It happened again last night. I shared an artistic idea that was just in it’s beginning stages, still delicate and budding. I was hoping for a grand “go for it!” kind of response—something juicy and supportive that would inspire me to dive deeper into the project.
Well, that backfired. Instead, I received a critique of what was wrong with the idea. Instantly, my energy deflated. Now, it will take a concerted effort for me to muster enough “oomph” to just get to the headspace I was in before I opened my big mouth.
I recognize it as my fault. I broke my own first cardinal rule to NEVER reveal or talk about a project before it is completed. It’s far too likely to get the result I just mentioned. Do people think artists are unaware of our own artistic challenges? When an uninvited critic takes a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process, it seldom results in the artist becoming more inspired.
The second thing I’m wondering is why, oh why, do people feel the need to be critical when an artist freshly shares their work. We usually want kudos for our artistic effort, at least initially (btw–I’m not referring to gallery shows where this behavior is expected).
Also, in the case of delivering commissioned art, some business people must be under the impression that it is unprofessional to tell an artist you really like the result. Are they afraid the artist will charge more if compliments are freely given? I’m reminded of something my mother always said, “If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” To receive no response to delivered artwork is also very disheartening for a sensitive artist. What they are not saying can be construed as the receiver’s disappointment
Well, last night, I was ornery enough to stop the conversation long enough to inquire of my friend if there was anything he liked about my share. He seemed puzzled until I explained that I only heard negative things … were there not also positive things to balance out the negative? There was, but the positive stuff didn’t seem to require mentioning. What? Then he became embarrassed that I called him out and he back-petalled, trying to defend his reaction.
Anyway… I want people to realize the etiquette: unless specifically asked to provide an artistic critique, keep your mouth shut. However well-meaning, it is just as rude to give unsolicited criticism as it is to give unsolicited advice. When artists are ready, they will ask for honest feedback, but until then, assume they want some feel-good energy for their efforts. Often, for me, this energy is just as important as money.
Yes, I recognize my true motive in sharing was to receive emotional and energetic support so I could continue my artistic exploration with a renewed sense of vigor. But even a simple request like this can also backfire. In the past, when I expressed wanting to receive only positive feedback about some artwork I had in progress, my husband would often say, “What? You don’t want me to be honest?”
Sigh. That disempowering response always stopped me in my tracks, leaving in its wake many unfinished artistic starts, abandoned as unworthy.
Today, I’m strong enough to have responded with, “No. I only want you to be supportive. My work is in a delicate (or difficult) stage at the moment and I really need some positive energy to get through this. Are you willing to kindly do me this favor?”
It’s all about the energy.