For most of my creative life, I hated criticism. It made me feel insecure and worthless.

But one of the gifts of going public with my art is that now I have a thicker skin and I value criticism. Sometimes I ignore it, because I don’t agree with it – like the time I posted a landscape on Facebook and asked for titles and someone suggested ‘Badly Drawn Picture.’ I laughed, because – let’s face it – that’s funny! But I knew the picture wasn’t badly drawn … it was just drawn in a style that he didn’t like, so his words didn’t hurt me or make me rethink my work. They just ran off my back.

But sometimes an outside viewer sees something I didn’t and helps me improve my work. I now view their attention as a gift, not an insult, and I appreciate the improvements they help me to make. 

Today a friend looked at one of my paintings – one I was really pleased with – and spotted a flaw. If you knew this friend you’d know that a) he’s really good at spotting flaws because he’s a perfectionist and b) he’s usually right  (which is sometimes annoying but that’s another story).

Here’s the painting.

Almost finished 'lilac cow'

Almost finished ‘lilac cow’

I was pleased with this painting for a few reasons. I liked the colour blends around the eyes and on the chin. I liked the way I was able to incorporate the lilac background into the body of the cow. And finally. I like the way that I had used mixed media (pen and ink, watercolour and pastel) to create the sense of a drawing with energy rather than a static image of a cow. 

I am rarely pleased with my work, but I felt pleased with this.

But then my friend pointed out that the nose looked flat. Actually, what he actually said with his usual brutal honesty is “the nose looks like it ran into a plate glass window.”

So tonight I looked again and realized he was right. So I did some rework even though I was nervous about it, because a lot of work had gone into the colour of the nose. And what do you know? Now the nose looks rounded instead of flat.

Finished 'lilac cow'

Finished ‘lilac cow’

My life has changed for the better in so many ways since I took the step of showing my art to others. I have thousands of people from around the world looking at my work and they often give me lovely, kind comments that warm my heart. (Who would say no to flattery like that).

But I think the greatest gift has been the fact that I can now accept criticism without a) feeling sad b) crying all night or c) committing actual violence.

My cow painting is better because someone  told me it wasn’t right. I am so grateful for that honesty.

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