In a guest post for Lürzer's Archive, freelance illustrator Kenneth Shinabery explains the importance of giving and receiving constructive criticism, and explains why in this industry it's important to have a thick skin!
Many artists in today’s world begin their careers as freelancers. If you are a freelancer then, essentially, you are your own PR firm. This means you must learn how to promote and talk about your artwork.
I manage the Behance Dribbble events in Germany and have had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at various events, including Adobe’s Create Now Event in Berlin. As an artist, it is important for you to attend events to network. At many conferences or portfolio nights you will have the opportunity to present your work to a group. Not only is this great way to gain exposure, it is also a way to practice your presentation skills. If an actor can practice monologues, then an artist can practice talking about his or her artwork. By doing so you will be ready when it is time to meet with clients and potential employers. Honing this skill will be quite useful in your future.
The first step is to overcome the fear of talking about your work. Andy Warhol put it best, "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art." There will always be critics, however you never know when or where your talents will be discovered, so you have to get past the fear of showing your work. Art is very subjective and presenting your work at networking events will allow you to get responses from a wide variety of people.
At the Behance Dribbble NRW events, we have three to five artists present their work. After the presentations we have an open casual forum, where all those who attend can share their projects and portfolios. Because we are open to all creatives, during this time feedback can come from a variety of artists (photographers, illustrators, fashion designers, etc). This is the perfect time for artists to learn and practice the art of presentation. When I give feedback, I try to be insightful and provide ways for artists to take their work to the next level. I want to encourage and not discourage.
Showcasing your artwork to peers is somewhat less intimidating then sharing your work in an interview. By doing so you will learn how to be more relaxed when talking about your abilities and projects.
When presenting your artwork to anyone it's important that you have thick skin. As I have said, art is subjective. One person may love your work, while another person could dislike it. Just because one person is not interested in your skills, does not mean that others will not amazed by what you have to offer.
It is very important to learn how to express the idea behind your project and be able to share why it was important for you to create it. Also it is good to learn how to discuss the strengths of your creations. One thing I tell artists is never to downplay their artwork. You have to learn to avoid pointing out the negatives and become creative when speaking about the positives. This skill set comes in very handy when presenting work to clients. Wording can be a big influencer and mastering it can truly help when sharing a project or portfolio.
Becoming astute on taking feedback and criticism is essential as well. Feedback will only help you grow as artist. It can also be taken with a pinch of salt. You can learn from those you present your work to and this can even lead to inspiration for new projects.
Mastering self-marketing and learning how to take criticism will make you more successful. Do not be afraid to discuss your work, and learn ways to emphasize the strengths behind your creations. Practicing methods of sharing your work at events can lead to a better way of presenting your work to clients and those offering jobs.
About the writer
Kenneth Shinabery is a versatile creative with roots in production, as well as work for Vespa, The American Natural History Museum and Coca-Cola under his belt. Follow him on Twitter or check out his website and Behance profile.
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