Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wednesday Wonderings

I missed an entry date. And frankly, I don't know that any of you want to hear from me that often anyway.

So, I'll have less time over the next few days/weeks to do this, and I'm going to try and make them better in terms of thinking them through.

Today an artist posted her work on DA. Not unusual, right? When I commented on it, I got a response. That is unusual. But that's not what I'm talking about here -- her response was that, on another board, someone had torn it apart for her and she hated the piece.

I know, as artists, we all have certain expectations of our work that we can't and don't meet. I know that we strive for better and better things from ourselves and we hope that, with each honest and constructive criticism, we can grow. I also know, from the experience of others, that in certain circles (if not universally), you will not be handled with kid gloves when you submit artwork for professional review and critiques. In fact, some of the critiques can be downright mean.

It's their goal to be destructive and show you where you lack. It's our responsibility not to be destroyed, and not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Take what gold there is among the debris and improve. The next time, that rude and inconsiderate art director -- who is convinced they're doing you a favor by being rude and asinine -- will have to find other areas to be a jackass about with regard to your work.

That being established, and acknowledging that this is a fact for those of you trying to be professional artists, is it really necessary that we be destructive in our critiques? I've read some that were genuinely and sincerely teaching critiques, but were handled in less than a delicate or even polite way. The terminology used was degrading and harsh. The response to questioning was "Well, an art director isn't going to be polite. They're going to be rude." Okay, that's true; it's stupid and it's unnecessary -- and it stems from being a self-inflated narcissist with nothing better to do than demean the work of others IMHO -- but it's true. So what? Does that give us open season on one another? Does that provide the justification for being harsh and insensitive -- or worse, deliberately cruel -- to other artists whose work we don't hold in esteem? Does that make it okay for us to rip others down and spit on the pieces, in the name of "critique?"

Constructive criticism will help a person grow as an artist, or as a person in general. In most circumstances, it's beneficial to receive criticism. But if the "critique" is cruel and harsh intentionally, and the "critique" is actually barely (if at all) disguised insults and bashing, is that really helpful? What gets you farther -- telling someone nicely what's wrong with their work, or telling them in a way that's designed to be insulting and crass, abrasive? If that's what art directors and instructors do, then that's their problem. You will have to deal with that when the time comes. I still maintain that it's not necessary for us, the other artists to whom this person has turned for guidance, to be the same way. Not only is it not necessary, it's counter-productive.

And this cruelty in critique is new -- relatively new anyway. When I submitted my portfolio to an art studio working in advertising and storyboards years and years ago, I was treated politely and respectfully shown where my art was lacking. I had my portfolio returned to me with a written checklist of the points on which it was evaluated, and that gave me an indication of where I needed to improve (everywhere). I had that paper for years and years, and marked my progress against it at intervals. I wasn't torn down in a destructive, harsh and ridiculously inconsiderate manner. I was encouraged to work on the areas of weakness.

Marvel Comics did the same thing back in the early-mid '90s. I submitted some sequentials, and received a letter back indicating where I was lacking and how to improve them. There was nothing in the letter that was harsh, rude or demeaning. It may have been a form letter for all I know, but it cited areas of weakness for those pages I did, and it helped me as much as any lesson I learned during that time.

The point is this: do we have to be asses to critique someone's work? With all the other people that will be insulting in the work force and industry into which these people are hoping to break, is treating them badly necessary here and on other forums where they are hoping to get guidance and (helpful) feedback to grow?

I say "no." I say that you don't have to be a jackass and a prick to get the artist to find room for improvement.

I'm sure all of you have opinions about this; that is only mine.

If you want to let me know why you feel the same/differently, go ahead. I'm listening/reading. :)

God bless, everyone, and for what it's worth -- I won't be harsh with anyone.