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Haters Gonna Hate

by Luann Udell on 5/27/2017 7:10:46 PM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.



Put Those Hurtful Comments in Context, and Move On With Your Art.


I’m gonna go out on a limb here.


When was the last time someone said something sort of mean about your art?


It’s kind of like the Gong Show, right? You’re going along, making time for making your art, putting your heart and soul into it, telling yourself it’s worth your while, worth your time, worth your best effort, deserves your best, no matter what.


And then someone comes along and says something devastating.


Or worse, something that isn’t devastating, per se, but the more you think about it, the more it hurts. Crushes your soul. Makes you wonder why you even bother getting up in the morning.*


“Hmmmm….unusual color choices….”*


“Oh. Never mind. It’s just some kind of cheap plastic.”*


“You’d have to have a very different house to hang that piece. A very different house….”*


“Oh, my daughter makes these!”*


“Are you being honest about your work? I see you making the same tired old work using the same tired old techniques…”*


“$650? Huh.  Would you take $375?”*


“I love your work! I’m going to go home and do this, too!”*


“What are you doing at this show??!!” **


Any of version that translates to, “You’re doing it wrong.”


*Actual comments I’ve received about my work over the years.

** Actually, this was an extremely wonderful compliment, from a person who greatly admired my work and was astonished to find me at a gift show.


If you are successful with your art, it may be years since you’ve heard statements like these. Lucky you!


If you are just starting out, if you don’t feel you’ve “made it” yet, if you are reinventing yourself and your work, if you are rebooting (moved across the country, for example, new to the art world, trying a new technique/subject matter/process, etc.) then these mindless statements can be devastating.


They can elicit anger and frustration. They can hurt, deeply. They can kill us, literally and figuratively. The very first year I did my first major fine craft show, I was across the aisle from a wonderful gentleman who had switched from glass work to woodcarving. That year. Unbeknownst to his faithful glass-collecting followers. On opening day, the biggest day for sales, his collectors came, looked, scratched their heads—and left. He ended up in the emergency room that evening, with what everyone thought was a heart attack. (It was a full-blown panic attack, which looks and feels like a heart attack, especially to the person who’s experiencing it.)


No one had actually said anything mean, except in their response—confusion, and retreat. But the message was loud and clear. “We love your glass work, what the hell is this?!


When we are confronted with such resistance to what we’re doing, it’s easy to experience hurt, dismay, panic, even anger.


The trick is to not act on those feelings.


I wear my heart on my sleeve. When I’m angry, everybody knows it. There are very few situations where I can totally contain my feelings. But I’ve learned to do this in my space, whether it’s my show booth, my studio, my galleries that host my work, even my home, if necessary.


Because I realize that I want to be at my very best, at my most evolved, in sync with the angels of my better nature, when it comes to being an agent for my artwork in those situations.


Inside, I might be fuming. But I know with time, I’ll get back to my happy place. Here are some of the insights, and strategies, I’ve found work well for me, and maybe they will help you, too.


1)    We are fortunate to be able to make, let alone display, exhibit, and sell our art.

Seth Godin said, “To be irritated is a sign of privilege.” It took me awhile to wrap my head around this, but he’s right. By the very act of being an artist, we have elevated ourselves to a position many, many people would do anything to attain. We have the time (to make our art), we have the money (to buy supplies, to have a website, etc.), we have the resources, the skills, the schooling (even self-taught artists taught themselves something), the determination (aha!), to dedicate some portion of our lives to our art. So very many people in the world spend all their time simply trying to survive.


2)    Those who want to be artists, but can’t/won’t/don’t know how, are in a world of hurt. In fact, take an hour to read up on shadow artists, a term made popular by artist/writer Julia Cameron in her seminal book, The Artist's Way. She describes people who, for many different reasons, are artists who have not followed their call. Many shadow artists work behind the scenes to help other artists—they manage art events, work for art organizations, write about, or collect art, etc.—in positive ways. We must be grateful for their support.


But many, many shadow artists are beside themselves with envy at those who actually take that step. They are tortured by the sight of other people ‘living the dream’ they cannot create for themselves.


Some are even artists themselves. (That remark about my ‘tired old techniques”? Written by one of the most successful polymer clay artists in the world, who is internationally acclaimed and lauded. Go figure.) They see someone going somewhere they cannot go, creating something they cannot create themselves. And it’s killing them. When you do something they can’t, it brings out the worst in them.

