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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

How To Respond To Art In A Meaningful Way Without Being A Dick

As an artist I get a lot of feedback about my work whether I want it or not. We all do.

You may think I crave positive feedback and adulation, but that is often times more crippling than negative commentary. Huh? How does that work?

Well if I let myself pay too much attention to feedback of any kind, I let the echoes of the comments influence what I do next - good or bad. I have to be super clear within myself that what I’m doing matches up with my overall intentions with why I’m doing it. Outside influence of any kind can derail that. Positive or negative feedback can cause instant stagnation.

You Can Misinterpret Broad Opinions

The value is in the details of your opinions

When I absorb too much of the positive I find I start simply repeating myself visually. It’s like I’m saying to myself “They liked that last one with a white horse, I should do more white horses.”. But what if it wasn’t even the white horse they liked, but the blue sky behind it? Or the way I had it posed? What if they actually hated the white horse?

It's important to tell an artist why you love a piece of their work rather than just saying "I love it" (or “I hate it”) because specific feedback helps the artist understand what is resonating with their audience and what they might continue to explore and develop in their art to keep up with that.

When someone simply says "I love it," the artist doesn't receive any information on what aspects of the artwork are working necessarily. This can be frustrating for an artist who is looking to improve and grow. On the other hand, when someone shares specific feedback on what they love about a piece of art, it provides the you with valuable insights into what aspects of their work are resonating.

Your more personalized feedback can help an artist clarify if their intentions about a piece or body of work are projecting they way the hope. This information can help them fine tune their artist’s voice. Your well expressed thoughts can also provide inspiration and direction for future work. By sharing specific feedback, we can help artists figure out which aspects of their work they want to focus on, develop or let go.

It’s Up To The Artist To NOT Absorb Feedback

As artists it’s up to us to set our own boundaries for what, if any, criticism or feedback we’re going to allow in. Honestly, it’s best if we can be clear about what we wish to convey and then stick to our own thoughts on whether or not we’re accomplishing that. I’m going to say that again so you can absorb it:

We artists need to be super clear with ourselves about what we’re trying to accomplish with our art and then do everything we can to achieve that.

When we have that firmly installed in our conscious and subconscious minds then whatever someone may say to us about our work can be weighed clearly against that - good, bad, thoughtfully or weirdly expressed. Then ALL feedback is welcomed because it’s not going to accidentally splatter on our work. It may indeed splatter, but only where we want it to.

So how can you help an artist understand how their work is impacting you?

When you say “I love it” or “I hate it” all we get is your judgement. If we don’t know you, then we really have no way to process your opinion. It has zero value. But if you take a second to consider WHY you love, hate or whatever a piece, then YOU get more information from it and so does the artist. That’s a win for everyone!

There are SO MANY reasons we’re going to develop emotions and response about a work of art. There are many factors that can influence people's instant emotions about a work of art, including:

  1. Personal experiences and associations: People may have personal experiences or memories that are triggered by the imagery, style, or subject matter of the artwork.

  2. Visual elements: The colors, shapes, lines, and overall composition of the artwork can evoke different emotions and associations.

  3. Cultural background: People's cultural background and familiarity with certain styles or traditions of art can shape their immediate emotional response.

  4. Expectations: People's expectations about what they will see based on the artist's reputation, the exhibition space, or other factors can influence their initial reaction.

  5. Mood and mindset: People's current mood and mindset can affect how they perceive and respond to the artwork.

  6. Authenticity and originality: The perceived authenticity and originality of the artwork can affect how people feel about it.

  7. Intensity and immediacy: Some artworks have an intense or immediate impact on the viewer due to their subject matter, size, or other factors.

Overall, people's initial emotional response to a work of art is complex and can be influenced by a range of factors.

Artist To Artist Feedback

Or maybe you're taking a class with another artist and you want to respond to their work but you’re uncertain how to do that in a meaningful way. First of all, good for you! Secondly, let’s look at some ways you can dig in to your own thoughts and generate something more valuable for you and your fellow artist!

Things You Can Say

Artist to Artist

  1. I'm really impressed with the way you've captured (some aspect) in this piece, it's just stunning."

  2. "Your use of color/shape.texture.subject is so bold and fearless."

  3. "The composition in this piece is just so dynamic and eye-catching, it really draws me in."

