Critiques and criticism and “eww!”

I stumbled onto this post (from True Stitches, via Red Thread Studio) regarding making honest comments about a knitted item. I was intrigued by this statement “Apparently someone left a comment about the socks Stephanie was knitting, calling them “fugly”. Stephanie was slightly miffed, pointing out that her blog was like her living room, and it would be rude for a guest in her home to say “Gee, that’s an ugly couch”, so why do visitors to her blog feel they can say whatever they like?” In the next couple of paragraphs, True Stitches makes the point that only making positive comments is boring. Too true! Though we all like to hear good stuff, it ought to be okay to disagree and say you don’t like something (personally, I’d appreciate hearing why you don’t like it too!).

There’s two parts to this:

  1. the “fugly” comment – criticism is good, bland, non-specific (rude) comments are not good, but they’re a fact of life, so deal with it
  2. “like her living room” – um, no, the ‘net isn’t my living room; it’s an alcohol-free zone that is public

Okay, no. 2 first: The Internet is public. Whatever you put out there, people can see and react to. Sometimes they won’t be nice about what you put out there. And it hurts. So toughen up, dry your tears, and get over it. Delete the danged comment! Sometimes easier said than done.

But no. 1 is much more… important to me, I guess. Personally, I would love to get constructive criticism. I get a considerable number of visitors to my blog on a daily basis, but rarely get comments. Of course I love getting positive feedback! But I’d like to hear from visitors who think my hats (or whatever) are, well, ugly! “Constructive” being the operative word here. In a way, I don’t blame Stephanie for being offended by the “fugly” comment. She would have been better served if the criticism had been more specific: I don’t like the design, I don’t like the colors, the object is poorly constructed, the sock will only fit a midget with three toes, etc.

How do I judge things? Mostly by whether it appeals to me; I think that’s how most people decide that something is “good” or “ugly”. By the color, the shape, the texture, and how they all fit together. When I’m looking at a piece of artwork (or machinery, for that matter), I also want to look at how the piece was constructed; the workmanship. I try to look beyond the aquamarine blue that I remember (and detest) from Phoenix, and look critically at the oil painting of the river, and see that the artist didn’t quite capture the color of the river, but the trees and the motion of the water and the sky are proportional to each other, they look realistic, and my eye is drawn to the subject by the placement of the elements in the painting. I think about what I would do differently if I were the artist. Why do I like this piece, or not? What attracted/repelled me? What keeps me looking at it?

Looking at an object critically helps me refine my own artwork. I try to step back and see the piece as though it were new; it helps if I put it away for a few weeks and then look at it. Sometimes I’ve put a lot of time and energy into a project, and I can’t distinguish between that and whatever else I might like/dislike about the work. But if I can step back, and be critical, I learn what not to do, and what works. My next piece will be better. Other people will see things that I don’t; they also don’t have any investment in the work, so they might be more honest than I can be. That’s why I’d like comments from you.

What would you prefer… Would you leave a comment on the blog? or would it be easier for you to leave a comment on Flickr? What about setting up a blog just for critiques? Would you be willing to contribute (items to be critiqued and comments)?

Curiously waiting…

Another perspective on criticism from Judy Dunn, of Artrepeneur. She makes some good points on not listening to criticism. Her conclusion says it all:

The bottom line….The process of creating is precious. Protect it from the critics. The product is just product. It is not precious. It is not us. Let the critics come out and have their say when you are ready to pause. Listen. Notice. See it as a way to learn and grow. And then thank your critics for their input, and tell them to go back in their closet.

Be sure to read her post on after the show as well; it contains good info on evaluating a marketing experience, but I think you could use a similar process to evaluate why you didn’t win the gold (with some revisions to the questions you ask yourself).


3 responses to “Critiques and criticism and “eww!”

  1. I’ll respectfully “critique” on your blog here.

    You are creative and have tons of energy (so it appears) and thus inspire me to do more with my fabric so thanks for sharing!

    Thank you for commenting! And i’m so happy that I inspire you! That’s better than getting comments any day 🙂
    Any chance we can see what projects you’re working on??

  2. Hey there cowgirl – thanks for the shout-out to Red Thread Studio. As much as I hate to draw the art-craft line, I think there is a difference in the approach to criticism. If making art is a serious proposition, then you have to learn to accept and even welcome criticism, fairly given, and then ignore it if it doesn’t work for you. If you just want to knit or craft cute things and put them up on the web for fun, then I can see where a “fugly” remark might not seem in the spirit of things. Personally, I prefer thoughtful comments to a cheerleading squad, and that’s usually what I get. But I think the cheerleader dynamic is the norm for many craft blogs. Men, of course, would mostly just give the fugliness right back, and maybe there’s something to be said for that. I think in this particular case the punishment — the horrified vitriol of hundreds of people — was way worse than the crime.
    Now I’m going to go read more of your cool blog.

  3. I wouldn’t offer a critique that was not invited. On the other hand, when commenting I try to find specific things I like – a line, color, balance, gesture.

    Oh, you mean asking for a comment about a specific piece… I think that’s a good way to inspire comments. I asked for comments in broad terms, but I think people would be more willing to comment on a particular item. Yes, it’s a good idea to balance things you don’t like about a piece w/positive comments!

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