3)    Some people are in a world of hurt, and they are going to take it out on Y*O*U.


An older gentleman came into my booth one year, and took issue with me on one thing after another. My subject matter. My materials. My inspiration. My philosophy.


I was new to all this, and simply met him where he was, addressed each barb and contention with the eagerness to win him over. I so happy, so earnest, each attack with my whole heart. I was puzzled, to be sure. But I didn’t give up.


Finally, his wife appeared. “What are you doing?? Are you harassing another artist?! What is wrong with you?! Stop that!” And she led him away.


I mentioned this to a mentor later, asking him how I should have handled this situation. He simply said, “Not everyone is your customer. Cut them loose, with tact—always with tact--and move them on.” Wow! Permission to not treat every visitor as a deeply honored guest!


4)    Some people are so self-absorbed, they have no idea how obnoxious they are.

They say they are ‘collectors’ to get your total attention. They ask a million questions, but never listen to your answers. (It’s only a way for them to tell you how special/knowledgeable/important they are.) They find fault in trivial matters.


Awhile back, I wrote an article on how to use polymer clay to repair ceramic pieces. (I used it to repair a large spongeware bowl that was badly chipped.) Many people commented: “Thank you for this, I’m going to try this!”, “Wow, great idea, thanks!”


Some people assumed my reason d’etre was repairing all kinds of collectibles. “I have a what-cha-ma-doodle that’s broken, how do I repair that?” Um….I have no idea.


But the most surprising was the comment, “I can still see the repair.”


Yes, I could have been more careful about the shade of blue paint I used. OTOH, my previous strategy had been to simply place it with the big chip in back, where no one would see it. The commenter turned it into some kind of “contest” I’d failed at. Oy.


So how do we handle these people who seem determined to bring us down to their level?


In a word: Don’t.


Don’t engage on their level. George Bernard Shaw said it best: “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it…” The guy who was going from booth to booth, annoying artist after artist? The best response, besides totally ignoring him, was what I did—responding with my best intentions and a whole and happy heart. He could not break through.


Don’t take it personally.  Who you are, what you’ve made, may be their trigger. But 99.99% of the time, when I work it through, I realize it’s more about their own sh** than me. Almost. Every. Time.


Move them on. In my e-book,  How to Get People OUT of Your Booth I share many strategies for identifying sad, annoying, maddening, okay-dude-you-are-seriously-making-me-contemplate-assault-and-battery-here people on their way, graciously, without creating mayhem or hard feelings. (See below.)


Look for the blessing. It’s my way of making lemonade out of lemons. What did I learn from this encounter? How could I do better next time? How can I use this to my advantage? (The next time I had a difficult visitor? I encouraged them to go visit the artist who’d bad-mouthed me.) (I never said I was a saint.)


Remember, other people are listening. When you have a strategy to handle difficult questions and difficult people, other people—potential collectors, who worry that their questions might be considered difficult or awkward—are paying attention to how you’re handling it. As I’ve said before, when visitors have seen enough of your work and they are ready to talk to you, they often ask that “stupid question”. (“Are these wood?” “Is this a cat or an otter?”) If you respond to that DQ/DP with diplomacy and graciousness, these other people will feel comfortable engaging you. Some people have even approached me after a difficult encounter, saying, “I can’t believe how patient you were with that jerk! You’re amazing!” Yay! I took the higher ground, and gained a new admirer!  I’m also grateful they didn’t see the part where I was chewing on my pencil.


Let’s round this up. Remember the former glass artist-turned-woodcarver? When he came back, he told me how awful it felt to be so roundly rejected for his new work. “You caught them by surprise,” I pointed out. “You have an entirely new body of work, in a whole new medium. Give them time. You built a faithful audience for your work over the years, and you will do it again. You’re starting over. But you’re not starting at the beginning.”


Our paths never crossed again. But I still treasure the carved red sugar maple leaf he gave me the last day of the show. It is a constant reminder that our appeal may grow and fade, our admirers may come and go.


From my "wall-o'-fall" collection, and the carved wood maple leaf I still treasure.


But the heart that produced this beautiful work will continue on, until the day it stops.


