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  • Stuart Simler

Encouragement over Criticism: The nature of self criticism as method of learning and progression?


When we create, we are working at close proximity to our works, be this a 2D or 3D art practice or even writing… we find ourselves in what I refer to as psychological space. A space at which we notice the errors in our creations instead of the successes or elements of these works that provide promise or potential. It is only when we stand back to see the whole that we can see clearly and discover that there is more to the story that we first thought. To put this into context, imagine walking into a gallery space or someones living room to see paintings on the wall. How effective they look from this perspective, a pictorial space allowing us to be presented by the full impact of an artwork. It is from this distance that we can assess and allow the uniqueness of the aesthetic to arrive as a visual and sometimes sensory entity. A place that invites us to observe, absorb and form our own creative response.


It doesn’t help that we have been trained from an early age to judge. Whether this be a judgement of ourselves in relation to others, what is expected of us, comparing ourselves to a previous self, when we may have achieved better (in the eyes of others at least) or what we are told by society to aim for. When did we agree to this way of thinking or sign up to conform to expectations? When were we last encouraged to think for ourselves as our own creative innovator? To keep this in perspective, this could simply be that we decided to crush our willow charcoal on the drawing surface in an attempt to find a brand new mark to express something new. Often the most revered artists are those who decided to break the mould, think outside of the box, throw paint at the canvas or catapult it across a gallery space into a corner or the room. Have you noticed how fearless children are when they draw? They experiment with urgency and consideration and as adults we encourage them to continue in this way, if we did not, we risk crushing their confidence and halting their innate curiosity to explore and find out. Just as anyone who has been incorrectly criticised during those vulnerable moments of creating something personal and unique, will have experienced. In many cases, this has gone onto cause permanent damage to self-confidence and left significant scar tissue when it comes to their personal creative development. Encouragement should always be our starting point when guiding, teaching or mentoring those invited to learn from us.

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