Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Living the Life of an Artist
February 16, 2011
I made shepherd’s pie and invited Betty and Nelson to lunch. In cleaning off the dining room table, I put the easel with 3 wip pictures on the floor. They remarked on my progress, we had a great lunch, and after they left, my mother said, “Do you know what I don’t like about your drawings?”
Jeez, I should have known not to face the pictures towards her. Here we go again. She’s got to pick everything apart. I didn’t answer her. It was all so familiar.
“I’m only joking,” she went on after a few moments when I didn’t respond. I did know that in this instance because I also had the photographs from which I was working leaned up on the easel and I knew she was going to reference something about them and her eye sight--- which she did.
But because her initial phrasing was of words I’d heard before coming out of her mouth, I shut down to whatever else she had to say. She has always been this way with me and is perhaps one of the reasons why it took me so long to acknowledge myself as an artist, to feel secure in myself that I don’t need her approval. People often say that you are your own worst critic, but for me, it is my mother. Yes, I do sabotage myself often, but it’s my mother’s voice I hear in my head with the negativity, so I’ve taken to not showing her much of my work until it is finished.
I grew up with the negative critique over riding anything positive. That’s probably why I dislike criticizing anything. It’s a fine line between stating an opinion and supporting an artist. Sometimes one little moment of a bad comment can send an artist reeling from which it might take weeks for her to recover. If you must “find fault,” at least try to throw in what you like about the piece especially in the presence of the artist.
My mother said to me once when we were having one of those “Why do you have to be so negative” conversations that she has a right to her opinions. Yes, you do have a right to your opinion and yes, it’s good to be honest, but it’s also important to be diplomatic. In being honest with your views, is it right to hurt someone’s feelings? Is it okay to always state why you don’t like something instead of saying what qualities the person or piece of art has? My mother, in her need to be honest and have her opinion count, somehow learned to only see the faults or her idea of offering critique was in commenting on what wasn’t good.
Is that the role of a good critic? Is it necessary to strip the artist of her joy at creating something she feels is wonderful? Oh, don’t give me that crap about building good character or that it will make the person try harder. That’s a cop out… most of the time. In my opinion, people who are so negative are really insecure in their own abilities so they lash out at those who accomplish what they are unwilling to do or try.
Not everyone will love the work we do and we should not expect them to. However, we shouldn’t have to duck, either. Maybe I am just a fragile artist and one negative word will send me crashing to the floor. Maybe I am just tired of listening to all the fault finding… and here I am finding fault with those who love being negative.
Critiquing is not about finding the bad things about a piece and we do need to be allowed our points of view, so how can we choose words that will allow us to be honest, yet still be supportive of the art/artist?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said Sasha, negativity begets negativity and the easiest thing for the ill-informed or hubris enveloped folk is to be a critic. That's to be expected these days as every newscast, every news reporters interview is focused upon the soap opera negativity without ever offering any positive viewpoints. It's not just you wh os the recipient of critical comments, critical commenting has become a way of life. Except for those few of us who reject negativity.