How to receive better feedback
Hello and happy spring! 🌸
Lately I’ve been working on a few illustrations that I’m refraining from sharing publicly just yet. These have been challenging for me to make since I am creating in a vacuum of me and my self-doubt, and I greatly miss making art in a class setting with peers.
However, through this process I have realized the necessity of regularly getting feedback from friends and mentors! It is such a relief to be able to share my WIP (work in progress) with someone and discover tangible actions I can take to improve. I also love to marvel at the magic of seeing my work through the fresh eyes of someone else, and to feel what does or doesn’t resonate.
It took me a while to learn to ask for feedback and figure out how to get advice that I wanted to implement. Early on, I think we imagine that to get feedback we can throw our WIP over the fence with no context and see which friends bite. You could do this, but I guarantee you will not get much useful feedback! (If you do, you have very good friends).
Below are a few tips on how you can receive more quality feedback on your work.
Know the person who is giving you feedback, and why you value what they have to say. Sometimes it might seem valuable to share your work and ask anyone and everyone for their opinions, but getting too much feedback on a WIP can be a slippery slope that causes you to lose steam and doubt yourself. Make sure to ask yourself if you trust the person giving you feedback! Perhaps you want to specifically ask a fellow working professional in your niche, or a potential reader/audience member, or a close friend who knows you, your intentions, and your previous work well.
Share context about your piece. What is the purpose of your artwork? For example, Is it for an MFA application, your portfolio, or for a client? Who is the intended audience of the piece? What were the requirements or brief given to you? This basic info is a courtesy to the person you’re sharing with! If you need their feedback by a certain time or date, be upfront about that as well.
Let the person know what you want out of the critique. Maybe you feel stuck and demotivated and want to know if the piece is working so you know whether to keep going or start over. Or you are deep in the weeds in your work, and would like a second pair of eyes to see if the bigger picture is working. Without sharing what type of feedback you’re looking for, you may end up with advice that leaves you more frustrated.
Give broad strokes of areas you struggled with. You don’t want to give too much detail so that the person giving you feedback can look at it from their perspective and with fresh eyes, but feel free to point out areas you are unsure about—especially after they’ve given you their initial impressions.
Mention what you think is working. The more you are able to critique and give feedback to yourself, the more it will help your own art practice. It’s nice to share this perspective with the person who will be critiquing your work—perhaps not initially, but throughout your conversation together.
Don’t ask for feedback if you only want encouragement. The harshest pill for last! It’s completely fine if you’re at a stage where you need more nurturing, or if a certain piece and the choices you’ve made creating it are very personal to you. Generally I don’t ask for feedback on personal work (curious if anyone does?)
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