By Arthur Benjamins
There are two methods of criticism and disapproval
1 – Verbal
2 – Non-verbal
The reasons in which the verbal manifests itself can be split into several camps.
1 – Ignorance
2 – Genuine attempt to assist through criticism
3 – Genuine attempt to be hurtful.
It is fully understandable from the artists' point of view that all criticism is hurtful no matter how it is worded. Many people simply do not possess the power or ability to bring their thoughts into a manner which is both positive and constructive. Even the people who have been asked to give their opinions on what you've created may not have the proper ability to do so.
Although countless artists have created work for many years, showing it to the general public is a great deal different than to friends and family, those who may patiently indulge you. Like stand-up comedians, bringing it to the masses is a memorable experience that will either make or break you. Two clearly marked choices determine if you're going to slink away with your tail between your legs or get up, dust yourself off and stay on your path. Far too many times have I needed to talk real courage into artists when their very first show didn't meet their expectations. I was right there, July 1979 for my own first solo show in London.
Science Fantasy art from Arthur Benjamins’s first solo show in 1979
I didn't realize for one second that the gallery owner had her own coterie of narrow-minded clientele and who would not be interested in my automotive paintings. It was a major lesson to me, it hurt like hell but I got over it and became much stronger.
Sucking it up:
One of my own steps for survival has become a total shift of attitude and a different viewpoint that does not run parallel with the usual manner of reasoning. Instead of becoming bitter and twisted and becoming obsessed with criticism by a gallery owner, potential client, magazine editor, etc., simply look at it from an audacious new direction.
Despite your work being the best thing they must have seen for many years and ALL of your tremendous and hard work, they forced you to take them by the scruff of the neck and make them listen up. They simply did not have the wherewithal to recognize your genius and to join you on your path all the way to the top! In short – they all missed your boat towards a fresh new future.
There – doesn't sound that more uplifting?
This may sound big headed and pompous, but you are not in the business of catering to the preconceived ideas of others who think differently as to how artists should present themselves to the world.
When you let your art speak for itself, you can also let your art views be known in no uncertain way. Artists are not known to be verbal, so be different. Speak out. SHOUT out..
The above suggestion should only be considered when you've been in the game for a long time. A critical outlook on the clientele world through artists' eyes is a serious privilege that should be earned and not taken on at the start of one's career.
A good artist automatically knows when his/her work has reached a plateau where they can wear the coat of an artist who is ready for the world, and on your path you will meet dissatisfied artists who are nowhere near that point yet.
I recently asked a friend of mine - a well-known and very accomplished artist who produced the very first 'Star Wars' poster and who's name remained very high on the firmament of strip cartoon art and beyond – just how he dealt with the criticism (and more) from his agent & manager.
Now consider that this particular criticism would come from an exceptionally capable source which should be seen more as guidance than anything else - his answer still rung a distinct bell with me as it mirrored my feelings when my own agent & partner passes criticism on any of my own works – I become very defensive.
In his case, his agent suggested a subject he should paint and to which he reacted negatively. He painted it after all, and it sold within a week for an excellent price!
It is very important to have a reliable person who will be totally honest with you even if you are told things you don't want to hear. In many cases the opinion will be worth it and much of my work has been greatly helped.
As mentioned earlier in the article on my interview, the non-verbal side of criticism is a treacherous one, as the viewer does not communicate with you which may seem fine but it won't allow you to interact with them, getting the necessary and intuitive response experience which can turn a neutral or potentially negative situation into a positive one. As odd as it sounds, you need the bitter experience with all the 'hecklers' out there.
At the very least, ALL 'criticism', regardless of the source should be considered. It's up to you to process that in any shape you wish to. In the same manner that every cloud has a silver lining – every piece of unhelpful or negative commentary DOES build you up and make you stronger.
Motor Racing art rom Arthur Benjamins’s first solo show in 1979