Sunday, 1 September 2013

postheadericon There Will Always be Someone who Hates Your Art - A Tutorial on Criticism and How to Deal With It (Part 2)

Boy, I didn't think this post would end up as long as it did - so I've split it into two parts.

In Part 1 of this tutorial, I explained about traits of Good Criticism, Poor Criticism and how to tell the subtle differences between them.

In Part 2 of this tutorial, I'm going to take some time to explain what to do with the Good Criticism once you've got it. Receiving a decent critique is one thing - what you do with that decent critique is an entirely different story.

I find that no matter what, the Good Criticism will always and absolutely take presidence over the Poor or Bad Criticism. As explained before, it's the only real criticism that matters - even if the criticism has a negative connotation. While listening to Good Criticism may not guarantee you success in your chosen field - as that is up to you, the artist - paying attention to what people have to say and building on that will guarantee that you will become better at what you do.

Let's keep it simple, in 5 steps. BLAIR:

1. Be polite.

Not only should you be asking for feedback from others, you should be saying "please" and "thank you."

An artist should always make sure they're showing appreciation for criticism. The more unresponsive you are to good criticism, the more people will respond with bad criticism. People don't - and shouldn't - expect all of their opinions about your personal work to come to fruition; however, they don't like to be ignored or brushed off, either.
When working under an employer, you should never expect them to instigate feedback. Part of your job is to request critique to ensure you're delivering what's been requested.

2. Listen.

When I say 'listen', I don't necessarily mean just sitting and paying attention. When I say 'listen', there is some grey-matter osmosis going on.

Take a Good Critique to heart. Most of the time, people just want to help you, and help to improve your product. They don't want to hurt your feelings. They don't want to personally attack you. You want to analyze what they are saying with objective seriousness. Like I said in my last post - sometimes the greatest improvements of my work occur because of a Good Critique. The individual giving the critique might not have the qualifications to produce such work themselves - but sometimes, now and again, someone will say something useful. Something extraordinary - and if you're not listening? You'll miss it. 

3. Act on it.

If you're working under an employer, you want to implement changes in your work as soon as possible. Act on the feedback until you get it right.

Be honest with yourself. If you are directly in control of any component of your work that people are suggesting you change? You have the power to change it. With your personal work, you can vouch not to act on the suggestion - but at your own discretion (after all, you can't please all the people all the time - just some, some of the time). You don't know if it will make your work look better or worse unless you implement it. In the digital age, in digital mediums, it's easier than ever to try new things. Save a spare copy, and experiment.

4. Improve.

The only thing you have to lose is time. You'll likely gain a lot more than that in the long-run, anyway.

No one is ever a perfect artist. Always strive to improve through your critiques. If you hear that people think your 3D model uses too many polygons? Work on making great models with lower polygon counts. People keep telling you you need to improve the look of your portraits? Grab your sketchbook and fill the pages with faces. Don't know how to use Photoshop or Blender? Crack open a web browser, pull up Google or YouTube and start hunting for tutorials. Practice more.

5. Retain.

At bare minimum, express that you will keep the suggestions and critiques in mind for future projects. At most - do your best to retain aspects of your critiques, all of the time.

When I say "retain aspects of your critiques, all of the time", I don't mean try to remember every critique you've ever been given - just the good bits. The important bits. The things that stood out for you. The stuff you really know you need to improve on - the stuff you really, really know you need to improve on. Aspects of the critique that really had an impact on you. When you finally feel as though you've changed and improved in response to one critique, focus on another for awhile - gauge your audience's response. They'll let you know if you're on the right track.

That about sums it up for the second part of this tutorial. As long as you - as an artist and creative individual - maintain an objective distance from your art, are constantly seeking to improve your work and always strive to learn new techniques, you're generally not going to have a problem when someone tosses a critique in your general direction. Stick to these 5 rules when handling and responding to your feedback, and always remember:

"Make good art." - Neil Gaiman