And all that matters is, we put that work of our heart out into the world, and let it go.





Editor's Note:
A great place to see artists daring to be different is the BoldBrush Painting Competition. It's a great place for you to show how different you are, too. Remember, FASO members get a FREE entry every month! Not a FASO member? Join our art community today with a free, no obligation 30 day trial, click here.



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Related Posts:

Forget the Flowers and Hold the Wine

Behind the Biggest Question of Them All

Making The Bed

CUTE SHIRT!: What to Say When You Donít Like the Work

Getting To Your Happy (Creative) Place

Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art collectors | FineArtViews | inspiration | Luann Udell 

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Jim Springett
Hi Luann,
O what a timely gift you are sharing at the end of your story the key, to be true to your heart. I am developing a new way to paint using my watercolors not because i want a lot more sales but I want to share my message to save all our wildlife with those who can still see and even for the blind. God's creation in his wildlife so imporatnt today. A friend of ours sent me this article on Karl Morten a wildlife watercolorist painting his birds using a Chinese brush, neat got me to thinking about my 27 years of painting so I am developing my next beautiful part of my painting journey using watercolors. Thanks again for your timely stories have a great day too. Jim Springett wildlife painter

Gaye Sekula
I have followed your posts for years and have always found them to be worthy of keeping in a special file. This is no exception. As Jim said, it is very timely. Thank you for your post(s).

Kathleen K Parker
You article is "right on" about people and responses we get along the way about our work. Additionally, The Artist's Way is one of my favorite books, for anyone. I think I need to read it and "do it" again. Thansk!

Luann Udell
Jim, isn't it a miracle? A little story from more than 15 years ago, gets shared today, just when you are ready to hear it? the power of making our art, and getting it out into the world.

I can already sense the power of your new venture! Good on you, not only for the courage of your heart, taking on anew challenge, but also for your art that will speak for those creatures who have no voice.

Luann Udell
Oh my gosh, Gaye, your words just sent a shiver down my spine! ( a GOOD way!) THANK YOU for letting me know, and I'll do my best to keep my game on for you. :-)

RJ McHatton
Fantastic article. Great reminders.

Marilyn Rose
Thank you Luann, for a thoughtful and insightful article. We are truly blessed to be artists. That title is not easily earned though, and many people have a hard time giving themselves permission. The high road always wins, tough as it is.

Eliel Lopez
Wow, great insight into an aspect of our world and how to handle it. I am so glad that I have grown enough to know that my art is what it is and that I am constantly growing with it. Though it may not be for everyone, it wasn't made for everyone. It's like a treasure hunt. Those to whom our art spaeaks to, will find it.

Jim Springett
Hi Luann,

Many thx keep up your good work yes look for my new work in a few weeks. Yes at the right time, so grateful for so many helping me along the way is a part of their story too, blessings, a very loving community and body of people. Jim Springett wildlife painter

Karen Burnette Garner
Luann, another timely and very thought-through essay. Being sensitive to your "audience" and keeping their problems from becoming YOUR problems is very wise. I'm stepping into a time of re-evaluation and relaunch, so I am preparing myself for those comments to come. What I loved the most of your article was the line about "you are starting over, but you aren't starting from the same place"! TRUE TRUE. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Jane Q Cross
Dear Luann,
Thank you for this great piece of public showing advice. It has a powerful grasp of what is right for a segment of the public who is not necessarily your customer but that we can still learn from. This was a jewel.
Mary Jane Q Cross..... following you from Newport NH

Molly Gardner
I admire you so much Luann! You are a strong woman and you can do ANYTHING, as Helen Reddy sang in the 70's. Your article hit my heart and your words are so true. I have been following you since before you moved out west and your blogs always seem to have words that solves my current issue/questions. Keep it up! You have such great wisdom and thank you so much for sharing with us.

Thank you for sharing your insights. I will hold tight to your pearls of wisdom. In that place of struggling for more time to create, less time to earn a living. But creating quality work will offer me a living, or not? Many thanks!

Luann Udell
Oooh, thank you, R.J.!

And Marilyn, so very, very true. It's good to remember that when people try to take us down.

Luann Udell
Eliel, YES!! You got it. There is an audience for almost anything, but the first purpose of our art is to have a voice.

