One of my friends is the most honest person I know. He says what he likes and what he doesn’t. When I first started drawing, he loved my work because it was realistic and neat. Now that I’m getting a bit ‘wild’ with my lines and colours, he doesn’t like it and tells me so.

My mum loves the landscapes I was doing a year ago, but doesn’t get my cow portraits at all. (She thinks cows are for eating and that’s that!) Ditto for my best friend, who is a creative writer, but not much into the visual arts.

But then there are strangers, people who found me on my website or via Twitter and Facebook, who send me admiring emails or – even better – buy my prints or original paintings. Their comments move me deeply, because I have never, until this last year, felt that I had anything to offer the world artistically, and now my pictures hang in homes in Texas and Lincolnshire and Munich and Connecticut and Toronto and Yorkshire.  Amazing!

All this has been a good lesson for me – the idea that everyone should love your art is NUTS! If it’s any good, if it speaks from the heart, if it says something, some people WON’T like it.  But some will.

In the end, what matters is that you added something. Out of nothing, you made something. Or as Ricky Gervais says:

You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening – everyone should create. You should do something, then sit back and say, ‘I did that.

And that’s the thing isn’t it? It’s the creation that matters. If some people don’t like what you created, well at least they reacted.

And reacted is the operative word. They’re reacting. You’re DOING!

NEVER let someone tell you that what you’re ‘doing’ isn’t worthwhile. Never let someone belittle your effort. Because it’s easy to sit on the sofa, watch TV, and every once in a while look up to criticise. 

The harder route – and the more honourable one – is to do something, to take risks, to create. And then  – the most important part – to share that creation with others. And that’s when we’re at our most vulnerable as artists …. when we show ourselves and wait for the reaction. But we diminish the role of art if we sit back and wait only for positive comments. Real art, true art, art that comes from the heart, challenges.

It will never solicit only positive reactions. It will always be slightly controversial. It will always frighten some folks, and confuse some folks and delight some folks.

That’s what makes it art.

So if you create anything – woodwork, paintings, sketches, sculptures, gardens or cakes – the next time someone disparages your work, or even just looks a little bit nonplussed,  know that you’ve accomplished what art is all about. You’ve made a dint, however tiny, in the fabric of the universe and that is a beautiful thing.

14 Comments

  1. Lynn Cohen
    August 29, 2014

    I love your cows! I love that they are purple and blue and red. I would never eat one of your cows!
    Thank you for writing this post!
    It’s so very meaningful to me!
    XO

    Reply
  2. Heidi
    August 29, 2014

    Well said, Louise!

    Reply
  3. lori
    August 29, 2014

    This is so funny. My daughter and I were just talking about this very thing at lunch today. I must say it stings a bit when a friend says something so "honest" about what I feel proud of. Your words made me think however. Even after her critique I actually still knew my piece was just fine; maybe because the piece in question had gotten into a big show and sold.
    The part that got me was why did she feel the need to be so honest? Why did she feel she needed to share her opinion, even though it could be interpreted as hurtful? Maybe she thought she was being helpful. I don’t think she meant to hurt my feelings.
    Anyhow, so I still based the fact that it was good, partly on the fact that I liked it enough to enter it into the show, but also partly on the fact that the judges liked it and the buyer liked it. So I’m still basing it on others. It’s a big step to just do the work that I like because I like it and not let anyone’s opinion interfere.
    Thanks for your very thoughtful post. It’s hard to believe someone would criticize your work at all so it’s good to be reminded that everyone doesn’t have to love what we do and we can let those words roll off our backs.

    Reply
  4. Sue Orrey-Godden
    August 29, 2014

    Wonderfully written and very thoughtful as always…..great stuff. xx

    Reply
  5. Amanda Webster
    August 29, 2014

    Well said. I once felt myself taking too much notice of my husband’s comments about my art. Like your friend, he doesn’t hold back regarding his opinion , whether it be good or bad. While I enjoyed the praise I was unconsciously trying to avoid the criticisms by changing what I was doing to get his approval. (He likes realism and would make comments like…..cows are not that colour!!) Thankfully I realised the error of my way and decided to always draw and paint exactly as I feel I inspired to do.

    Reply
  6. Dorothy Person
    August 29, 2014

    Louise your words and are are incredibly inspiring to me. Your words in this post are like hidden armor against those who may not like our art. I’ll remember them always. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Polly
    August 29, 2014

    Tell them all to go to hell (even if under your breath) and paint what soothes your soul.

    Reply
  8. Kristy Brenner
    August 29, 2014

    "What I do is me,
    For that I came."
    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    You’re doing you, and I for one love it.

    Reply
  9. Andrea
    August 30, 2014

    Louise, I hope you are ok with me sharing your blog on my blog! and my Artist Facebook page, and with my friends 😉 well said.

    Reply
  10. Susan Santee
    August 30, 2014

    I found your post in Sketchbook Skool–this is a great read because it is SO TRUE!

    Reply
  11. Maureen
    August 30, 2014

    I’m taking your words with me Louise, thank you for them. I’m 70 years old and after raising a family and then helping them out where necessary there has been little time to find out what is actually making up ‘me’. I have painted, written poetry, and stitched lately all of which I’ve enjoyed and had some success. BUT, alongside the enjoyment have needed the accomplishments to be liked and myself confirmed by others. Your words have now brought a freedom to me. I can’t wait to dance through the rest of my life uninhibited. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  12. nadia
    August 30, 2014

    Hi, Louise. Came over from SBS. Great post–you’re so absolutely right. Love the colors of your cows!
    best, nadia

    Reply
  13. liz Howard
    August 30, 2014

    Louise, I cant draw and I cant paint but when I see your paintings of Cows it has made realize how beautiful they are, I love all animals big or small but the expression of your Cows faces is unbelievable. I am now a dedicated Cow lover .XXX

    Reply
  14. Rebecca Heyburn
    August 30, 2014

    Not all art is everyone’s cup of tea, if we all liked the same thing it would be boring. I happen to love your cows by the way 😉
    Keep doing what you love x

    Reply

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