Mike Barr - Be your own best critic!
Critique is a big word in the world of art. From the humblest painting done on the back porch to art worth millions, there is always a critic at hand and they are more than ready to offer a few words of their wisdom!
For artists at the top of the food chain, criticism is worth nothing - their success is enough encouragement for them. However, criticism for most artists can be crippling.
There are three main types of criticism.
There is the unsolicited critique. We all know how annoying this is! Being a recipient of it can be very discouraging particularly if it is in earshot of those around us.
Constructive criticism always seems to be available from our peers. Many of us even seek such opinions, but asking for such critique will often just bring in a flood of conflicting personal views that add nothing for the artist.
The most devastating of critiques though, are the dishonestly kind ones given by family and friends. You know, the ones that tell you how talented you are, how wonderful the painting is and many other buttery things, which may be completely untrue. The devastating nature of this, is that artists can actually begin to believe it! Even though family and friends are being polite, they are actually setting up an artist for mediocrity. There is a difference in encouragement however, and this can be done without resorting to gushing untruths!
Having just started off painting as a hobby or career, it's almost impossible to improve something that we already believe to be great!
The answer is to be our own best critic. But, how do we do that?
Firstly, get on the internet and look at some amazing art. Trawl through sites like Pinterest and come to the realisation that there are many artists in the world that produce better work than we do. This is not to put ourselves down, but just to put our art in perspective. The next big step is to put our work into open exhibitions. When our work hangs with the works of others, again, our paintings are seen in a completely different light. What may have seemed like a masterpiece at home, suddenly doesn't seem quite so good. This is not self-inflicted cruelty, it's self-imposed honesty! When we realise that we can improve, then improvement is possible. When we think we've made it, it just means we've stopped learning.
Critique other artist's works by all means, but keep it to yourself! Private critiquing is a great way to learn. Take note of what is good and what is bad in other's paintings and see if it applies to you. Painting truly is a journey and it never stops.
Caption: A couple of paintings of the bluff at Victor Harbor - one from 2004 (inset) and 2015.