Thursday, March 24, 2016

Quickies: For Artists Of All Kinds

     He who puts his efforts before the world must expect that some persons will react positively and some will react negatively. Mankind is reliable that way. Unanimity of opinion about a book, a movie, a sculpture, a painting, a song, an aroma, a recipe, or any other sort of artwork is vanishingly rare.

     (Well, okay, except for BloodRayne, but that’s one of the exceptions. Besides, Kristianna Loken was very pretty, and Ben Kingsley probably had bills to pay, and...and...oh, never mind.)

     My point, of course, is that the artist must be prepared to receive and weather the unpleasant reactions. In particular, he must abstain from interpreting them as attacks upon himself. They’re probably not attacks on his chosen art form, either. They might be attacks on his message, if he embedded one in his opus, but again, unanimity about such things is so rare as to be nonexistent for practical purposes. To give you an example, I once had a coworker who believed, and would argue passionately, that no one, including he himself, has a right to life. He meant it. Really.

     If you ever find yourself so bored or involuntarily confined that you find yourself watching a televised cooking competition, you’re likely to see the competitors listening to judges criticize their dishes. Never mind that those judges probably couldn’t cook half as well as the least of their victims even if their lives depended on it; their function is to criticize, and to decide on winners and losers. But you’ll rarely hear a cook – even a master chef – reply to even the harshest criticism of his food with anything other than “Thank you.”

     There’s wisdom there. There’s a recognition of the reality of divergent tastes. If only all artists could grasp the virtues embodied in it.

     I mention this because I recently took the trouble to pan a movie at Amazon. It was a movie I had looked forward to seeing, and it disappointed me profoundly. As mine was merely one of dozens of negative reviews, I expected nothing to come of it. I was shocked when the writer / director wrote to me personally to rebuke me for my review!

     That is the reverse of wisdom. Even though I understand the gentleman’s unhappiness at receiving a bad review – and I emphasize that mine was one of many – what intelligent person could possibly imagine that to be a profitable thing to do?

     There are people who despise any item of artwork you can name. Nor are the reasons for their dislike necessarily rational. Great God in heaven, there are people who think Michelangelo’s David is obscene and should be destroyed! I’ve met one such person.

     He who decides to present his artistic endeavors to the general public must develop calluses over any sensitivity he might have to criticism. No, it’s not legally required; it’s just what an artist must do to preserve his good name -- and his sanity. Take it from one who knows.


Dystopic said...

Criticism to me falls under a few categories:

1. Those I don't care to read or listen to at all. If a guy dressed as Ronald McDonald decided to call my work clownish, I would categorically dismiss and ignore.

2. Those I read or listen to, but to which I decide to dismiss. Some criticism is incredibly stupid and vapid. We've all encountered the occasional Grammar Nazi, who will pick nits incessantly. But those, at least, have some utility. The Grammar Nazi who is blatantly wrong... now that's just funny. Some criticism can be safely dismissed on the basis that it is entirely wrong.

3. Criticism I decide to take. Sometimes, your detractor is right. You've called me out on a few things. One which sticks out in my head was my flub of Determinism and Fatalism. It's not a mistake I will make a second time, at least.

I'll only respond to a criticism directly if I know the person, and if I wish to start a lively debate with that person on the basis of their criticism. I never did get around to replying properly to your post on subjectivity a few days back. It was something I wanted to go in depth on but lacked the time for. It's a topic I have a great deal of personal interest in, and would be fascinated to debate more on someday.

The problem is, for a lot of people today, criticism is regarded as a personal attack. Sometimes it can be, so I can understand the confusion to a point. But other times, criticism is just a neutral event (some random guy's opinion), or even something that is done to directly benefit you. The hard part is knowing the difference. But it's crucial to anyone who puts their work out there.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think every artist faces this to some degree.

As an artist it is often our nature to be open, sensitive and insightful.

As we present our art to the open world we need to be thick skinned, insensitive and fixed of viewpoint.

Sucks - Doesn't it.

GamegetterII said...

I kind of liked BloodRayne-maybe just because I was laid up with something that resembled a medieval torture device on my leg and couldn't do much other than read and watch movies-even that was difficult as the narcotic pain meds made it really hard to concentrate on anything for more than 90 seconds or so.
Having dealt with food critics for more than 20 years,you tend to ignore such creatures,as most of them would have a hard time making a pot roast in a crockpot with a recipe,much less cook anything edible for at least the lunch and dinner meals every day,day in and day out,plus come up with creative lunch and dinner specials that customers will buy and enjoy.
I've also dealt with architects who criticized the way houses they designed were built-not one of them could even do the layout and build a single wall-using their own blueprints-nor could they comprehend why whatever idiotic thing it was they incorporated into the design was not possible to build in the real world.
In both of those examples-those doing the criticizing deserved to be ignored,as they had no clue what they were talking about,due to their lack of real world knowledge.
As far as writing goes-unless one is knowledgeable about the "mechanics" of writing,then they have no business criticizing writers,other than giving an opinion about the specific plot or story being written about.
Most "professional" critics lack the knowledge to write intelligent,informed reviews of anything,and their reviews are nothing more than their personal opinions-which are affected by their biases.
Which is why,in my opinion,at least 90% of critics deserve to be ignored.
The other 10%-(or so)- are capable of giving informed,constructive,criticism,something the other 90% are simply not capable of,as they just want something to bitch and complain about-or are only trying to impose their own narrow minded views on others.
Just as opinions are like as*holes-so are most critics.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how to get paid to be critical. Its easy to criticize. I have a large vocabulary so could give some good roastings. Without a 'day job' I'd have time to add to my vocabulary and work up some real zingers.
About the only critics I've ever listened to were movie critics. It did not take long to see there was an inverse relationship between their like and mine. So, they did serve a purpose (just not the one they were trying to do). As my late father taught me, "You can always learn from others. Some show you what to do, some show you what not to do."