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Artists and Self-Doubt: Part 2, How to Deal with Other’s opinions about your art

Last week I talked about self-doubt in the context of one’s own self-doubt and self-defeating self-talk such as, “I am not good enough.”, and this week I am switching gears and writing about how to deal with constructive feedback or, not so constructive feedback, as the case may be. This type of criticism may come from a variety of sources such as teachers, family, friends, “fellow artists,” strangers, etc. Bustamante, 2016). Sometimes it is helpful and other times it is not. At times, these people may be sincerely “trying to help you” while at other times, their motives may be less than beneficent. (Source: Gill Bustamante, “Overcoming Self-Doubt for Artists…Even When Your Art Goes Terribly Wrong,” www.emptyeasel.com09/05/2016.

For instance, according to Bustamante, 2016, “Artists often find themselves targets of people who put them down with carefully worded barbed comments or “advice” that leads nowhere, or other thinly veiled criticisms that will discourage the artist on their efforts.” (ibid) In addition, according to Bustamante, it is very important to carefully weigh what others tell you about your artwork, to decide if their opinion is valid or not, taking their advice with a hefty grain of salt. (ibid) The litmus test seems to be, how you experience these people after spending time with them. (ibid) For instance, Bustamante, 2016, asks, do you feel better about yourself after you spend time with them or worse? (ibid) If you don’t enjoy spending time with them, then stay away from them. (ibid) However, if you can’t completely escape these people because they are co-workers or your spouse, “put up a shield “ to guard yourself against what they say. (ibid)

I’ve had my own share of experiences with really bad critiques from teachers, and insensitive comments from others over the years as an art student, and a professional artist. These sorts of comments make me want to give up and are usually too vague to be of any assistance in making improvements in my art. And I have also had the reverse experience; in fact, some of my best constructive feedback has come from art students, during class critiques where there are some ground rules about constructive feedback. These types of comments tend to be more positive, like a word sandwich, such as, I think what works in this painting is, (blank) however, if you changed the color, value, etc, here, it could be even better. The paradox is, if I can’t take any feedback about my artwork, I won’t grow as an artist because I am too close to my work and have tunnel vision, or too emotionally invested in it to see the flaws. On the other hand, if I am too strongly influenced by others I might give up too soon on drawing and painting, or start to pursue art styles that are not really part of my authentic voice, in an attempt to please others or make sales.

Meanwhile, I am trying to keep on keeping on with my weekly studio practice, working in my sketchbook at least on a weekly basis. My hope is that by keeping in practice with drawing it will remind me why I fell in love with making art in the first place. My themes from my sketchbook that I am showing you this week are animals and plants, kind of aproposfirst spring crocus, flatGerbera daisies, flatpeacock portrait, flatSnail and Ladybug, flatTiger portrait, flat since spring is supposed to be around the corner…They were drawn with pencil and Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Thank you for reading! I hope this speaks to someone out there who is struggling not to give up on their art.

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100 Faces in 100 Days: Drawing Challenge

Back in June of this year, I had started a drawing challenge with celebrity portraits. In this challenge, I drew one celebrity portrait a day, using photo references of actors, actresses, and entertainers from the 1980s. I was inspired to start this series by a drawing challenge which I read about in a blog by Julie Fan Fei Balzer, called Balzer Designs. She called her challenge a 100-day

challenge and she created 100 faces in 100 days using a variety of media including acrylic monoprint, screen prints, ink on paper, ball point pen on paper, etc. I modified this challenge by using just paper and pencil to simplify it and instead of making up imaginary faces; I attempted to capture celebrity likenesses. I was also motivated to do this challenge because I had recently completed a portrait commission in May, and I truly struggled to get the likenesses of the people in the photo.

To make this challenge a daily habit, I collected photos of celebrities from the internet that I found inspiring and saved them to a file labeled, portraits, on my computer, so I had a ready supply of faces to draw. I also did a few other things to keep me on track, since I struggle with discipline and finishing art projects that I complete, especially ones without a definite deadline. So, I coupled setting the timer for 25 minutes and making the drink, usually coffee or diet coke, of my choice to go along with it. I also tried to start my drawing mid-morning, before other activities intruded. For the most part, the challenge has been going really well, and most days with a few exceptions, I have set aside time consistently to draw.  On the days when I can’t get to my sketch pad, I don’t beat myself up and I just start again the next day. And I feel I am learning so much about how to draw better portraits, for one, taking the time to really scrutinize the subject’s face and other features.

Also, just stepping back frequently has given me a fresh perspective on how closely the sketch resembles the photo reference.   On the other hand, there have been some days when I have felt really discouraged about whether I have what it takes to be an artist, when I have to do a drawing two or three times over, maybe even selecting a different photo to draw from if I get desperate.  On days like that, it’s hard to keep going with this challenge and I start to get discouraged. Lately, it has just been the dedication to push through and get it right. Last week though, I felt encouraged about the necessity of making art because, without a studio practice, I can’t have anything to share with my friends, family, and fans.  Nor can I grow in my skills as an artist, if I don’t practice. And not only that, I feel I would be losing a big part of myself and my identity as a person if I stopped showing up to make art.  I would lose that joy of creating something or seeing my internal visions come to life in sketches and paintings.  In the words of art business coach, Allyson Stanfield, “Without your art, you have nothing to promote, you have nothing to market, you have nothing to take out of the studio and share with the world.”  Source: Ecstatic Encounters Lesson 1: Devote Yourself to Studio Practice, from https://artbizcoach.com/ee-1/.

So despite the difficulties I sometimes encounter with making art, I am not giving up, not on this challenge or any other art project. As it stands, I still have quite a few more days to go before this challenge is complete…By my calculations based on my Instagram posts, I have 63 more days to go. After that, who knows what new challenge I will take on… If you would like to watch my progress, you can view my Instagram profile at jsjschmidt2 on Instagram. I attached a few photos of this drawing challenge from my Instagram account. I hope the challenge to draw every day or almost every day, challenges you as much as it has challenged me. Thanks for stopping by!