Getting feedback on art, social media posts & photos is really important for artists. Do collectors & dealers like it? Does your partner like it? Is there anything that could be better? Why would they buy it? Why wouldn’t they buy it? Do they think it’s a 5 out of 10 or an 8 out of 10, or my favourite, 10 out of 10?
Knowing about people’s experiences can help you to streamline and develop your creative practice for the better.
When people love your art, it’s really uplifting. You remember what you’ve always known but sometimes forget: that this is what you love to do, what you’re meant to do, what you’ve worked really hard to be able to do.
Whoop de la Whoop.
Negative feedback. Boy does that hurt, like really really hurt.
You worked really hard to create something that’s kind of part of you. You made it. It came from your mind, via your hands, into the world, yet they don’t like it. They think it’s too expensive, or too flimsy, or too small, or it was delivered later than they expected. They don’t like the colours.
Or, as I heard from a friend recently, they didn’t like the hanging wire on a picture!
Out of the many art collectors and buyers who are happy, delighted, ecstatic, or just quietly content (because that’s great too), you remember the handful of negative comments the most.
Why, and how do you get rid of it?
We’re genetically and evolutionarily programmed to receive feedback and moderate behaviour based on it. We do it as children, it’s how we learn to read and write and exist with fellow human beings. You get corrected on your spelling, and you learn from it. You burp at the table, get told off, and you learn from it (well tbh it’s taken years with our bunch of 7 kids but that’s a whole other article!).
As a species, it’s really important that we’ve pleased our tribes throughout evolution so they don’t throw us out on our own, where we’ll die via lions and tigers and bears, or nowadays C_19 (I’d prefer to bear death).
When you’re a creative soul, that’s terrifying. You’ve built a tribe of art collectors, agents, and dealers who aren’t obligated to like you or your work. You get really excited about building this group of brilliant people who get you, get your practice, get your art, and then… Damn. They don’t like it anymore. Or they don’t like it as much as you want them to like it.
You worry. You worry that everyone will think the same as them. You equate one person’s opinion with eternal truth (it’s not). You lose perspective. Your evolutionary brain is telling you to moderate your behaviour (don’t). Change everything about your practice to please everyone (again don’t). And the worry gets angry because your safety is threatened. Or the worry breaks down and tries to hide from the truth because fight or flight is a real thing that happens every day.
I know. I’ve been there. Recently, I had one person say a painting I’ve put up for sale is too expensive. It was a comment on social media. That’s one person versus the many other art collectors, buyers & gallery owners I’ve worked with, who are happy and grateful and value what I do.
It got me. I had to walk around the garden physically trying to shake the feeling off me. Had I missed the mark? Should I not have priced it like that? Was I barking up the wrong art tree?
No. Perspective. The realisation that I can’t please everyone. And that I don’t want to. I make my art because of what I feel passionate about and I don’t want to undervalue myself and the decades of practice and learning I have that lead me to the art I am making right now.
So here’s the thing:
Negative feedback happens, especially as your creative practice grows and you get more buyers. Because a wider pool of buyers means a higher risk of ‘interesting’ people or people who just don’t get it or people who value other things to you.
First step: Is it actually true? If the sales to negative ratio is more than, say, 10%, you might need to consider whether you’ve got a quality issue or room-for-improvement value proposition. No biggie. Roll with it. You can deal with it. Ask for help.
Second step: Perspective. Opinion is not fact. One person’s preference for wall hanging wire doesn’t make yours crap. One person’s ridiculously high expectation doesn’t mean you have to match it.
Third step: Get it out. Tell someone. Rant about it. Let it go. Write it down and set fire to it. Whatever it takes to get it out of your head.
It’s your job to put great art out there, with a price that suits your practice, with clear expectations, and then deliver on it. It’s also your job to take constructive criticism and consider whether feedback would make your art and service better. It’s their (buyer/collector/gallery owners) job to understand the art, accept the limitations and nature of the art, and receive it.
It is not your job to succumb to every whim of every person who didn’t get it.
As Brené Brown says (she is majorly amazing):
Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not the jackass whisperer.
I’m off to create art that I’m passionate about, without worrying about how it will be received. And that, my friends, is how all art should be made.
p.s I created the tapestry during a difficult personal time, I made it for myself. One day I met someone who understood it and then they bought it and they paid what I asked for, no questions asked.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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Photo credit: The author