Category Archives: An Engineer Among Artists

What I learned From Being Among Artists: How To Take Criticism

What I learned From Being Among Artists: How To Take Criticism

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte

1133342321_143f0756a1_oFor your average person, criticism is not a large part of our everyday lives. Yea, we might have a family member or a boss or a ‘frenemy’ who doles out harsh comments left and right, but rarely is it warranted. Instead, it’s often a jealous lashing out at what is in fact good work.

The artist’s world, however, is different. You know how big a role criticism plays in these fields, when there is a profession solely dedicated to critiquing art work: the infamous Art Critic. There are no ‘Accounting Critics” or “Engineering Critics.” The harsh critiques in these professions are usually limited to events of catastrophic failure or gross negligence. In the business world, an investor may critique the work of a CEO, but that usually comes with the implicit ‘and executive team’ modifier attached to it. High-profile CEOs may get the blame, but everyone understands it takes more than one person to tank a company’s profits.

Another comparison would be the critics of a politician. They stand alone and speak their mind and values, but even then, many of these critiques are either based on very limited information and sound bites or fabricated to support hidden agendas.

Really the only other valid analogy would be the sports world. But yet again, even when a player falls short, there are almost as many fingers pointing at other teammates, coaches, owners, referees, equipment, etc. who failed the player along the way.

In the art world, it’s an entirely different story. Artists are almost exclusively judged on their individual contributions and with what can be scathing remarks. Just look at a few of the reviews of the latest blockbuster flop and you’ll see comments such as “laughable,” “flimsy,” and “insulting”. What makes it even worse, is that many of these artists are putting their heart and soul into these works, only to be publicly shamed, sometimes by people who have no concept of what they were trying to achieve.

Rarely is the artwork blamed on their teacher, or their tools, or their environment. It’s just about them.

But such is the life of an artist, and it comes as no surprise to any aspiring artist to see their work taken apart in such ways. In fact, they probably experienced this criticism from the very beginning, when they first started to perfect their craft. They’ve also learned to throw away criticism that comes from those who are just looking to hurt their feelings and put them down.

So what can those of us who don’t regularly engage in such open and vulnerable displays of ourselves learn from this?

Like a boxer who enters into ring for the first time, we can learn to take a hit.

When you ask an artist what it is that drives them to continue after a bad show or poor review, it’s not the potential money or fame. It’s about the art itself. It’s about focusing on living true to oneself and finding an audience that will appreciate it. Or it’s about improving their abilities to the point where they feel that they are able to effectively create and convey their vision to others.

The next time you receive a harsh criticism, whether you think it was deserved or not, try to take it as an artist would: just another comment. Analyze it for what is valid and what is garbage, keeping only the valuable insight it provided about your work and about yourself.

A few questions to ask might be:
Did the person understand my intent?
What experience/qualifications do they have in this field?
Do I feel that I could have done better?
Are their ulterior motives driving this criticism?
Were there extenuating circumstances that led to poor performance?

Note that none of this is about finding a way to blame others for your work. Instead, it’s about acknowledging the fact that there are numerous viewpoints to be considered, and it’s worth taking the time to recognize this. However, if after studying the critiques you realize they are just haters, let them slide by without another thought.

What We Can Learn About Branding From Artists

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte Artists rely on their brand to survive. If I told you a cellist was going to be playing at my house tomorrow, you might give me a strange look and wonder why I thought that was particularly interesting. However, if I told you it was Yo-Yo Ma, a worldContinue Reading

The Useful Skills of the Non-Artist

The Useful Skills of the Non-Artist

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte Artist: art·ist ˈärdəst/ a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby. a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker. a person skilled at a particular task or occupation. Artists are by definition a very skilledContinue Reading

What To Look For in a Great Artist Community

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte As an engineer, when I decided to join an artist community, at first I thought that finding one may not be that easy, especially since I wasn’t already plugged into the local artist scene. It’s not like they post flyers around advertising for people who aren’t active artists toContinue Reading

How To Get Art

How To Get Art

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte “I don’t get it.” Anyone who has visited an art museum, attended a music concert, or watched a performance piece has probably uttered these words at one point or another. After spending minutes or even hours trying (and failing) to appreciate it, it can be incredibly frustrating to hearContinue Reading

I tried to make something… and it worked!

I tried to make something… and it worked!

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte At this month’s Dinner, Art, + Music night a group of us stood around a single long sheet of paper, markers in hand, and were tasked to make designs that fell within a set of instructions. A circle here, a line there; nothing too difficult, even for me. WhileContinue Reading

Supporting The Artists In Your Life

Supporting The Artists In Your Life

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte There are plenty of artists around and chances are if you don’t identify as one, you know someone who does. If you believe in the importance of art, then you know how important it is to find a way to support them. However, it’s not always clear how toContinue Reading

Conversations between a Strategy Consultant and a Painter

Conversations between a Strategy Consultant and a Painter

-written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte Although I’d like to consider myself an artist from time to time, the truth is the vast majority of my time is spent working with my “left-brain”. Spreadsheets, reports, and client meetings fill most of my days, with only snippets of my creative side slipping into my work fromContinue Reading

A Community For Artists and Non-Artists

A Community For Artists and Non-Artists

–written by Hearth Member, Ryan Bonaparte Growing up, I was always attracted to science and technology. I would read books and magazines, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. After high school, I went to MIT to study engineering, which many would probably see as a complete immersion into the study ofContinue Reading

What I Make: Great Tutors

What I Make: Great Tutors

written by Hearth Member Ryan Bonaparte When I was in high school, I had the chance to go the local library and work with young students to help them with their homework. It was a short after school program, an hour or so, but as a tutor, I could see the difference it made, theContinue Reading