It can be very unsettling to put your work in front of someone else for a critique. We may fear harsh, judgmental comments. Yet the value of critique is exactly that, the chance to gain an outside perspective and insight, and very often criticism can be given and received in a supportive way. Today we’ll talk about the positive aspects of critique as well as handling negative criticism with regards to our work.
First, let's distinguish between the meaning of the words, critique and criticism. The definition of critique is “a detailed analysis”, or as a verb “to evaluate.” This implies an objective point of view, not an attempt to find fault. Criticism has two meanings, One is “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” The second meaning is “the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.” This meaning when applied to an art form includes positive as well as negative aspects, with an emphasis on judghement on the part of the person delivering it.
The kind of criticism that hurts or stings, seems unfair, or completely off base is not likely to be of value. It probably springs from the other person’s ego or bias, or perhaps from a lack of understanding of your intentions. It is often one-sided and opinionated. Destructive criticism can have a powerful impact and unfortunately we tend to give negative comments more credit than the positive ones.
But if what someone tells you seems true on some level, and has a basis in objective observation, critique can be extremely helpful. And critique is not limited to simply passing judgement. It is a way to delve into what you want as an artist especially if you seek it out when you are ready to engage with it. In addition to pointing out problems, a knowledgeable observer of your work can enable you to see things in a new and exciting way.
Critique is best if it is a conversation and not a monologue in which you have no chance to respond and engage. It is also helpful if you establish some parameters ahead of time--deciding what you wish to show, setting the stage for a proper focus, and giving thought to what you hope to gain from the feedback. At the same time, being open and allowing a critique conversation to evolve and flow in accordance with the other person's thoughts may bring surprising and positive insight.
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The Messy Studio Podcast is a CORE Publication MGMT production.