On Being Brave for Critiques

Well, it’s that time of year again- final exams. If you’re an art major, some of your final exams aren’t really traditional, scantron/essay exams- they’re submissions of final portfolios- the culmination of your work for the past semester. With that, comes final critiques. Critiques can be pretty scary sometimes. Putting your work up for all to see, after nursing it alone in your studio, toiling away at it for hours upon hours, can be pretty daunting.

not to mention the horrible stools we have to sit on for 3 hours.

I used to hate critiques back in high school. And not because I didn’t want anybody to say anything negative about my work, but because everyone kind of didn’t ever really care about saying anything helpful. Everyone just kind of “meh”-ed through it. Or people would say the most inoffensive comments possible, like “I like the way you did the eyes” or “the tree looks cool,” of just the dreaded “I like it.” I still kind of hear this in college- I guess old habits die hard. I think in college people tend to be afraid of offending more than their being apathetic. But that’s why critiques take bravery- both in giving and receiving a critique. It takes guts to tell a peer that something is just not working about their piece- especially if you know and respect them and know how much of them they put into it. And you, as the artist, have to stop yourself from getting defensive and trying to BS your way around something that you really should consider and improve upon.

It also, of course, takes guts to put something out there that you think is wonderful and awesome and amazing and have it picked apart by others you feel haven’t given it the consideration you have. However, over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at taking these criticisms for what they are- as they’re usually helpful advice from people who respect your work enough to want it to get better. And to me, that shows a whole lot more respect to me than someone just giving my painting a cursory glance and saying “I like it.”

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