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Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Describe a time that you felt a critique either helped or harmed your art-making progress.

This prompt presents an interesting conundrum involving critiques of recent work. I usually view the process as a positive that helps clarify my work. Even negative feedback is helpful if one’s attitude is in the right place. Also, if I am responsible for helping another with their work, I want to give positive and helpful suggestions. I have seen negative criticism kill the creative spirit of a young artist. Therefore, I try to use a three to one ratio and always start and end with positive reinforcement. Another problem, one that I encountered as recently as a few weeks ago in a grad school studio. There, the students participate in daily exchanges of information with a professor and once per week everyone is involved in more formal critiques. Interaction with students and professors as they provide the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of artistic work. I accept both positive and negative as helpful information that I could use to make the work better. However, I have seen this process work negatively when a professor contradicts their peers or their own prior feedback. I watched and listened as a student acting on a professor’s suggestion and presenting the work for assessment the next week gets a complete reversal of the previous critique. This happened twice in subsequent weeks. It was very disheartening to the student who began to talk about dropping out of the program. At this point, I took it upon myself to encourage the student. We discussed the process used by the military to break the spirit to create a stronger soldier. I said the contradictory critiques served the same purpose. The overarching theme is, create a failure to make a breakthrough in one’s art. Understanding the purpose helps but would be, in my opinion better if tempered with positives and never contradict a peer or yourself.

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