Updated: Jan 13, 2020
You could say I am pretty bad at taking Criticism- actually scrap that, I am the worst. There is nothing more deflating than when I have been working on a piece all week, to have some one casually stroll into my studio, munching on a packet of crisps, crumbs falling out of their mouth, whilst they tell me that Chickens are in fact - blue (ok so that example was purely for effect, but bear with me). Pour moi: criticism/ feedback- however positive and constructive it may be, hurts; big time; every time! Funny thing is though, once i've got over feeling like a bruised child who has just been told Father Christmas isn't real, I always seem to take it on board anyway. So don't you think my life would be a lot more simple if I started to Wo(man) the hell up, and take criticism on board without being such a baby in the first place- the answer is: yup!!
If I reflect on why I get so worked up, it is probably because I am already my own worst critic. Ughhh sorry that is horribly cliché - but true. Art is known to be this therapeutic process of letting go, unwinding and permitting your “right brain” to loose itself in a whimsical paradise. This is certainly true when I am in the throes of making a bird; nose two inches away from layers of fabrics, completely absorbed in some fantasy book on Audible. However this calm paradise gets hit by a tropical thunder storm when I stand up on my ladder and look down to see what hair cut I’ve just given the poor thing.
Jokes aside, pretty much every time I look at my work, I pull it apart and scrutinise every fibre. I desperately want each piece I make to be noticeably better than my last. I want to be constantly improving, evolving and manipulating my materials in new and exciting ways. But a lot of the time (in my mind anyway) reality doesn't quite match my expectations, and nothing is ever quite good enough. So imagine then, when someone - unbeknown to them, comes in and says- 'the neck looks a bit long, doesn’t it?’ it can feel like I have just been hit in the chest and my inner dialogue consists of every swear word known to man. Because no doubt for the past hour I had actually been thinking the LEGS looked too long, and didn't notice the neck; but now I realise the neck is too long and the legs are too short and f*&%K it the whole thing is going in the bin!! Ok so I don't quite vocalise all of that. I normally just go mute and the person backs slowly out of the room in a state of awkward regret. Then eventually after muttering to myself for a good half an hour, I realise that the neck needs changing and so?… I change it… Wouldn't life be simpler without the unnecessary hissy fit?
Is anyone else this bad with criticism? I have to ask the question- is this the same across the board with all artists? Is there a difference between Male and Female Artists?
I think back to some of the other artists I have known in the past, at Art school and in London and I remember my incredulous amazement at the way some (not all) of the male artists could appreciate their own work. I remember seeing them stand back and check it out, as if it were a beautiful woman; totally out of their league. Sometimes even when all of our work was distinctly average, they would be taking steps back, exclaiming at the pure genius of it, like ‘move out of the way Basquiat, there is a new kid on the block’. It was honestly fascinating to watch. To the point where I would then second guess my original hesitation and be like- God yeh it MUST be awesome! I don’t think this means Men are more confident than Women, only perhaps that Men haven’t needed to be as self critical as Woman.
Here is a sad truth about the Art World: Even though 74% of UK fine art graduates are female, art institutions such as The Tate, represent less than 30% of female artists. (Stats taken from the following Guardian article written last year: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/13/tate-female-artists-museum-diversity-acquisitions-art-collect )
These figures are shocking, but only one example of the disparity between Male and Female Artists. It seems we simply have more to prove. We have to be that bit more ambitious and try that much harder to be even be considered against our Male counterparts. But when I say this I think it applies to women across all professions, it would take an extraordinarily amazing man to step down and offer his place to a more deserving woman, so while we wait for the world to receive us more fairly, we need to stop being so hard on ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and nurture our ambition with pride.
All that being said, I would be lying to myself if I said my annoyingly sensitive nature doesn’t play a large role in my inability to take criticism (as much as I would like to solely blame the Patriarchy haha). So guys- my biggest personal challenge at the moment is to thicken my skin- so to speak, accept Criticism (because lets face it- no one on Earth has succeeded without it) and to Wo(man) the hell up!!!