8 Things You’ll Hear as an Artist or Creative ProfessionalI’ve been in the art world for about 9 years. During this time, I’ve heard and read a lot of comments said to artists. Some directed at me, some directed at other artists, and some negative comments were said by the younger, unpleasant version of me. Hearing everyone’s thoughts about your art comes with the territory of being an artist. Everybody has an opinion, and when you put your art out there, you are inviting people to react to it. If you’ve ever had your feelings crushed by a mean comment or an innocent comment that totally punched an existing insecurity of yours in the throat, you’re not alone. Not even a little.
If you are an artist, you will inevitably receive negative comments and possibly want to cry yourself to sleep a few times.Totally normal! Especially when you are just starting out. Holy moly, it’s a vulnerable experience to start sharing your art with the world when you know your skills maybe aren’t the best or you haven’t found your style yet. We can’t help but seek validation from people, but there’s a problem with this. Whether your art is good or bad, it is completely subjective to the viewer. Some people will love your work and some people will hate it, but you’re going to be on a roller-coaster of emotions if you base your sense of artistic worth on the opinions of others.
This is just a really long winded way for me to say:Haters gonna hate. You don’t need to listen to everybody’s opinions. Once you know who you are as an artist, you can start to laugh at the people who say potentially hurtful and discouraging things to you like this:
8 Things You’ll Hear as an Artist
1.“You should do it like this instead…”I’ve had a few people comment on my work saying “You always do *insert stylistic art technique*, why don’t you try something else instead?” or The first part of this comment can really sting if you are proud of exactly what someone is telling you not to do. I love my fine lining! If I weren’t secure about why I do it, I may have cried in a corner for a little bit after reading this. I could have defended my work and explained my choices (which I’ve done in the past). Instead, all I said was ‘Thank you,’ and chose to accept the last part as a compliment and move on with my day. Not everyone knows immediately who you are as an artist and why you do things a certain way. Some people genuinely think they are helping you grow with comments like this, and they don’t intend any harm at all. But if you find yourself ruminating on negative comments, I suggest you ask yourself why you make your creative decisions, because the act of knowing yourself creates a protective bubble around your emotions in my experience.
2. “My 2 year old *insert familial relation* could do that.”That’s fantastic! Who is this tiny human and can they hang out with me in the studio?! It’s the go-to insult. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read this type of comment. I actually just read one today on one of my videos that was shared by a larger Instagram account. Either he’s complimenting his brother or he’s insulting the artist. I don’t really know if there is a middle ground here. Regardless, I didn’t let this one bother me and if you encounter a comment like this, you shouldn’t either. Even the kindergarten comment. I just can’t help but giggle at these now, because the comments are so unoriginal. Plus, does it matter if it’s true? The comment in purple is so true. As children, we are the most creative little creatures and as we age we become more rigid and lose imagination. Soooo, I guess this is actually a compliment. Silly, trolls. Someone should tell them to get a new insult…
3. “I bet I could do that. It looks easy”Honestly yeah, you probably could. Here’s a comment somebody left on one of my fluid art videos: I don’t want to limit anyone by saying you can’t do something, because we all have the capacity to be artists. I also know that what’s easy for me after years of practice, frustration, art classes, wasted supplies, existential crises, etc., might not be so easy for someone to just come in without experience and do exactly what I’m doing. So at first, when you hear a comment like this, you might feel like everything you’re doing as an artist isn’t appreciated and that your work is nothing special–but that person clearly isn’t your customer so why does their opinion matter? It doesn’t. Not all art is difficult to do, and highly skilled art isn’t inherently ‘good’ art. Regardless of the skill involved, your art has worth so don’t waste your breath to try and rationalize how good you are as an artist. Just keep doing your thing.
