Whether you want to or not, eventually you will have to share your work with the world. It could be with your parents or partner, you class at school, or a potential client – at some point, someone will critique your work, there’s no way around it. Depending on the feedback critiques can leave you elated with excitement or crushed with despair. However, regardless of the outcome, what you come away with and how you react is up to you. Let’s take a look at how to get the most out of a critique.
Remember, It’s Not About You
Sharing ones work, especially new work that hasn’t been seen a lot is an intensely personal experience. If someone has negative feedback or flat out doesn’t like the work it can feel like a direct insult to you. It’s not. Remember that it’s about the work, usually about a single piece – that one photograph, or painting, or design. They’re not saying that you are a bad artist or whatever the case may be, rather that the single piece might not be up to par. During critiques in school, some students would get very emotional and attached, and more than a few cried during crits. But only once you disconnect yourself from the work can you see it with fresh eyes and receive constructive criticism about it.
Who is the Critic?
Next you have to consider who is critiquing your work. What background do they come from? What is their taste? Do they have experience looking at this type of work? Everyone will see your work through their own unique lens which is coloured by their experiences. If you’re documentary film maker, an art dealer will give you different feedback than a film critic. It doesn’t mean that they both can’t give you good advice but it’s important to consider where they’re coming from and what their relationship to your work is.
Give them the Benefit of the Doubt
Lastly, regardless of who the critic is, or what they say, give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if your immediate reaction is that their advice is stupid, silly, or just plain wrong, do not discard it right away. Spend some time with it, think of their perspective and why they came to their conclusion. We often get caught up in our initial emotional reaction and fail to consider all sides of an opinion. Maybe there is a nugget of truth or a clever insight in the critique. Because we are so close to our work and have been with it for so long, it can be hard to see it from anyone else’s perspective but our own. However, given time, the advice you initially cast aside as ridiculous can really transform your work and give it a fresh angle.
If you have any advice for handling critiques (either in groups or one-on-one) or interesting critique experiences please let us know in the comment so everyone can benefit! Also, check out our post on using the scientific method when acting on feedback.
Painting – Un atelier aux Batignolles, Henri Fantin-Latour .