On Criticism

Why is it so easy to remember all the criticism we get but so hard to do the same with the praise? I don’t know about you, but I can vividly remember all the negative things I’ve been told, while the praise I receive usually goes in one ear and out the other. It makes me feel good for a fleeting moment then I completely forget about it. But the criticism…that lingers forever! Why is that?

While you think about that, here are the beginning few stages of my newest painting.

Steps 1, 2, and 3
Steps 1, 2, and 3

I can still remember the (luckily very very few) situations from my childhood when someone said something mean to me. Here’s a good one. In the 7th grade, I wore a sports bra and a boy told me I had a uni-boob (I know, what a strange thing to say to someone…). Yup. That one stuck with me. Yet the thousands of nice things people say just somehow vanish from my memory. But the uni-boob comment is with me for life! Why is that?

And continuing with the progression of my painting…

Steps 4, 5, and 6
Steps 4, 5, and 6

Why do we value critical comments so much more than the nice things we are told? Isn’t this why everyone loves and hates Simon Cowel? Although he can be very mean, we consider  his thoughts and opinions to be superior to those of the other judges because he isn’t scared to say what’s on his mind, even if he crushes the souls and dreams of young artists.

And back to the painting tangent… the end is near! 

Steps 7 and 8
Steps 7 and 8

I guess that’s the way I see things too sometimes. I assume that if someone says something critical then it must be true. In reality, more often than not, it’s simply a manifestation of their own insecurities. Yet we still aim to please those who are most critical in our lives.

Go ahead, be critical. Here is my finished painting. 

Autumn Drive - 48x36" - Acrylic on Canvas
Autumn Drive – 48×36″ – Acrylic on Canvas

Why am I writing about this? You probably think that someone said something very critical to me and it got me down. In fact no, quite the opposite. I’ve been getting nothing but praise recently for my artwork (THANK YOU) but found myself completely disregarding all of this praise. I usually nod and smile and forget about it. Instead of using it to fuel my fire, I take the compliments and just completely disregard them. I find myself waiting for that critical person to come by and say something rude so I can prove them wrong. So this post is a reminder to myself, and to anyone reading, to listen to and believe those compliments. And while there’s definitely a place for constructive criticism, just plain old criticism usually comes from a place of hate and shouldn’t be regarded as having any much truth unlike the nice things we are told.

This painting is quite huge. The largest one I’ve done in about 7 years… Here I am standing beside it to give you an idea. 

me

Rant over. Let’s go paint.

Like this painting, Autumn Drive? Want to see more pictures of it? The original painting is available for sale on my website here and on Etsy.

P.S. If you’ve been waiting patiently to see how my online ads have been doing (money wise) come back tomorrow for a review of the month of July. If you think talking about money is tacky, then don’t come by tomorrow 😉 Cheers!

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19 thoughts on “On Criticism

  • July 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm
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    No criticism here! Great composition and I LOVE the colors – especially the blue/green of the conifers. It (almost) makes me look forward to autumn – brrrr….

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    • July 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm
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      Thanks Carolyn! I’m looking forward to the colors of autumn, but certainly not the inevitable cold weather that comes with it… brrrrr is right!

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  • July 31, 2013 at 2:33 pm
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    Nice work! I think it’s human nature to focus on the negatives, a tough battle to fight against it. Media sources don’t help with a constant focus on all the bad things happening on planet Earth.

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  • July 31, 2013 at 2:48 pm
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    I totally identify with you. Great insight. Love this painting!

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  • July 31, 2013 at 5:31 pm
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    Love the painting! Reminds me of what’s to come . . .

    As for “uniboob” . . . I’m not sure that’s worse than when the Victoria’s Secret clerk was talking about me to her colleague and called me “that scrawny little thing in the dressing room.” You’re right. For some really invalid reason, those are the comments that stick.

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    • July 31, 2013 at 7:41 pm
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      Oh dear, yeah, that’s a pretty bad one too.
      I’m not sure why of every childhood bad memory I choose to mention the “uni-boob” incident on such a public forum… haha It’s kind of funny looking back now though. I hope you’re able to see the humor in yours too. Live an learn, right.

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  • July 31, 2013 at 8:54 pm
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    Would it help if I criticized the painting by saying it looks too good? Haha you’re right, I like praise for only a moment but criticism stays with me. I think it’s natural with people. It is worth thinking about. Maybe we should criticize each other by admonishing to do what we do well more often, instead of working (in vain?) on our weaknesses.

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  • August 1, 2013 at 12:24 am
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    I actually started putting compliments that really made me feel good in a section of my phone. When Im having a bad day I’ll look at it for a lift 🙂

    Also, I HATE when ppl put themselves down! DON’T DO IT!…love ya’ll 🙂

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    • August 1, 2013 at 7:30 am
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      That’s such a good idea! I used to write the “highlight of my day” each day in my daily planner and would also flip through those on bad days to see that “hey, maybe things aren’t so bad!”.
      I also HATE when people put themselves down!

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  • August 1, 2013 at 6:33 am
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    I’m just the opposite. I never forget a compliment or anything nice said to me. As for criticism, I see if it’s constructive and I can learn anything from it, if not I forget it. It’s not important to me. Love the new painting.

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    • August 1, 2013 at 7:26 am
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      That’s a great attitude to have. Something I am definitely working on, and much better with as I get older.

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  • August 1, 2013 at 11:09 am
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    Hi Agata,

    Beautiful painting.. love the build up in layers.. and the landscape is amazing..

    considering your question on criticism, i found the following lecture by Ajahn Brahm very enlightning:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWpaj3Ptzic

    Praise and be praised.. and don’t be afraid of it.. you are worth all the praise..

    or to quote Baz Luhrman – Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen: ” Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how”

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  • August 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm
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    I love your work. It is vivid. As one artist to another, I prefer the word idea or suggestion rather than criticism. My Dad paints and he often sends me a photo of his works to get suggestions. Perhaps the best term would be a fresh eye on the painting… I do have a suggestion for you. The trees and road have great depth and dimension but the rail fence in comparision seems flat. However, it could just be the camera playing tricks on the eye!

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  • August 3, 2013 at 1:26 am
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    I find repeated praise from the same person gets harder to acknowledge somehow, but I don’t know why either. When a new person gives praise commenting on what specifically they like about the work, it’s worth so much more. For example, I like how you intertwine your post around your painting. It seems to give the painting context to how I interpret it. Well done.

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    • August 3, 2013 at 10:04 am
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      You’re very right Steve. Bringing this back to American Idol, that’s probably why no one cares what Paula Abdul’s opinion is…she’s only capable of saying nice things so they start to get diluted. Meanwhile, the rare praise that’s very specific to a work seems so much more genuine. Thanks for your (specific) comment 🙂

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  • August 8, 2013 at 10:10 am
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    Good painting! That IS big. The largest canvas I’ve worked on is 11 x 14, and even that took a while to finish. But I’m patient with myself and take some breaks in between.

    And yeah, that’s true. It’s like ONE insult could outweigh 50 compliments, which is ridiculous! You know what I do, though? When I get good compliments worth remembering, I write them down on a piece of paper, and stuff them in a glass jar. So whenever I’m feeling crappy and need a confidence boost, I read a few. Usually does the trick.

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    • August 8, 2013 at 10:27 am
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      That’s such a great idea! I used to write the highlight of my day into my daily planner so I could always flip back and look at all the good things going on in my life each day. Kind of like a highlight reel. The only reason I stopped is because I don’t use a planner during the summer.

      Reply

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