I like comments on my paintings; they are always positive and encouraging. And I like having followers, of course. I comment back, in a positive and encouraging vein, and I in turn become a follower. I think enough of my work to believe the person commenting to have been sincere. The work I see of others is to a surprising degree of a high standard, so it has so far been easy for me to be sincere in offering positive comments.
Nevertheless, I have some slight misgivings about what seems to be the prevailing art blog climate of positive and encouraging comments. These arise chiefly from questions I have about my own paintings, such as: are my subjects of any interest or relevance to people? Should I become more exacting, more enamoured of realism, than I already am (and use nothing but Nr 1 brushes!)? Are my colours harmonious, or should they be, if they are? I like composition that is slightly askew, but does anybody else?etc. Maybe messaging has its limitations, and even a line or two of serious, perhaps sometimes negative criticism, or alternative suggestion-offering, runs too high a risk of giving offence to no purpose. But I’m not sure. I really would like to see others’ views on this.
I’m uneasily reminded of the philosopher, Karl Popper, who saw negative criticism as having a positive effect – and as being essential for progress in a civilization as in the individual: ‘For all of us, in all our activities, the notions that we can do better only by finding out what can be improved and then improving it; and therefore that shortcomings are to be actively sought out, not concealed, or passed over; and that critical comment from others, far from being resented, is an invaluable aid to be insisted on and welcomed, are liberating to a remarkable degree’ [Bryan Magee, Philosophy and the Real World, an Introduction to Karl Popper, Open Court, p.37].
Ironically, Popper himself was, I’m told, easily irritated by any negative criticism. Maybe it would require a revolution in the individual and society before such criticism would be actively sought, let alone welcomed.
So, alongside Popper we recall the forthright Alceste, protagonist of Molière’s Le Misanthrope, sincerely not praising poor Oronte’s wretched sonnet – and making no friend in the process!