What if Somebody Doesn't Like My Art?

Introspection 1 • 15x20 • oil/mixed medi

Introspection 1 • 15x20 • oil/mixed medi

A while back, once a month I would put down my brushes and log on to Jamie Ridler’s Creative Coffee. It was an hour of free-for-all typing with creatives from all walks of the creative life.  In between silliness about cookies, wine and fuzzy slippers, some great conversations got started.  I always logged off with something to think about.

One time, there was a discussion flying about how one feels when somebody doesn’t like their art.  I wrote that this had never actually bothered me and Jamie asked me why I thought that was and what advice I’d have for somebody who did feel tender and insecure about what others thought of their art.

Hmmmmm.  I couldn’t really answer it adequately at the time, so I promised to think about it get back to her.  So here I am, because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  And yet, I am no closer to a real answer.

My immediate reaction is that I’ve been a professional artist most of my life – nearly half of it in advertising, and if that doesn’t grow you a thick skin, nothing will.  I mean, if I took it to heart every time one of my designs was rejected by a client, I’d have been in the bathroom in tears every day.  All day.  

From advertising, I moved into art licensing for giftware products.  Basically the same cruel world, art-wise.  Maybe even more so.  Rejection is a daily occurrence.  And yet, I have never taken it personal, never gotten my feelings hurt.  I think I have always viewed it as: It’s just Business.  Just because one company doesn’t like it (or maybe they do and it just isn’t right for their line or the timing is wrong; sometimes you don’t know why you’ve been turned down) doesn’t mean somebody else won’t like/want it.

Another thing that comes to mind is that I don’t particularly like everything that every other artist in the world makes, do I?  So why should everybody in the world like everything I make?  My mother, for one, doesn’t care for my abstract painting work, yet, others love it enough to give me money for it.  I’ve even designed products that I didn’t particularly love at the direction of a client and they’ve sold like hot cakes.  So personal taste is just that: personal.  And, business is just that: business.  Just like you don’t like every person you come in contact with, and they don’t all like you either (it’s true!)….not everybody is going to love or even mildly like your art.  That’s just life.

Here I am reaching for that advice that Jamie asked me for….  And at the risk of this sounding like a cop out, I love these two quotes:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  – Bill Cosby

However,  I think Andy Warhol said 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.”

And, from my own lips… Be less concerned with who doesn’t like your art and more concerned with who DOES.