Was just reading an article on The Children's Book Council (CBC) website written by Mark Teague, one of my favorite children's book author/illustrators. His art not only appeals to kids, but to the kid in us all. Pigsty , How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? and Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters From Obedience School are a few of his works. In his article he discusses criticism as it relates to his writing and illustrating, how much he hates it, but later acknowledges that intelligent criticism has made his skills better. Got me to thinking about my attitude towards criticism . There's room for growth.
I've always thought of myself as thick-skinned when on the receiving end of critique. After all, I've been doing this art thing for 20-plus years, I've been well critiqued. But it wasn't until I discovered my passion, children's book illustration, criticism began to thin my skin.
Reviews of my books have been mostly positive. My art has been complimented as ideal, skillful, exuberant, perspective-rich, fresh and fanciful. It's also been panned as stiff, slick and disconcertingly off the mark. Ouch, that hurt. And I'm ashamed to admit I once shot off a nasty email to the editors of Booklist for a mostly positive review.
"You're so good. Your special. You're so talented. You're gifted. You're the best artist in class. You sure can draw. You're going to be famous someday." This is what I believed because this was the blessing I received from my mom, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, bosses, and co-workers. That's great, that's where my confidence and self esteem came from. But as a fellow illustrator once posted on a Yahoo bulletin board: Good makes you complacent and you won't strive to be great. Isn't that an ancient Chinese proverb or something? Should be.
Anyway, that struck me. Maybe I've been so good all these years, I've not strived to be any greater. If GOOD can get me this far, just imagine where GREAT will get me!
So for this year I've set some new goals. Strive for greatness! Accept the truth in some of those critiques. There's room for growth. I'm going to experiment with some different media. Take some life drawing classes. Visit a few museums. Study more art history. Take a few chances and make some mistakes. Hopefully some happy mistakes.