Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is Criticism Good For?

Criticism is a loaded proposition. All the various forums, blogs posts, tweets, and more have made the present generation of consumers instant critics. Unfortunately, many of the critiques take the form of a “love it” or “hate it” mentality. All too often, no analysis or reasoning is offered, just a blunt pronouncement. When it comes to art, more is needed. Especially when the artist receiving such criticism is expected to do something about it or learn from it. After all, shouldn’t that be the real goal of criticism? It’s hard to learn anything from, “That stinks!” And when the next person says, “I love it!”, the artist hearing it is even more confused.

Which opinion do you listen to? What are you supposed to learn from it? How are you supposed to improve you artwork from those comments? The first one, "That stinks!", offers no hint on what to change, while the second, "I love it!", doesn't tell you what you did right, so you can repeat it, if you choose to. Both extremes are kind of dead ends. They don't take you anywhere else.

David Ward, a British fine art photographer, wrote an essay called The Art of Criticism. You can read it here on the website PhotographyBlog. Ward’s views on criticism and what makes for good criticism are spot on and are worth reading.

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