close comments on your blog posts or simply moderate them to control spam and unwarranted ugliness.
  • Kill with kindness. If someone has something unkind to say about one of your posts, don’t engage in the negative, simply say “Thank you for your feedback – I hope you enjoy the next one more.”

Appreciate the outpourings of support.

I can guarantee that no matter the size of your creative network, you will receive more positive messages and comments than negative ones. Unfortunately, we all tend to dwell on the ones that make us feel bad.

I would suggest collecting those nice things people say in a notebook or take a screen shot and save in a folder on your computer, and reading back through them every time you have to deal with something mean.

Here’s another thing to remember – those people that really cut you with words are not thinking about how they’ve hurt you. They will already have moved on to the next thing. The people who support you, are the ones that will be thinking of you – so give them your focus too.

Journal it out.

Our journals aren’t there just to look pretty on a shelf, they can really help us work through this stuff. Whether you’re a “regular” journaler or an art journaler, you can use those pages to process your feelings, and move on to a more positive headspace.

Writing it all down can be a very cathartic experience, and I really recommend it.

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