Arts Academy

in the Woods

Home // Art Integrated Education // Ways to Handle Art Criticism

Ways to Handle Art Criticism

As if being an artist wasn’t challenging enough, you have to be able to handle art criticism.

That’s just the way it goes.

Yet, as harrowing as receiving feedback on your artwork can be, at the end of the day, it helps you grow as an artist and as a person. That’s why it’s important you know how to receive it.

How to Handle Art Criticism

Receiving criticism can help you understand your strengths and your weaknesses. You’ll have a better understanding of the skills and techniques that could use more work and then concentrate your efforts on those.

Ultimately, art criticism will help you grow as an artist. That’s why arts academy high schools emphasize the importance of art criticism and teach their students the best ways to approach it. Here are four of those ways:

1. Consider the Source

There’s a big difference between receiving art criticism from an art educator or gallery curator and a stranger or even a friend. It’s important to ask yourself if the source is reputable.

For instance, professional artists and art critics, museum curators, and art historians/teachers have the relevant credentials to give you the honest and constructive feedback you’re seeking.

On the other hand, people with whom you have a relationship (family, friends, coworkers, classmates) may not always be working from a place of honestly evaluating your art. Yes, in some cases you’ll receive important tips and viewpoints, but you also need to consider your relationship with the person giving it. The classmate who’s got a beef with you might be unnecessarily cruel, while your mom or brother may say you’re the greatest artist ever.

2. Be Curious and Willing to Listen

When a critic is saying something you don’t want to hear, the natural reaction is to shut down and not listen. This is a mistake. As an artist, it’s all too easy to be limited by your personal biases and feelings. We all are.

So one of the best practices you can incorporate is asking questions of the person who’s offering your criticism. Ask them with curiosity about areas where they think you can improve, why they think this, and if there’s any advice they can offer. You may or may not agree, but it’s worth investigating. Then be sure to thank the critic for their feedback.

3. Determine Whether It’s Constructive

This is a tough one. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out whether the criticism you receive as an artist is constructive or destructive. Even the most professional art critic could be an opinionated person with a mean streak. Then there’s the internet and social media, where destructive criticism is the primary language.

Part of what makes art criticism so tough is that, yes, there are going to be times when people are coming from the wrong place. They may be feeling slighted in their own lives and taking it out (whether consciously or otherwise) on you. And if you’re unaware of this, you may take what they say as gospel truth. It can break your spirit and make you want to throw in the towel.

There are some simple questions you can ask yourself. Does the criticism have merit, is it at all destructive, can you learn from it or is it unfounded? If any of the responses are negative, follow your gut. Unless it is egregiously hateful, thank them for the criticism and then move on. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress, disappointment, and frustration.

4.  Keep Your Emotions in Check

By coming at art criticism with the above three checkpoints in mind, it makes this fourth one much easier. And that’s good, because this last one is important.

When you receive negative art criticism, the natural reaction may be to react with anger, denial, or embarrassment. After all, you’ve invested time, energy, and your whole self into your work.

The best way to avoid being reactive is to pause, take a deep breath, and take a little journey inward. Ask yourself why you’re feeling defensive. Are you working from a place of pride or ego? What can you learn from your reaction?

Don’t forget to apply all of this to positive criticism as well. This one is easy to forget because when we receive accolades, we’re inclined to believe they’re 100% true. To continue to grow as an artist and a person, it’s helpful to look at why positive criticism feels good. Does it validate you more than it should? Not discounting the positive reaction to your strengths, can you use constructive criticism to focus on the skills that need more work?

This all may seem like a lot of work, but it’s a necessary part of being an artist.

Does Your Child Thrive When Doing Art?

If your child is an aspiring artist and has visions of making it their way of life, it’s crucial that they learn how to handle art criticism.

Attending an arts academy middle school and/or high school is the first step in developing this skill.

So if you’re curious about enrolling your child in an arts academy school so he/she/they can truly shine, contact us today to schedule a tour of the school.


* indicates required