Luann Udell
Karen, I'm delighted my column found you at the right time for your reboot. It will get hard, but it will be worthwhile. Good luck!!!

Luann Udell
Oh, Mary Jane, the memories....!! Thank you for letting me know that though we left NH, NH didn't leave ME. And I'm glad you enjoyed the article!

Luann Udell
Nice to "see" you again, Molly, and I will always treasure your words. Your comment is a reminder that whatever we're going through, someone else has walked that path, too. "On the same lake, in a different boat" as one workshop attendee said so eloquently. I'm glad the thoughts that roiled through my head today helped you sort out yours, and thank you for letting me know!

andre satie
LuAnn, your column is my all time favorite. Your honesty is downright elevating. I live in Southern Oregon; my kids and grandkids are in Windsor and Healdsburg. Next time I'm there, I will look for your work.

Thanks for today's !

Luann Udell
DMills, it can get overwhelming, walking that line between making our art and earning a living. Many artists make it work, and many don't. I almost got there, and perhaps would have, in a different era. But there are many ways to measure "success" with our art, and "earning a living" is simply one of them.Sometimes it contributes to the household. Sometimes it pays for the little extras. But the most important task is to save our spirit, and to have a voice in the world.

True wisdom was spoken here!

Luann, You ask when was the last time someone said something negative about your artwork - 2016 from a relative who told me I was a lousy artist and my degree - B.A. from Boise State University in art was no good. I told her to take her negativity, get on her broom and fly away. Don't get mad - get even; her daughter (also an art critique of my work) and gran-daughter are no longer in my will. I also just sold a painting for $620 dollars. I have moved on but it hurts. Surround yourself with positive people and continue to create. Debra Seney

Kathleen K Parker
Debra S. Seney, I just looked at your work, and it is fabulous! Wonderful eye for color and composition. I love it. KK

Kathleen, Thank you so much! Debbie Seney

Kathleen James
Luann, I love reading your posts (LOVE your book "How to get people OUT of your booth") and this one is especially close to my heart. I make jewelry and sell at many shows throughout the year and I sometimes worry about negative comments. But so far, I've been fortunate in my experiences with customers. One comment/request I do get is "Can I take a picture? I have a friend who makes jewelry and she would love this!" Fortunately, people understand when I politely tell them I'd rather they didn't take a picture of my work. Your work is awesome and I look forward to future posts!!

Ernie Kleven
Excellent post Luann. Artists as a group are more sensitive than average or they wouldn't be able to put emotion into their work. Self doubt easily creeps in making us vulnerable to nasty criticism. It hurts to be sure but each hurt can be part of our growth.
This also explains why artists on average are poor sales people. To be successful in sales you learn to handle rejection or you're dead. Rejection often is only someone's misguided opinion and their opinion doesn't have to be accepted. You can reject their rejection. Yeah that's it. I reject their rejection!

Susan L. Vignola
Luann, Thank you for reminding me/us of the privilege we have to be artists. You mentioned things that over time may seem commonplace and may be taken for granted or even overlooked. I am a firm believer that there may be nuggets of truth lurking beneath overt criticism. The "hater" or the critic provide an opportunity to mine them for why, what, when, they feel that way about artistic work. We have to do that while wearing our teflon shields so we are not wounded by their words. Let their hurtful comments strike the teflon, slide down and puddle at our feet. Then, take a step back, examine that puddle with our sieve, and determine if there is any truth that we choose to take to heart. Walk away from the rest. Opinions are like that pesky little belly button: we all have one.

Thank you for sharing this. As I read the term, "shadow artist," I was immediately convicted. Not having heard the term before, I nonetheless knew exactly what you were talking about, and so I saw myself. Thank you for giving me the kick in the pants I so sorely need--I don't want to be a shadow artist any more. Perfectionism and needlessly comparing myself to others is what has kept me there, but now having seen what I'm really doing, I believe that will the be impetus to push through it. Thank you again.

Debbie Flynn
Thank you for this amazing experience and every word just hits home for me. I just paint what I love and have loved since I was a kid, animals. It's not for everyone but it makes me happy. Thank you so much!!!!! The next time I get one of those comments, I will think of you and your beautiful maple leaf.

Luann Udell
Debrah, yes, it hurts like hell, and obviously, it was meant to. The ignorant or unaware remarks are bad enough, but when people are so damaged they deliberately sear your soul, well, we aren't here to fix them. You did it right--step back, breathe, make your beautiful work.

