How to tackle creative feedback and become a stronger artist
Feedback is a critical catapult to success for any student, school and industry. It allows us to explore and redraw our thoughts. It gradually offers us better & better images of what we want to achieve. It teaches us to think and communicate in ever more effective ways.
At Gnomon, myself and other students put in anywhere from 70-90 hours a week to complete our six finals each term. I learned that critique from peers is of an exceptional importance. Here are some tips that can aid you in becoming a stronger individual and team player.
Be Objective & Honest
Do not portray any embarrassment in those who confide in you for feedback. Be as honest and objective as you possibly can. Push the critique in the direction that would most benefit the person. Understand what their goal with artwork is so that you are critiquing the right things, the story they are trying to tell, what audience they are trying to approach. You can look at anything and point out things like perspective and color, but if those aren’t their goals then come up with something different.
Remove Personal Opinions
We all have our own style and opinion for what good art is. It’s important to remove this from critics as much as possible.
This also applies to the receiving end. Take critiques logically instead of emotionally. Take opinions from people that have the skills you trust. Sometimes, we can put a personal barricade in front of the information and it is always good to get rid of that. With every critique, don’t argue, listen and accept it, then sort it afterwards whether the points given are valid. Evaluate whether the critique improved your work. It is ultimately your job as an artist to choose which critique to follow and which ones to not. Understand that you are the individual making the art, not the art. Separate words being said about your work versus the way you feel about yourself. Take criticism as a positive thing and put it towards your work.
Keep a Growth-Oriented Attitude
Critiques are not praises. When you’re presenting your artwork and asking for critique, you’re ultimately saying: “I am looking for feedback because I am invested in this beyond a point where I can see what’s wrong. Will you please help me find what you think is good and what is bad?”
So be a sponge, and welcome growth. It is far better to see your work as it really is than to persist in a delusion. Think about which attitude is better geared for your long-term growth, what gives you more leverage for your future? And if your naive self-confidence is a little undermined in the process, is that altogether such a loss? Whose interest does ignorance serve? Is there not a cause to welcome critique as a maturing and character-building experience?
“Life is about collecting little nuggets of knowledge while trying to apply as many of those and eliminating as many mistakes as you possibly can.”
Max Dayan, Director of Education at Gnomon
Max has worked on many small and large size teams, and hundreds of students individually. He says there’s a very real correlation between those who take notes of critique and their final product versus those who don’t. People who actively take the information improve and excel much faster. He recommends artists to: “Write it down. Make a list of the worst things that are immediately terrible in your image. Work on the worst thing first, then continue tackling down the next worst thing. You’re then just left with a bunch of problems that aren’t a big deal. It’s a problem if you ignore the critics or leave the problems in your artwork. It’s also important to participate in group critiques and see other people’s work, especially work that you think is better than yours. Chances are you are making the same mistakes that they made.”
The Importance of Feedback
“I never want to be comfortable. Being comfortable means I stopped growing.”
Justin Pourkaveh, Thermal Engineer at SpaceX
I hear this often from professionals achieving mastery. “Professional artists are those who are gluttons for punishments”, Max says. He says the best artists have the will to fight through so much: they keep working and working to compensate for their lack of knowledge, experience and talent. They see validity in critiques and actively work to do something about it.