Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Your Art is Bad!

"Illuminated Pumpkins"  watercolor on paper by Carrie Waller 30 x 24 BUY NOW
Hi Everyone,

Have you ever experienced a bad art critique?  I know I certainly have.  My worst one was in college.  I was taking a sculpture class at the University of Illinois it was part of the required courses for the degree I was pursuing.  This class was way out of my league, it was avant-garde and shock value at it's best.  I'll never forget another student's work, he had a naked inflatable female doll hanging from the ceiling, condensed milk dripping from inside (representing semen), with money hanging out of her mouth.  He had a very long spiel with the general idea being that he thought of his mother as a whore.  Heartwarming, I know!!  Anyway I felt lost! knowing that this would never be my league.   My overall critique for the class from the instructor was that my work was anemic.  It was a hard blow!  I took my "B" for the class and left with my tail tucked between my legs.  It really left me confused and wondering if I could ever hack it in the art world.

Since that time, I don't really care if I make it in that "art world".  I have my own little "art world" and if you don't like it get out:)  Sounds tough, right?  It is still hard to receive criticism but I have learned to take the constructive parts out of it.  After going through countless critiques in college getting my Interior Design degree, I've built a pretty thick skin.  But it's never easy to hear that your work isn't up to par.

I've recently been watching Oprah's life class and it is really terrific!  They are going back and talking about life lessons that have been taught throughout Oprah's talk show.  One lady said something that has really changed my life.  She said something like this-- I don't have to accept another persons negative opinion as an evaluation of myself.  It is merely that, an opinion.  What I do with it will determine the impact it will have on my life.  Isn't that profound.  This will be huge in my life.  Not only in art but all areas of my life.  Why do we give that power away?  Let's take it back and be in charge of our life!

With this new found freedom it opens us up to take risks without worrying about the outcome.  If we can free ourselves of these negative ideas that we say to ourselves and others may say to us, we can be empowered.  Our dreams are attainable!!!  Oprah also had the guy who started,  Jeff Bezos, on as an inspirational person.  When Jeff started Amazon, he did it out of his garage, with his wife, filling the orders himself.  His main motivation to start Amazon was that he decided to look at his life as if he were 80 years old.  He realized that if he didn't want to look back and have regrets.  He decided if he didn't take a risk to start his company he would regret that far more than his fear of failure.  To fail would mean he had tried.  But to never try was much worse.

So really think about this, what do you want out of your life?  What opinions are your turning into evaluations? What would you regret not trying?



  1. Yes! My worst crtitque was in college too. But I deserved it. I did the painting (for a MAJOR % of my marks) last minute, and while it was a complicated subject for me to attempt at my skill level I really did not give it the respect it deserved. As I remember I was trying to plow through it becasue I wanted to have more time for fun at my family gathering! lol But I was properly knocked down the next day. I truly couldn't defend it and I learned a good lesson early. Approach every work with tenacity and integrity.

  2. I love this post Carrie :) (except for the inflatable doll story, CREEPY extraordinaire!)

    I remember in high school our teacher would make us line our work up every time we finished an art project and he would go through and critique each one. I always put mine towards the end (hoping he'd run out of steam by the time he got to mine) because I was so scared about what he'd say!

    Your post really resonated with me today as lately I've been thinking a lot about the direction I want to go with my work. Loved it Carrie. :)

  3. Carrie, what an inspiring post. Thank you for this! My only regrets are not having followed with art and design when I was younger [something like design engineering], and not having the mind-set I have now many years ago. I agree with Crystal - that inflatable doll is truly weird!

  4. Great post Carrie...we can all relate! Like the painting are a master at reflections.

  5. Wonderful post Carrie. I was reading something along this same line on a website that I think is called the Little Budda, not absolutely sure. I found it in passing, or surfing I guess I should say. Enjoy your day!

  6. Oh Carrie - I really could write an EPIC comment on this subject! There is so much nonsense in the art world that I can barely take my own Art Degree that I am part way through seriously, to the point where I will be pulling out very soon. And as I wandered around the Tate Britain in London a month ago, of course there was a huge amount of stunning art by those great masters and some from incredibly talented new comers, but there was also some things, which to me were a complete waste of space. One example was a cellophane sheet hanging like a hammock from the ceiling. It was covered in toothpaste, body lotion, lipstick and such like, but there it was in all of it's hugeness. I saw nothing in it that my children couldn't have done when they were toddlers! That piece of 'art' you speak of with the inflatable doll, showed that it's creator had imagination (though not even that much), but there is a difference between imagination and talent. These days so much emphasis is put on imagination that quite honestly talent is no longer important at all! So, like you I am enjoying my own little art bubble at the moment and learning so much more from it that any tutor has taught me! I am sorry this comment was so long - and I really could write so much more, but I won't. Great post though Carrie and a painting worthy of any gallery to go with it :0)

  7. Oh my goodness -- your inflatable doll story had me laughing out loud! Some people are so stinkin' weird. I have some pretty messed up stories about fellow art students too - so disturbing. Anyway, another inspiring post. And those pumpkins -- simply divine! :)

  8. I love your posts, Carrie! WELL! I'm still getting over the inflatable doll part!! ..however, I have always loved art far back as I can remember, then after High School I worked as a Secretary in Manhattan..coming home tired and never touching my sketch pad. Now, I regret not going further with my education and studying Art. Unfortunately, we can only go forward now. I have learned so much from having a blog and going to other artists' blogs.
    Carrie, I love your "Illuminated Pumpkins" and the transparency of it. Perfect piece!!!