Luann Udell
Kathleen K.Parker, what a beautiful act of kindness you made today! Thank you.

Luann Udell
Kathleen James, thank you, thank you, thank you! You have supported my work 100 percent and I am soooo grateful.

If you've had no negative comments, you have some good karma going there!

Taking pictures is a complicated social issue, and yet an important aspect of getting our work in front of people we'd otherwise never meet. I'm not saying you should accept this, if you're not comfortable with it. But I will say this: Often, my best customers (energy-wise, and purchasing-wise) are...other artists! They see a lot of artwork, and they know good work when they see it.

One way to handle this particular situation/request is to ask to see the other person's jewelry first. Often they are working in a completely different style/method/material/etc. and there's very little to worry about. Or, conversely, their work is nowhere near as good as yours.

But don't do it unless you're curious about where this could go.

Actually, you've given me my inspiration for next week's column, so...thank you again!! :^D

Luann Udell
Ernie, your thoughts are spot-on! Perfect! Thank you for an excellent observation, and I hope it helps all of us sensitive types.

Re: Rejecting rejection, there was a very funny letter circulating on the internet years ago, with this very theme. An artist whose work was rejected from a show wrote a hysterical letter rejecting the rejection letter.

Alas, I can't find it. But I did find one similar, and I hope it inspires you to write your own! :^D

Luann Udell
Okay, Susan, I was reading your excellent comments, and then you hit me with the belly-button remark and I can't stop giggling!

Love the Teflon shield metaphor! A lot of good thoughts and ideas have been shared today, and we can all look for the ones that help us deal better.

Sometimes we have a teachable moment. Sometimes we have a flash of insight, that helps us let go. Sometimes we have a wonderful Teflon sheild. And sometimes, we have a glass of wine (or three!) and realize someone this petty/insecure/damaged/sad/clueless/whatever is not enough to spoil the miracle in front of us: The work of our hands, the voice of our hearts.

Luann Udell
WOW, Wendy, that is a powerful insight! And you are so brave to look at the hard places, and shed light on them. That tells me you have the courage to move forward and bring your work into the world. Good on you!!

The moment I realized I was a shadow artist was the day I was done with riding in the back seat of the car, complaining endlessly about where we were going. A door was opened that will never close. Well. Until, you know, THAT door closes. But it was a powerful moment that's seared into my brain. It was the start of a whole new life for me.

I hope it is for you, too. Know that we are all cheering you on.

Luann Udell
Awwww, Debbie, you just gave away one of the remarks for my next column! I got it from Bruce Baker, a jewelry artist/gallery owner/small business advisor who was a master at selling.

When someone says something off-key, with sincerity and good energy you respond by saying, "Yes, my work IS expensive. I use recycled 18k gold and semi-precious stones, and I used a special technique that ensures it will last a lifetime, or more. My customers adore these. But they're not for everyone."

They're not for everyone.....

Bruce says, "There's a bit of a challenge there that will get them thinking." And if nothing else, you've zoomed by their zing with confidence and elan, and who can argue with THAT? :^D

Gary Huntress
Hi Luann. This is my very first time reading one of your articles and I thoroughly enjoyed it! As I was following along I kept finding myself imagining what my own response would be to a similar comment (I think I need a little work in the 'tact' department). Thank you for your insightful encouragement and, also, for your delightful writing style!

Gary H, Massachusetts

Christelle Grey
Brilliant article!! Thanks for sharing!

Marion Hedger
What a great post. I am learning to not let it matter what people say even the accolages. It is something I have been hearing more and more about. I am learning to do it for me and that really what it is about.

Accolades are great and sales even better, but I'm trying not to let that rule.

Marion Hedger
What a great post. I am learning to not let it matter what people say even the accolades. It is something I have been hearing more and more about and I am learning to do it for me and that, really, is what it is about.

Accolades are great and sales even better, but I'm trying not to let that rule.

Jewelry people are always beset by the ever popular, 'Oh I could make that, you shouldn't pay that much for it'. My answer to that line is, "Really?! Please give me your card, I have 6 shows coming up and I'd love some help for restocking!" That always causes the person to slink from my booth. In 5 years, I have never collected a card from a person who 'could make that'.

