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Feedback versus Criticism

Updated: May 18, 2022

I have always struggled with feedback / criticism. I have said before on my blog that in an ideal world I would prefer to play a piece for my piano teacher and him to just applaud and say “Bravo!”, but of course his job is to notice my mistakes and correct them. As time has gone on I have got better at accepting his comments, and I feel comfortable enough with him to add in my own praise like “I think I played that well considering that it was new last week”.

A few years ago, when I was much newer at learning the piano I asked him to listen to me playing a piece “my own way”. What I was trying to show him was my joy in the spirit of that piece of music. Sadly, he didn’t pick up on that and only heard the incorrect rhythms and notes. There was a pause at the end and then he said “I would call that a failed performance” which left my inner 8 year old feeling crushed at the time.

How did I move forward from that? It did knock me back for a while. I recognised my teacher’s blind spot (mustn’t allow crap work to go uncommented on). I’ve carried on and gradually my confidence in allowing that joy to take over again has peeped through. It is like a delicate flower unfurling, separate from learning the technical nuts and bolts of hand positions, chords etc etc. Both are important and improving technically has given me confidence to re-approach that joy.

So how does that relate to my artwork? I’m on a weird art journey. Twenty years ago I first went to art classes to “improve my drawing”. I wanted to learn to be a really good draughtsman. Instead I learnt about colours, form, textures, negative spaces etc etc…..And the drawings in my sketchbooks remain at my 8 year old level where I left off, very free and expressive but also naive, scruffy, “crap”. I’ve shown my recent zines to various people and as art colleagues they have a valid position to offer criticism. Some of which has been extremely valuable, e.g. go for a handmade font with a link to do it. I was on it like a dog seeing a rabbit! I was already not happy with the fonts I was using and wanting to change them.

But some other comments tap into my latent insecurities about not doing “good enough” drawings. I tend to run away with those thoughts “not good enough, not good enough…..” instead of actually addressing specifics. Maybe that particular head needs a bit of tidying? Like a hand position for a chord, just a technical thing that needs addressing?

I’m gradually getting desensitised to feedback, it’s an uncomfortable journey but I need to embrace it. It’s all good.

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