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Carrie; I will try to keep that in mind as it really does put things in perspective...something we need to hear at times. I am proud to say that I too, paint for myself and would not change that for the world in gold!! I always love looking at your work Carrie, and although I don not always comment, want you to know that I admire and envy your skills. Lovely pumpkins btw!

  10. Carrie- Very timely post apparently for many of us. So enjoy your blog and the thought provoking posts that you have.

  11. Being popular Carrie inevitably creates a possibility to receive a critique. And sometimes it is not nice. I am not sure if I am lucky or not, I've never received one. Suggestions - yes I did, but nobody ever said anything bad about my art.
    But I know two ladies who in their middle age just started discovering their true passion, painting. And it happened so late only because many years ago, when they were at school they either overheard or received direct BAD ART comments from their teachers. I think it is awful. Teachers have incredible influence on small artist's brain. It should never happen. Yet there is a positive side to it too. My friends (who I happen to help to re-discover the true passion) they would not be strong and would no appreciate art as much as they do it now. The true passion found them and this is a wonderful thing.
    Thank you for the great post that made me think about this issue.

  12. Great post, Carrie. Have you ever stopped to think that your instructor was probably a mediocre painter himself? Otherwise he'd be supporting himself with his artwork instead of sneering at students. Glad you have overcome that traumatic event.

    Carol Marine has told of her classes in art school. She hated the whole experience. Thank goodness she ignored what she was "taught", and has followed her own passions. Just think how much positive influence she has had on so many!

  13. Une belle publication qui permet de remettre de l'ordre en nous...
    Durant toute ma scolarité j'ai été complexée. Je ne me sentais à la hauteur de rien et de personne.
    Je crois que je me sentais Nulle!
    La peinture m'a beaucoup aidé... elle est mon amie. Je crois que grâce à elle, petit à petit, je me suis sentie moins nulle. J'étais capable de la défendre. J'acceptais mal les moqueries, mais je ne disais rien pas. Alors que dès qu'on essayait de me blesser en parlant de ma peinture, je rétorquais... Aussi maintenant dans la vie, je sais avancer la tête plus haute...
    Gros bisous

    Bravo pour cette superbe aquarelle. Comment réaliser une telle merveille ?

  14. What a post..Anyway I also thought I must reply to this.
    As artists or simply as human beings we always aim at growth. I am talking about emotional and intellectual growth here. Basically we are always looking to be a better artist/person. That can not happen if we close ourselves. We have to be open. But being open does not mean accepting everything that has been told to you. It is about being able to pick up the appropriate things that work for you. And being able to judge that is one of the biggest arts in life.

    And now about art world... You have said it already.. 'My art world' is much more important than 'the art world'. I have seen many artists who have fallen victim to 'the art world' and have left 'their art world' behind. They sell. But somewhere deep down they are not happy. They are not so passionate about their own work. At the same time it is so great to see so many of you through blogs who place 'their art world' much above 'the art world'. I think there is a word for it called 'Integrity'.

    And as painters I think we all have one common regret. 'Why did not I start painting earlier' regret. :)

  15. I wonder what that instructor would have to say about your incredible paintings, especially the ones depicting glass like these amazing pumpkins? Clearly his opinion of your sculpture has nothoing to do with your artistic talent.

    It's really hard to deflect negative opinions of ourselves, especially when they come from our own heads. Those words from Oprah's guest are a mantra we should repeat continually.

  16. I'm so glad you didn't let that sculpture class define or influence you! I was an art major in Boston in the late sixties and got good, if not great basics but the art scene was dominated by Warhol and avante garde and conceptual art. The message was that if you didn't come up with something entirely original, you weren't an artist. Period. So daunting but then there were the California figurative painters that knocked me out, gave me permission to just paint. There really is just not that much new one can do with paint so my criterion for looking at art is whether it has a "soul" that resonates with me. Different for everyone. And it's hard at times to recognize whether my own work meets that criterion but the only real thing I can do is work towards that, a realization that's come late in life. I'm amazed by your talent and thoughtfulness and the feeling you evoke in your work! So glad you committed to your own muse and keep developing your work according to your own lights.