Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

Opinions about Art

Adapted from a comment I made elsewhere. I often think about posting these kinds of things, but then think, "Naw, everybody already knows that, right?" But then I think, well, there was certainly a time when *I* didn't know it, and it was kind of a revelation. So I'm curious: for how many folks is this idea new, and for how many is it obvious and second-nature? Is it interesting to see it spelled-out like this?

I think it's really valuable for young artists to learn to distinguish opinion from judgment, and popularity from excellence. Liking something is a matter of taste, which is purely subjective. And de gustibus non est disputandum, as the maxim goes. On the other hand, recognizing quality, and being able to articulate why something is good or bad, requires knowledge of the art. And whether you agree or not, there's usually some dialogue that can be had.

These reactions are independent of one another. You can enjoy something without thinking it's very good. And you can recognize excellence in something even if you hate it.

The tricky thing about feedback on art is that a lot of people can't (or at least don't) separate those reactions, and will express their opinions in critical terms: saying "it sucks", when actually they mean "I don't like it". (And saying "it's great" when really they mean "I love it".) Having people appreciate your work will gratify your ego. Having people give you critical insight into what's good and bad will improve your artistry. Both of these are desirable things, but the latter is much rarer. (And correspondingly more valuable, if you care about quality.)

I can still remember, over the course of various writing workshops in college, coming to the realization that there was nothing -- absolutely NOTHING -- that would be liked by everybody. And how incredibly freeing it was to realize that some people were just not in my target audience, and that it was okay for them not to like my work. That it was no reflection on the quality of my work, it was purely a matter of taste.

So if you want to make art and be happy with your work, I think that's one of the first steps: understanding the difference between "I like it" and "it's good".
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