Vincent van Gogh said,
“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you can’t paint,’
then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
As artists, not only do we have to deal with our own self-doubts, but we also have to deal with the artistic criticism and even rejection of others at times. If your teen is going to grow as an artist, then they will have to learn how to handle the negative opinions of others without letting those opinions rob them of the joy they receive through creating.
Many teens are already dealing with “self” issues, whether it’s self-esteem, self-confidence, self-consciousness, selfishness, etc. They wonder if they’re good enough, smart enough, brave enough, pretty enough, and on and on.
It is for these reasons, that I want to give you some tips to help them deal with criticism of their art.
10 Ways to Help Your Teen Deal with Artistic Criticism
1. It is vitally important that you help them to understand that they are not being criticized. Art can be a very personal thing. In fact, at times it’s as though you’re pouring your innermost thoughts and feelings onto the canvas. Others may not understand or relate to their art. But that doesn’t mean they’re passing judgment on them as a person. Encourage them not to take it personally.
2. Remind them that one person’s opinion is not everyone’s opinion. One negative comment has the power to override dozens of compliments if we let it. Try to help them shift their focus off the negative and onto the positive feedback they’ve received.
3. Help them glean something positive or useful from the criticism. As artists, we look through our own lens. But it can be good to have outside opinions. They help us grow and develop our skills. If there is something useful in the criticism, then perhaps your teen can extract that bit and use it to improve in certain areas.
4. Have them write a letter of response to the critic. Now, this letter is not intended to be mailed, but is meant as an exercise in “clearing the air” for your teen. Have them thank the critic for his or her opinion, acknowledge helpful comments (if any), and then defend their work and own uniqueness. The process of getting it all out on paper can be quite freeing for your teen.
5. Advise them to throw out the criticism that isn’t constructive and move forward. Not everyone’s gonna love their art – so what? The most important thing is that your teen loves it and continues moving forward with his or her creativity.
6. Remind them that this is just a stepping stone. Even if the criticism was valid, even if this art piece wasn’t your teen’s finest piece, it’s just a stepping stone – a necessary part of growth and development as an artist.
7. Encourage them to keep written notes of compliments and positive things others have said about their art. When others praise and applaud their art or artistic efforts, it would be a great idea to write those compliments down or copy, paste, and print them from social media. Pin them on a bulletin board to read for encouragement. These notes will be invaluable in such times.
8. Encourage them to speak positive things about themselves. What your teen believes and says about him- or herself is more important than what others say. Instill in them the value of reading and speaking creative affirmations about themselves on a regular basis. This will help build self-confidence and reinforce their creativity.
9. Take them out for something fun and artsy. You can nurture and support their inner artist with these ideas.
10. Remind them to take Vincent’s advice: By all means paint (or create) and silence those negative voices. It is crucial that when they encounter the disapproval or even indifference of others that it doesn’t cause them to fall apart, feel like they’ll never measure up, or worse yet – give up on their art altogether. Encourage them to get right back to their art. Keep drawing, keep painting, keep creating!
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Alisha Gratehouse is an artist, art instructor, minister’s wife, and homeschooling mom of three. Her days are filled with creating, painting, writing, drinking lots of tea, laughing with (and at) her family, and spontaneously bursting forth into song. Alisha is the author of several books including, A Life That Flourishes.