The critic who hurts me the most is my mother. Last summer she mentioned that a piece I made was 'common'. For whatever reason, that really hurt my feelings. That piece has sold and gone on to a very happy home, but it will be forever known as the common piece. What is more irksome is she started her comment by saying, "You're not going to like this, but...." (So why say it in the first place?!!) But that's a mother-daughter issue that needs addressed, not a random customer snark. Keep doing what you're doing!

Andrea Edwards
Luann, thanks for such a fantastic post! Your advice is really practical and helpful.
I did enjoy reading and reflecting upon it and various similar encounters I and others have had.
Food for thought.

Kind regards
Andrea Edwards, Artist, Sydney Australia

Yes, you read my website right! Airbrush! Moving into painting as an additional way to make a living! Haters Gonna Hate: Until now I've never had a clue how to handle those who love to skewer any artist for any given reason! Even in the regular outside world-don't bring myself down to their level! How many times I've failed at this! Your encouragement only helps make things better! Thank you for the article!

Susan L. Vignola
I have been reading through all the comments of your followers. I am reminded of a sign I saw in a booth many years ago, "We know you could, but will you?" So what if someone thinks they could do what we have done? The fact is, we have done it, they have not. There is a quote attributed to Degas that I suspect is applicable to various arts, not just painting, "Painting looks easy until you try it." There's also a tongue in cheek sign that comes across Facebook from time to time, "Saw this craft for $7.00. Decided to do it myself. Spent $95.00 in supplies!" In the meantime, I'll follow your advice and give voice to my heart through the work of my hands.

Joanne Benson
Another gem!

I think the years have hardened me to negative comments. (about art and about life in general)

Also, as we grow older and have more life experience we can relate more to various situations we encounter and I think we develop more empathy. (at least some of us do)

When I was younger, I think I expected more of people and had less patience when dealing with people I considered rude, annoying, nasty, selfish, hurtful, etc.....Now I try to put myself in their shoes or at least consider the fact that they aren't intentionally trying to be negative or hurtful. Some people are just clueless and will never have a clue! Some people are know-it-alls, etc...

You have hit the nail on the head with so much of your advice! Sometimes you have to walk in someone else's shoes to appreciate where they are coming from. Sadly sometimes that experience comes too late.....

There is a saying "It is better to be kind than to be right" and I try to remember that when dealing with people.

I had a really bad commission experience a few years ago which I vented over with fellow artists but took the high road with the client and feel good about myself for doing that! (client was clueless know-it-all!)

When you stoop to the level of the offender, you never feel good about yourself afterward and often feel worse. Best to be your best self no matter how hard it is at the time!

Thanks for sharing!

Luann Udell
Gary, welcome to my (crazy) world! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

I'm also impressed that you thought about what your responses would be to those annoying remarks, AND that you have the courage to admit you might need work on tact.

I was fortunate to learn how to handle these from the very start of my selling/marketing experience. I got to learn from artists more experienced AND more evolved than I am.

Most of us have experienced artist get-togethers or meet-ups, where the conversations quickly devolves into sharing the stupid things our customers have said. Yes, some of them are real head-smackers. But the damage is, the selling situation quickly turns into an "us vs. them" mentality, and soon we feel justified into responding with full force the next time we're "attacked".

But I've also been the brunt of such remarks, when I had all the best intentions in the world. It hurts. And it's enough to make me reconsider purchasing from the artists.

When we are truly being abused, yes, move them on, with tact and grace. (For one thing, it's better for our blood pressure!) But most people are simply unaware they've blown it. If we learn to "go high" and respond with the right response, we may just gain a new customer, and even a new friend.

Luann Udell
Christelle, happy to be of service!

Marion, you are wise indeed. You are right, praise can send us down the wrong path, too, causing us to think we are already "doing it perfectly", and allowing us to believe we have nothing new to learn. OTOH, it sure is nicer to hear than the downer stuff! :^D

Luann Udell
Ah, Amy, the ultimate snark. Is your mother an accomplished jewelry artist? I'm guessing not....

The gift here (and I had to think reeeeeeally hard about this) is, if this is the usual mother-daughter snark, then you have gained a precious insight into what motivates customer snark. As in, it says way more about THEM than it does about YOU.

