In previous posts, I was banging on about how the audience can give feedback to the artist. In short, it’s a personal reflection from the reviewer and says more about their tastes and attitudes than the work itself.
This is a key concept to keep in mind for you, my fellow artist, when dealing with accepting criticism and feedback.
The problem with art is that there is a misconception that anything goes. If I call it art, then it must be art, and if I say, “That’s exactly how I wanted it” doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.
Whoa, whoa. Really? Yup, really. I cannot draw a circle and call it a square. I might say, “I’m challenging your concept of a square…”, that’s fine, I can call it whatever I like. I can call it Bob. I can call it, “The Impression of Time”.
What it actually is, is beyond debate. It’s still not a square by any definition. It’s a circle. And if my intention was to draw a square and I ended up with a circle, then what I did is not what I intended – it was a mistake.
If I write “Grandma waked to a shops,” and you pick me up on my spelling and grammar, it’s pretty evident that, by any rule book, the sentence is wrong. Of course, this sentence could be part of a character’s speech, and they are apt to mispronounce words or whatever, but that’s beside the point. The intent of the sentence is not what manifested – it was a mistake.
As a rule: Objective criticism is not personal so don’t take it that way.
As an artist, be thankful that the mistakes have been pointed out to you. If you’re drawing a realistic scene and someone complains about the perspective, listen to them rather than waving your hand and claiming artistic license. If it was your intention to display proper perspective, then another set of eyes to criticise your work is invaluable.
Perspective, like grammar and punctuation, or timing and chords (if we’re talking music) can be measured and determined as being correct or incorrect, true or false. Because of this, you can take the criticism and check it for yourself.
Remember: Objective criticism can be verified externally.
And I’ll take the time to reiterate my stance on ‘correctness’ because it bears repeating: Just because a painting doesn’t have perfect symmetry, or a singer dropped a note, or a writer put his comma in the wrong spot, doesn’t mean the artwork is instantly less enjoyable.
The other problem with art is that there is a misconception that good art is good for everyone. After all, everyone subscribes to the works of Bosch, right? Everyone enjoys reading Dean Koontz, right? Everyone digs Daft Punk, right? Right?
The reason is simple. Different people like / dislike different things. The old adage says that “You can’t please everyone” and this is the truest statement of them all. I know people who don’t like Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or Celine Dion (it’s true!).
Big rule here: No work of art will appeal to everyone.
As such, you cannot expect that your efforts will be labelled as five stars by everyone or even anyone.
The other way of saying this is that you must expect that you will receive negative reviews. Full stop. You’re deluding yourself if you think otherwise. In fact, I’d argue that you should be worried if everything you’re not getting negative reviews.
Of course, if you’ve poured your heart and soul into a work, only to find that everyone who has bothered to tell you what they think says that it stinks, then it’s time to step back and appraise it from their point of view.
It may, genuinely, 100%, honest-to-goodness, hand-on-heart stink and you’re so committed to it, and have worked on it so hard, that you can’t, or won’t, see that it isn’t really fit for public consumption. If this is the case, and I truly don’t think it will be, but if it is then it still doesn’t mean that you stink, only that what you made stinks.
OK. Fine. Learn from this and move on. Take the criticism, push your chest out and start your next piece – or perhaps tidy up what you’ve got, fix the flaws and try again.
Don’t forget: Any genuine feedback is good feedback.
From what I’ve seen, though, reading through indie books and listening to indie music (Head to The Blitz, now! You can listen while you’re reading) and such, is that there is a natural filter, Fear, that acts to prevent the artist from dishing up tosh. While it can be debilitating, it means that anything the artist does finally squeeze out is going to be refined and sculpted to their liking.
I’m not talking random snaps and duck-faced pouts on Snapscat, I’m talking actual honed and published material. Hence my reasoning to claim that, more likely than not, what you’ve got isn’t tosh. More likely than not, the right person hasn’t seen it.
If a thousand people hate your song, and one person absolutely loves it, is he wrong? Not at all! He’s the only one out there who gets it. He’s the one who has something the others don’t have – a connection with the artist.
Importantly: If someone has taken the time to give feedback, take the time to accept it.
Wankers and Arseholes
There are arseholes in this world. There are people who will bag you, pay you out, drop one-star bombs, write incoherent gibberish on a feedback form, troll you in forums… you know, arseholes.
Then there are the wankers. The ones who talk to hear their own voice, take an opposing point of view simply to have an argument, use their almighty Google-fu to assert their point, correct every minor flaw with their mighty keyboards… you know, wankers.
Thankfully, there are fewer of them out there than there are genuine people. They’re easy to spot. They know how to get a reaction. Writing back, getting aggressive or defensive, stewing over it or cyber-stalking them isn’t going to do a lick of good. Hunting the White Whale what flipped your boat will only end in tears.
Always: Leave the arseholes and the wankers alone.
By listening to what people like and don’t like about what you do, you acknowledge your audience, close the loop and, at the same time, gain a valuable insight into how your work is being received.
If everyone is saying that it needs more salt, perhaps you can afford to sprinkle some more on before you push out your next dish?