This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 17,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
In a recent FineArtViews article, I shared a story from Hollywood that pointed to the fact that an artist can't always trust opinions from friends concerning his or her artwork. As stated in that article, receiving useful constructive criticism about your art can be difficult -- especially if you put close friends on the spot by asking for feedback. Again, close friends are probably not the go-to people for that kind of critical exchange. Even a fellow artist may be kind to your artwork out of concern for your feelings if he or she happens to be a close friend. So what is an artist to do? How can you receive 'honest' constructive criticism for your art? Below are a few suggestions:
* Establish an online group of artists who are serious about feedback:
Any artist who has spent time online posting art images on social networking sites knows that the average comment received is something like "great work" -- even when constructive criticism is requested. Comments like "great work" may fuel the ego for some -- but they are of little value to the serious artist. Point blank -- "great work" is not very constructive... especially when you take into account that people who tend to post comments like that do so for just about any image they view. Need proof? Visit a random Facebook art-focused group or page and you will see exactly what I'm talking about.
So what can you do? Simple. Find other artists (preferably artists who don't know you personally) who are just as serious about constructive criticism as you are -- and from there create a private group with that focus. It is crucial to keep the group private so that you and your fellow constructive criticism buffs don't end up flooded with "great work" comments -- which WILL happen if the group is open to the public. Furthermore, it is vital not to get overly friendly with those in the group. Remember that the whole point of creating a group like that is to avoid feedback that is 'polluted' with emotional bonds, if you will.
* Request anonymous constructive criticism:
If you do plan to request constructive criticism from friends you may be able to ward off useless 'great work' comments by offering a way to provide anonymous feedback. You will probably still receive 'great work' comments -- but hopefully some of your friends (specifically your artist friends) will get down to the grit of the request by offering what they really think about your art. The barrier of anonymity may help those who are concerned about insulting you be more open to dishing out some tough love.
You can accomplish the above online by dedicating a blog post to the open request for constructive criticism. Most blogs will allow anonymous comments -- either directly (no email involved) or by hiding the email address of the individual commenting. You might even think about creating an email address for the sole purpose of receiving anonymous constructive criticism -- and provide the address on the blog post so that friends and others who are still wary that you may discover 'who said what' -- and be offended -- can use that if your blog demands a valid email address. (True, it would not be hard to figure out 'who is who' IP addresses-wise... but part of this involves YOU respecting the fact that your friends desire to offer constructive criticism anonymously. ).
* Request "once removed" constructive criticism:
Artist / writer Julia Watson offered advice that tapped into one of the suggestions I had thought about for this article. She stated, "One tip writers often hear is to get a "once removed" critique: you ask a writer friend of yours to ask a writer friend of theirs to critique your work. The second writer must be unknown to you and your writer friend can act as the go between, maybe even shielding their identity. The same thing could work for artists.". The same thing CAN work for artists. It may work for YOU.
In closing, these are just a few suggestions on how to receive (honest) constructive criticism for your art. Consider this an open thread on the topic. By all means, if you have suggestions -- offer them. If you know of a good online community for receiving constructive art criticism -- share it. I know that some will disagree with the idea that friends make bad go-to people for constructive criticism. That said, I'm certain that others can testify to the fact that sometimes art feedback from friends is not very productive.
Take care, Stay true,