There’s a lot of bullshit out there, now more than ever, since the advent of crit-centric Facebook groups for artists. Bad advice is everywhere these days, and it serves as an entry-barrier, confusing and obstructing anyone looking to break-in. Where’s it all coming from, and what can we do about it? How can we preserve our new-found sense of community without incidentally cultivating the bullshit?
In my experience, bullshit critique is never malicious, and in the rare case that it is, you have my permission to write it off as trolling. No, as I see it there are really only two types of bullshit – I’m going to call the first typical bullshit, because we’re all familiar with it; typical bullshit is what happens when amateur artists waste time critiquing each other instead of studying. It’s much more common than benevolent bullshit, which is what happens when good artists fail to communicate. Benevolent bullshit sucks for so many reasons, but mainly because it’s hard to argue with good intentions, and often the person receiving critique can’t even tell that it’s bullshit – they don’t know any better.
There is such a thing as healthy, progressive criticism, but it’s a complicated process. Ideally both parties speak the same language, and care about language, but we’re a diverse community and truly art is our common tongue, which segues nicely into my next point. Disputably the single greatest advantage a community of digital artists has is the ability to paint over each other’s work without permanently defacing it. Paint-overs are unique to digital art, and in most ways they’re outright superior to old-fashioned, written criticism, especially when they’re done live with commentary.
Firstly, if you’re doing it right, a good paint-over should be like good sex, which means everyone’s invested, no one’s getting forced outside of their comfort zone and everyone leaves satisfied. Paint-overs keep us honest like nothing else, because despite the wide-spread, mildly stupid idea that art is purely subjective, it’s hard to argue with the evidence of your own eyes. There’s a strong sense of put-up-or-shut-up to the whole ceremony. Again, the benefits of live paint-overs cannot be overstated whether recorded or otherwise, and commentary is a plus. They are our front seat pass to the problem solving theatre, our microscope and our time-lapse photography as digital artists.
A well-executed paint over is our most powerful and demystifying form of critique, but it’s also the most intimate. Imagine guiding somebody’s brush hand with your own – there’s a very real potential for disaster when things go wrong. So, keeping that in mind I've got some advice and guidelines for anyone who plans on participating in either capacity.
Remember what I said about good sex? Paint-overs that are quick-and-dirty should’ve been good for both people, and never do a paint-over you’re not enthusiastic for, or take a paint-over from someone you don’t trust. If you’re insincere then the other person is going to feel cheap, and it goes both ways. If you don’t want advice, then don’t say that you do.
You don’t have to be a master to do a solid paint-over, and you don’t have to be a lecturer to offer good commentary, but you do have to be aware of your weaknesses. If you struggle with English, and you’re giving commentary in English, then keep your language simple; there are better times to learn and experiment than when you’re teaching. Likewise, if you’re not a pro, just stay away from stuff you’re not completely confident in demonstrating; stick to what you’re sure of and leave the rest alone. Take your time, and try to relax and be patient. Sometimes a subtle adjustment can make all the difference, and if you manage to catch it, and demonstrate it, and explain it, then you've made it worthwhile for the other person, and really that’s how we should be thinking about paint-overs.
Read the Original blog-post here.