  4. "You've got such a unique style."

  5. "I can tell you put so much heart and soul into this artwork.”

  6. "Your attention to detail is just remarkable.”

  7. "I love the way you've pushed your boundaries in this piece, it's so daring and fresh."

  8. “I can feel the way you've captured the mood and emotion in this piece.”

  9. "Your technical skill is so impressive."

  10. "I can you’re on a clear path with your work, it's really inspiring."

Ten more personalized

  1. "Your work is inspiring me to try new techniques and push my own boundaries."

  2. "I feel so energized and motivated after seeing your art.”

  3. "Your art is bringing a sense of joy and beauty into my day right now."

  4. "Seeing your work makes me feel more connected to you and your message,

  5. "Your art helps me understand some of the nuances of my emotions."

  6. "Your work is making me see things in a new light

  7. "I feel like I can connect with you on a deeper level through your art, it's powerful."

  8. "Your art is helping me feel more in this moment."

  9. "I can tell you put so much heart and soul into your work.”

  10. "Your art is such an important contribution to my day, and the world, thank you for sharing it."

Artist to evolving Artist

  1. "I can see the potential in your work, and I'm excited to see where you go with it."

  2. "It's clear that you're putting a lot of effort and heart into your work, and that's really admirable."

  3. "I appreciate your willingness to experiment and take risks with your art."

  4. "I think there's a lot of interesting ideas at play in your work, and it's clear you're exploring new territory."

  5. "I can see that you're developing your own unique style and voice as an artist, which is really exciting."

  6. "I appreciate the energy and passion you bring to your art, it's contagious."

  7. "Your work may not be fully developed yet, but I think there's a lot of potential for growth and evolution."

  8. "I can tell you're putting in the time and effort to improve your skills, and that's really commendable."

  9. "I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability in your work, it's a brave thing to put yourself out there like that."

  10. "I think your work has a lot of heart and soul, and that's what matters most in the end."

Here are ten thoughts from the voice of a New Yorker Art Critic

  1. The piece has a strong emotional impact, achieved through subtle visual cues that convey a sense of loss and longing.

  2. The artwork is a testament to the artist's dedication and skill, demonstrated through meticulous attention to detail and masterful technique.

  3. The composition of the piece is expertly arranged, with each element contributing to a sense of balance and harmony.

  4. The artist has skillfully employed color to create a dynamic and energetic piece that evokes a range of emotions in the viewer.

  5. The artwork makes use of symbolism and metaphor to explore complex themes and ideas, inviting deeper contemplation and exploration.

  6. The texture and surface of the piece add a layer of complexity that encourages the viewer to engage with the work on multiple levels.

  7. The historical and cultural context of the artwork provides valuable insight into the artist's intent and the work's significance within a larger cultural conversation.

  8. The piece's use of contrasting elements creates a sense of tension and dynamism that captivates and holds the viewer's attention.

  9. The artwork's simplicity belies its deeper complexity and sophistication, rewarding sustained engagement and contemplation.

  10. The artist's innovative approach to form and technique challenges traditional notions of art and encourages us to question our assumptions and preconceptions.

I asked AI how a guy like Bad Bunny might express his opinions about a piece of art (in English, obvi)

  1. "Yo, this piece is giving me all the feels!"

  2. "The colors and shapes in this artwork are straight fire!"

  3. "I can vibe with this art, it's speaking to me in a way that's hard to explain."

  4. "This artwork is pure fuego, man. It's got me feeling some type of way."

  5. "I can see so much of the artist's passion and energy in this piece."

  6. "This artwork is on another level, it's like nothing I've ever seen before."

  7. "The way the artist uses texture and layering is insane, it's like it's popping out at me."

  8. "This piece has got me feeling some major creativity vibes."

  9. "The emotions in this artwork are so raw and real, I can't help but be drawn in."

  10. "I feel like this artwork is speaking directly to my soul, man. It's powerful."

Bad Bunny - International Rap Star! Let your art give him the feels, yo!

In short what you want to do is steer clear of broad unhelpful generalizations and go inward to see how a piece is impacting you from within, then share that shit! You gain more insight into how art impacts you personally and so does the artist you share that thought with. Heck it will likely bring you both closer together - even if what you feel may hit as something 'negative', because if you've been truly thoughtful, then it's not bad, it's just information!



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