Constructive Criticism

Young, new, and fresh art students who have not gone through the process of constructive criticism often have something approximating a nervous breakdown when entering it for the first time. Opening yourself up makes you vulnerable, and hearing people critique something personal is too much for many.

The young students often focus on the criticism part, the part that disagrees with what she was trying to do, with what the ‘grand vision’ or whatever you want to call it was. They take it personally. Much too personally. What they don’t realize is that only 10% of what they are hearing is truly criticism.

The experienced art student learns to focus on the constructive part. The leg up. The ideas that might lead to other ideas and make her a better artist. The constructive part is about 90% of what is brought to them, but it doesn’t feel like that much because they are emotionally shocked or bruised from the criticism.

This process of differentiating between criticism and constructivism is sometimes painful but essential to the growth of the art student, and in the end we are all art students. We are trying to build something creative and beautiful (our lives and careers). To achieve that, become more keenly aware of when something is constructive (90% of the time) vs. plain old worthless and boring criticism (the 10% that you can dismiss and continue to grow).

PS: This is also a good lesson on how to critique a wine. Being the one in the room that only says “horrible” or “hate it” or “nope!” while dumping it out puts your declarations in the 10% of comments that can be dismissed. Challenge yourself to add more to the conversation. Follow up your dismissive criticism with the goal of being constructive.


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