Before I get into it, this thread is neither offering nor requesting critique. It is also not to demonize or defend critique, or suggest that anyone should feel any particular way about giving or receiving critique. Everyone's experience as a creator and as a consumer of creative works is unique, and your journey with your own work or that of others is personal and uniquely yours. This is simply me reflecting on my own experiences, and shouting into the void to see if anyone else resonates with this.
So, I was talking with my partner this morning, and we were trying to understand each other's perspectives about receiving critique on things we've made. (He isn't an artist, but he does bake.) Now, my partner is on the autism spectrum, and he credits that with the fact that he LOVES constructive criticism, and values it far above praise. He actually doesn't trust un-alloyed praise at all; he feels like people are lying to him when he receives it.
My experience with critique throughout the years has been... very different, and it wasn't until I was explaining an incident with my dad that I started to understand WHY.
For context, when I was 12-13, I was big into the Lion King. It had just come out a year or so before, and it was one of my first big, real fandoms. Naturally, this resulted in me drawing a lot of lions. (Interestingly, I didn't draw in a Disney-fied style-- I was trying to draw realistic lions, but that's irrelevant at the moment.) I remember a picture I drew of lions in a grassy savannah, and I though it had come out fairly well. Obviously it wasn't perfect-- I was 12/13 at the time, after all-- but I wanted to show my dad.
So, my dad is one of those people who gives critique rather than the typical 'oh wow that's so good!' praise most people give artists, especially child artists. And I distinctly remember him pointing out that the grass was an unnatural color. And in his defense, he was 100% right, and I knew it both at the time and now, decades later.
But it hit me like a sack of bricks at the time. The enthusiasm for my picture was just punched right out of me. He didn't say it in a mean way, he was obviously trying to help me improve. My parents were always supportive of my art. But at the time, it felt like he had told me to do the impossible. It wasn't that I didn't have the right colors-- someone had given me a (slightly used) 72-color set of Primsacolor colored pencils for my birthday, so I DEFINITELY had access to quality tools. In theory, I could have done it right.
But tween me ached inside, because I knew I couldn't do it right. At the time, I thought I couldn't do it right because I couldn't fix THAT drawing. It was colored pencil-- I couldn't just go back and put a different color on top and make it all better. Colored pencils don't really work that way. I thought, 'why point out a mistake I can't fix? That's just mean!'
Of course, the point of pointing out mistakes, even on a work that can't be altered, is to note them for the future and do better next time. But the groundbreaking realization I had this morning is that the feeling of defeat 12-year-old me had at the time wasn't that I couldn't fix THAT picture.
It was that I knew, subconsciously, that I didn't have the knowledge and experience to have done it better at the time. All the professional tools in the world wouldn't have helped me do it 'right' because at the time, I didn't know HOW. And I think I knew that. And worse, I think I knew, on some level, that I wouldn't have that level of skill and experience for a long time. My dad was suggesting something that, for 12 year old me, was impossible.
And it made me feel so, so powerless. I knew it wasn't good enough, and I knew I didn't have the skills to MAKE it good enough. I couldn't, at the time, see the path forward to being able to do it right.
Now, I'm nearly 40. I've had many art classes since then. I have a LOT of practice and experience and knowledge and fine motor skills that 12 year old me did not. I absolutely CAN draw accurate grass-- and accurate lions, too, if I want. These days, critique stings a lot less, because I have perspective and skills that child me did not have. If someone tells me X is wrong with a drawing, I have the ability to evaluate if they're right, or if they're wrong, or if it's a matter of preference/opinion/style. I can evaluate if their suggestion is a pathway I even need to take, or not.
And if it IS genuinely a thing I'd like to correct... now I can see the pathways forward. I know HOW to do better next time. I have the tools, mental and physical, that I need. I no longer feel powerless, and that takes a lot of the sting out of critique. I still don't LOVE it the way my partner does, but my relationship with my art is very different from his relationship with his occasional baking projects.
... I dunno. Just my thoughts and feelings on my art journey. Does this resonate with anyone else? What were your feelings/experiences as a beginner, versus once you had more experience?