4.“That’s not art.”I used to say this back in art school, because I made the mistake of combining the definition of art with my personal preferences. Also, I was really f*%$ing tired of instructors creating course materials that only focused on the current trends in the art world instead of helping artists develop their personal sense of style. For the record, I’m sorry that I ever said the plasticized shark guts sculpture shown in my 3D design class wasn’t art. What I meant to say was “This is gross looking, makes me feel squirmy, and is not even close to the type of art I want to create,” but my immature brain said “THAT’S NOT ART,” and I may have thrown a little tantrum… If you are violating someone’s personal definition of art–you’re going to hear this type of comment: Yes, those were all directed at my art. And guess what! I kept doing my thing and gained at least 25,000 Instagram followers since then. Now when I read a comment like that, I laugh and laugh…and laugh…and laugh… and then go make more “not art” to sell. It’s all art. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t properly articulating that they just don’t like what you’re doing–or they want to sound smart.
5.Straight Up InsultsYup. People will get mean. I actually started to get so entertained by reading some comments over the last few months that I saved them in a folder called “Trolls and Compliments” figuring I’d write some sort of blog about it in the future. (And look! I did it!) Again, I don’t usually respond to negative comments, but I just couldn’t help myself with this one. He made me laugh. But my all time favorite insult has been this: You seriously cannot take comments like this to heart. It’s much more fun to laugh at them and move on with your day, because why let one or a handful of opinions ruin the way you feel about your art?
6. “Oh, You’re an Artist? Have fun being poor!”“Yeah life is super hard. I live according to my own schedule. I connect with awesome people on a daily basis. I do what I love every day. I haven’t woken up to an alarm clock in months. People pay me for things I create. But man, I sure do miss my 9-5 job…” Not all artists are starving. Some of us do figure out a way to turn our passion into a livable income. It’s not easy, but I can say one thing for certain. I have never been more satisfied with a professional career path than I am now. Often, people will make these comments because they are projecting their own personal limitations onto you. If you meet someone who is chasing their dreams and succeeding at it, do you think they would make a comment like that? I very much doubt it. When you pursue a creative career, you cannot base success solely on your income, because a steady income doesn’t happen immediately. Keep chasing those dreams!
7. “Why don’t you get a real job?”“Oh shoot! Is there a list of ‘real’ jobs that I can choose from?” I can’t tell you how many times I have been looked at like I’m not a productive member of society, because someone didn’t see the value in what I do. If you want to pursue any creative career, you are going to get shit from people until you ‘make it’. Again, when you challenge someone’s personal definition of something, they are likely going to tell you that you are doing it wrong. Just remember, when your creative income starts paying your bills, then you can sit back and giggle about your fake job.
8. “Is this all you do with your day?”“Do you mean conceive and create aesthetically pleasing products, market myself online, package and ship products, research business strategies, cultivate a following, define my brand, provide customer service, act as a bookkeeper, schedule events, create online content, manage multiple social media sites, act as a brand ambassador to various products, form professional partnerships with other creative people, constantly reinvent what I’m doing and research how to evolve my passion every day? Yes. Or do you mean just make pretty things and post it on Instagram while wearing sweatpants and a messy bun? Because also, yes.” Never discount the work you do every day to make your passion a career. Ever. Sure, other people may not see the value until you have a sizable paycheck, but that’s their problem. Not yours. Yes, making art is really fun, but it’s also a lot of work to handle every aspect of making a functional career out of it. Honestly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things on my to-do lists.
***Anyway, sometimes people say silly things. They don’t always intend harm, but the ones that do don’t deserve a response from you most of the time. Save your energy for the things that matter. When I read the first negative comment on my artwork online, I actually got really excited and exclaimed to my nerdy other half, “I’ve made it! My first hater!!” The more exposure you get, the more opinions you’ll hear.
It takes practice, but here’s how I deal with haters:
- I realize I’m having way more fun than them, because I don’t have the time or mental space to waste on saying mean things to people on the internet. When you’re having a good time, do you ever pick up your phone and think “I should go insult someone or demean the very things they love…”? Didn’t think so.
- I remind myself that I am creating for me. If I enjoy what I make, then that’s all that matters.
- I use my Sassy Artist voice to have imaginary conversations in my head where I come out victorious and the hater feels stupid for sharing their negativity. (I don’t do this that often, because it’s still a waste of mental energy most days, but sassy me really loves a good imaginary throw down.)
- I remember that I am not perfect, and it’s okay to not be as good of an artist as I want to be, because I’m going to keep growing the more I put time into it. When I see and accept my faults and don’t beat myself up for them–negative comments from others don’t affect me much.