Critique: A Tool for Artistic Growth

Constuctive Criticism

As Mark Frost once famously said, “there is no light without darkness”, and this has never been more pertinent than in the world of art. Ultimately, what it tells us is that everything in life has polarity. But why is this important to artists?

Well, we don’t need to go into the aesthetic application of darkness and light in art (a future blog, perhaps!?), but there are other degrees of polarity which help to facilitate personal progression as an artist. One of these is constructive criticism. On the one hand, it opens the door to progression. On the other, it can be extremely difficult to accept. 

The Darkness

In its rawest sense, any form of ‘criticism’ can be tough to deal with, especially when it is directed towards creative output. Artists use the medium of art as a vehicle for expression, passion, emotion; and when they feel this is being challenged in some way, it can be hard for artists to detach themselves because they have invested so much emotional energy into their work.

However, in order for an artist to evolve, in the same way that anyone who wants to ‘perform’ at a high level, constructive criticism is an essential tool to support a fundamental educational practice. After all, without an external view, an artist can remain ‘in the dark’ about their own work.

A Ray of Light

Constructive criticism and all its nuances can offer varying degrees of ‘light’ – slivers of insight and potentiality that allow an artist to progress and develop; even to mature artistically.

The thing is, artists can often end up so immersed in their work that they can, in a figurative sense, almost end up becoming part of it. This intertwining of the artist and their work doesn’t allow space for perspective, for impartiality, or for a measured appraisal – which can limit artistic growth potential. This space can, however, be occupied by external critique.

But it doesn’t come without complications.

There is more often than not an uneasy relationship between artists and critics. By very nature of what artists do, there is a natural reliance on external appreciation of their work in order for it to be purchased. Ultimately, this binary notion of necessity – that is, the need for yet aversion to criticism – can be a complex place to explore for many artists, despite being a crucial part of the artistic journey.

This Is The Sign
Photo by Austin Chan

The Light after Darkness

Being such an integral part of human culture, art is subjective, and there are many different variables that determine one’s judgement of art; such as personal preference towards aesthetics and form, which can equally be skewed by interpretation and perception bias.

But it is important to remember that constructive criticism is not a judgement of the final product. It isn’t designed to establish if an artist’s work is “good” or bad”. Critique sessions offer artists an outside perspective of their work’s multiple layers and facets, carefully unpicking potential areas for improvement and paving the way for new ideas, perspectives, inspiration, and even commercial opportunity.

Critique is (not) judgement?!

Critique sessions can be beneficial for artists at any level, and there are a host of resources online and offline to support artists. From paying an in-house visit to a local gallery, to approaching professional artists who offer one-to-one sessions, to garnering open commentary from online artist communities such as Pencil Kings and ConceptArt; there are a multitude of forums to obtain constructive feedback.

There may be a temptation for an artist to be kept in the dark when it comes to critical analysis of their work. But it’s like anything – embracing the challenges will allow you to push your limits and explore new ways of thinking. Navigating the labyrinthine platform of constructive criticism will only help strengthen your creative endeavours, and cast a light of opportunity in facilitating personal and professional artistic growth.

Photo by Markus Winkler

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