And the response? I'm saving that for next Saturday's column. I have an open studio that day, so I won't get to respond to comments.

But your homework, if you choose to accept it, is to craft a response that softly deflects, reflects your values and aesthetics, and redirects the conversation to higher ground.

It's hard. But trust me: It's worth it.

Luann Udell
Greetings, Andrea, thank you for the kind comments, and I'm delighted I've got you thinking.

Check the homework assignment in my response to Amy above. I'd love to hear what you come up with, and I'm betting a lot of other folks will, too!

Luann Udell
Susan, those are great signs! AND I'm impressed that you also recognize them for what they are--more of a private joke for us to enjoy, but not really the higher ground we can aspire to reach with our customers. U R doing it right!

Luann Udell
Joanne, your comments are so perfect, I can't even think of anything to add to them.
Except GOOD ON YOU!!! You get an A. :^)

And bring your best response with you to next week's article, and share. I learned so much from artists like you, who had the longer view and took the higher road. Thanks to the internet (and FASO's focus on community) your insights will help others, too.

Kathleen McBride
This was a very well done article. I have experienced many of the comments you mention in this article and wholeheartedly agree with your suggestions on how to handle difficult -- often clueless -- patrons at art shows.

Luann Udell
Glad to be of service, Kathleen! Look for more un next Saturday's article.

Debbie Flynn
LOL, I will have to remember that one. Thank you, Luann.

Lynne Sward
I really enjoyed the subject of your latest column and the thoughtful, smart, insights from everyone who voiced their opinions. My mother taught me at an early age the concept: "If you can't say anything nice about something, don't say anything at all"... If possible, after these uneducated, insensitive critics voice their negativity, give them a resounding "Thank you". That should stop them cold,,,,,always try and take the high road. thank you for sharing all of these personal experiences........cheers, Lynne Sward

Linda Star Landon
Thank you Luann for addressing a subject that is a problem that is hard to deal with. There's no one answer because every onslaught is unique.

Here's mine: Several years ago I was installing my paintings at City Hall at the same time the previous artist (a friend thank goodness) was taking hers down. Along came a woman who said she so enjoyed my friends work and would miss it. Then she went on to say it was so much better than my work, which she said was something one would see in a dentist's office. I said "Maybe I should be marketing to dentists." The dumb woman felt really bad, she did not realize the artist of the new work was there. My friend and I had a good laugh over it.

Anyway, when you put your work out there you have to have a think skin.

But ... everyone has their turn. Its been my experience in art shows that people will pass by your booth and ooh and ah over your neighbors' work. But then some more people will come and pass by your neighbors booth and ooh and ah over your work. Really, everyone has their turn!

Thanks again Luann. You always have great and inspiring things to say.

David McKay
Lots of thought went into this post Luann. Great reading for those (us) who have been there. Thank you.

Luann Udell
Lynne, great advice. Did all our mothers go to the same school?? :^D
I would add, it has to be said without a shred of sarcasm.

Luann Udell
Linda, that response about marketing to dentists is actually good! Because you acted as if it were good advice, and took it at face value, even though you knew better.

It's not that someone likes another person's work better, or yours over some other's. And all of us have opinions, which we share when we think it's "safe". That's simply being human.

Because that woman felt badly, it's obvious she would never had said that to your face. She may neither know nor appreciate your artwork, but that's her privilege.

But yeah, a smart person would have made sure who YOU were, or at least have checked in with your friend to see what HER position was. :^D

It's those folks who believe it's okay to be hurtful that get to me. And our best weapon is to rise above it, use it to our advantage, and move on.

Luann Udell
Whoops, Lynne, I meant to say, the "Thank you" has to be said without a shred of sarcasm. Not where our moms went to school! :^D

Luann Udell
David, thank you! Hopefully, it helps us find a way back to our happy creative place. :^)

Luann, thank you so much for your encouragement. I took a screen shot of your response to me and am going to print it out and put it in my studio. It means that much. :)

Lynne Sward
Hi Luann, I forgot to add an important element after "thank you" Broadly SMILE as you say these 2 words ,and if you have cards,,,,,add one of those. Lynne

Kathleen James
Luann, thank you for your response! What you say about the other person having a different jewelry style (if they make jewelry) is very true. I will have to rethink photo requests of my work. Amy's response to people who say they can make this kind of jewelry too is GOLDEN! Thank you Amy for that!

