Saturday, January 29, 2005

A critique: there's room for growth

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.


rindawriter said...

See my recent blog on "Critiquing Critique Groups" for an alternative perspective on critique groups that may be encouraging for you on your creative journey.


rindawriter said...

I also now have up some interesting blogs on artists/writers with disabilities. Thanks! rindawriter

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Don, Do you realize how very much you are growing lately? I'm loving watching the creative you unfold as you strive to reach your artistic (both in words and pictures) potential. I'm taking a class right now on Toxic Criticism and the very first lesson was one of those right between the eyes things. The goal is to no longer try to avoid criticism. Yikes. I'm working on it.

Keep doing what your doing because man, it's gonna be great to watch you soar.