|Mind a little friendly criticism?|
Warning, Rant Alert! Rant alert!
You want to know something? Whenever someone comes up to me at an art event where I am showing a painting and says, "Do you mind a little friendly constructive criticism?" I have two thoughts. My first thought is-
Yes, as a matter of fact, come to think of it, I would mind.
My second thought is-
You pretentious jerk!
But I'm a get-along kind of guy, so I always say, "sure!" in hopes I'll get a good nugget of usable advice. Invariably I do not. Instead, I get some blow-hard who feels the need to ooze their "I'm so much better than you" vibe.
Look, I don't think I'm kidding myself. I honestly think my abilities are in the middle of the pack. I may not be great by a long shot, but I don't horribly suck either. But I can't help the way I feel: unless you have a book published that is devoted to your paintings, or are being paid by me to give advice, or have your name attached to an Atelier, if I don't ask, I don't want to hear it. So shut up, and keep your opinion to yourself, because that's all it really is. And we all have opinions about art (like I discussed in Turf Wars). Family and friends can, of course, blaze away and I won't mind at all. It also goes without saying that if I do ask for an opinion (and I do all the time) I don't want to hear empty praise, but real challenges as to why I did something.
There's another part about constructive criticism; A good critique takes the work for what it is, and points out something that could make it better. Admittedly, it is a fine line. A good critique would be something like, "maybe it would be more effective if you alternated the color temperature between your high-lights and shadows, instead of making them all one temperature" Or, "You painted three-quarters of this in a loose, impressionist style, but this corner is tight realism. Maybe you should make it all one style." Those, I think are helpful. Explaining how you would paint the picture is not "constructive criticism" but conceit.
OK, I've got that off my chest. Obviously, this has happened to me, and I bet it's happened to you too. So, what do you say we just make it one of our little guidelines of painting-- If no one asks you, don't offer "constructive criticism" no matter how awesome you paint.
Hope you didn't mind my friendly unsolicited advice!