Posted on

Don’t Give In to Brutes

Hi ho lovelies.

I had a conversation with a friend last night. For many years, she has drawn a cartoon series that started as a way to relieve boredom at meetings.  People noticed and naturally wanted to see her work. The response was positive and they requested she scan and share her work on their professional listserv. Naturally, she was flattered and started posting.

Then the critic came along.

There’s always a critic.

This post is about how I deal with critics.

It doesn’t matter who they are, their clinical diagnosis, friend, foe, people who walk up to your table at an art/craft fair, art teachers. Some people feel compelled to provide you with “an honest opinion” of your work.

Here is just a sample of the comments I’ve received:

  • that’s creepy
  • your necks are too long
  • it looks like it was made by a first grader
  • why does everyone look high?
  • I could do that
  • I shared a photo of one my pieces at work and punches were literally thrown

Frankly, I am not in the least interested in figuring out the motivation behind honest opinions.  In short, it’s a bully move.

I’ve had my fair share of experience with bullies. My current place of employment is a deeply ingrained bully culture. I usually get caught off-guard by these comments. But that is the bully way: they are nice one moment then they stick a knife in your back.

Bullying is about power.  The goal is to instill fear and keep you down.

I’m generally a mostly positive goofball. But don’t be fooled by my silly exterior or paintings of unicorns and mermaids.

I don’t give in to bullies.

My answers to honest opinions range from: Great! That’s exactly what I was going for.  I’ve offered to buy work back because I have had multiple offers for a piece of work.  I’ve told people how I made the piece and listed the materials, the best art supply store (Artist & Craftsman), and encouraged them to go make art.

It’s not my problem if someone has low self-esteem about art, life, or whatever their issue is. That’s their problem. However, I try not to be rude after such comments. I try to turn them into something positive. I think more people should artists.  Making art is a productive way to pass the time and is great therapy.

My definition of art is work that provokes a response.  I don’t even care what kind of response.  As my friend found out, most people are enthusiastic, or at least polite, but there is always 1 jerk in the crowd.

Negative feedback does not change my work. It does not cause me to stop making art.  It does not stop me from sharing my work. In fact, these encounters tend to have the opposite effect and I get some new work out of the deal. I make art for myself. If you like it too, that’s great.  If not, that great too.

It takes bravery to share your work.  When the negative comments come, and they will, tap into that bravery. Politely stand up for yourself and your art. You and I may not have met in person, but know that I love you.  I love your art. I’m standing with you, my friend.