Monday, April 11, 2011

A Little Helpful Advice

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!



No Know it all said...

Mind if I give you some friendly advice? Publish a book of your paintings. They're certainly good enough and, by your own words, you could then give yourself unsolicited advice. LOL

You're far from middle of the road, my friend. You've got talent I can only dream of. Don't let anyone tell you any different - not even you!

Daniel said...

I like your work too. I would recommend responding to these queries with, "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you." If that doesn't work, punch them in the mouth. Everyone likes a good melee at an art opening. It serves to produce the impression that art is being kept real.

Kevin Mizner said...

Thanks, Glen. But friend, you need to dream bigger!

Kevin Mizner said...

Daniel, the last time I punched someone at a reception, her husband nearly killed me!

Virginia Floyd said...

What fun comments! I especially like Daniel's! I read it to my husband and we both laughed out loud.

Kay said...

how funny..I just read this to my husband and we laughed..He suggested you say "If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you"!!! You know I really miss the good teaching critiques I got in school..but haven't had any since!! So hard to come by. I think you are due for a book too!!!

Stephanie Berry said...

Great post Kevin! I've yet to have that happen but lack of comments can be just as hard to take.