Thank you again Luann for this week's post. It really helps to read about other artist's experience with know-it-all's, clueless and negative people. I'm looking forward to your post next week!

Luann Udell
WOW, Wendy. I have no words...
I'm just so glad I helped you get to your next step today. Thank you for letting me know!

Luann Udell
Lynne, that makes it PERFECT!! Thank you for sharing, let's put it on the list!

Luann Udell
Kathleen, I'm grateful that you spoke up, listened, and considered everything you've read here today. U R doing it right. (Remind me about my picture-taking "aha" moment, I need to write about that, too.)

And yes, everyone has offered good insights and responses. The highest, best use of FASO's Fine Art Views!

We're SUCH a good group...!! :^)

Kathleen James
I think artists are the greatest people! I've learned so much from forums blogs and doing shows. I look forward to the shows I do every year, not only for the opportunity to sell my jewelry and to connect with customers, but also to visit the other dealers and vendors, some of them I only see once or twice a year. We truly are a rich and varied family!

I love how you point out that other people's comments usually say more about them than whatever they are commenting on.
Years and years ago I participated in a monthly art walk that would team artists up with different shops on the town's main drag. I loved it because it helped me get over the fear of painting with other people around. One man stopped and said he absolutely refused to join in the fun because no one was paying him for his time and he saw the events as a waste. He believed himself above anything that didn't bring in immediate funds. I found the comment odd at the time, but I think it was an excuse not to get out and paint. Bless his heart. He was dealing with his own fears in a way I totally understood but didn't agree with.

It's important not to take what others say personally. It's that whole One-finger-pointing-out-and-three-pointing-back-at-oneself thing.

Understand- not understood. I didn't understand his reasoning at the time.

Luann Udell
Hi Kathleen, thank you for your patience, I'm now on active jury duty. It slows down my response time here! :^D

YES, artists are amazing! I mean, we're people, too, and some are....mmmmmm...not as emotionally evolved as others? Even so, all are making the work they love, and all want to have their work in the world, and they make that happen. That's a special kind of energy for sure.

I have received amazing support, suggestions, insights, and cheers from other artists. I'm always grateful, because it's really really hard to learn all this stuff from scratch!

Luann Udell
Sara, you are wise indeed if you immediately realized something was "off" about that man's outlook, even if you weren't sure why at the time.

And you are especially courageous for getting out there to paint, deliberately, to work through your fear.

You get a blue ribbon today!

I was agreeing with you until Julia Cameron's name popped up. She's basically the Tony. Robbins of "art."

Luann Udell
MarinaZ, regardless of how we feel about the book (and I have mixed feelings, myself), the term "shadow artist" went a long way to help me understand the people who find ways to subtly criticize our creative efforts.

Can't wait to read the article, thank you for the link!

Luann Udell
Well, I just read the New Yorker article by Carrie Battan on "The Artist's Way." Turns out she sees its value. It's the corporate world's appropriation of the word "creative" that she's resenting. Not at all what I was expecting....

Deborah Maiale
I am on the same page with you, Luann, in how people react to art of others. They often don't know what they don't know. But as a former elementary art teacher and a forever artist, I always have delayed comments and asked questions via unbiased interest. For not only children but also adults, their art is part of their real internal self and a rude comment has no productive purpose. Further, such statements mark the commentator's goal as valueless in thinking. Given such, we artists should make it clear with those whose work we admire that we are interested in their reactions to our work and take their observations for what they're worth in our own search toward development, to the degree we want. Productive critiques can't be skipped completely but we should stand with pride for our devotion to our own purposes, regardless.

Luann Udell
Deborah, wise words from you today--thank you!
YES, we can learn from the examples we're discussing. Even if I don't care for someone's style, technique, even their skill level, I keep that to myself. Instead, like you, I'll ask them questions, questions that I hope will deepen my understanding of their process and their vision. Because THAT is where we will find authentic connection.

Also love your take on what we can learn for ourselves. I learned I had to share the REASON why I use polymer clay, and not other available materials. Once people understand my choices, they seem more willing to be amazed rather than judgmental. So someone else's critical reaction inspired me to do a better job of presenting my work.

And if they remain judgmental, as you say, that reflects more about THEM than it does me.


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