The Dog of Judgment

There is nothing that makes me sadder than seeing a young artist in any medium–writing, music, painting, whatever–who is a constant, acrimonious critic of every work of art they see.

Latest Disney film? Hate it. Latest pop song? It’s the worst. That funny video on Youtube? Lame. That cartoon everyone is watching? Hell no. New game? THE DEVELOPERS SHOULD BE DRESSED IN DRAG, STONED TO DEATH, AND BURIED IN UNHALLOWED GROUND.

After a while of observing the pattern, you realize that this person is saying “No” to pretty much everything. And if not to everything, than to a much, much higher percentage of things than they can give a “yes” to. And unfortunately, this is a very strong predictor of failure to become a professional artist.

In fact, I’m old enough and have seen enough to say right now that the Constant Critics of the world have about a 90% failure rate. They almost never achieve any measurable success or a living wage from any kind of creative pursuit.

Why?

Because great artists do not feed the Dog of Judgment. The tendency to be hypercritical, to hate what others love simply for the sake of hating it, is NEVER your friend, as an artist. The more you feed the Dog of Judgment, the larger and hungrier it will become. And if you’re an artist, it will cheerfully turn on your own art and creative efforts and rip them apart before they are even born.

There is a reason that harsh critics, even critics who reach the professional level, are seldom great artists themselves. It’s because Art does not come from that place. Art comes from the part of you that loves rather than hates. That accepts rather than rejects. That tries to understand, rather than just dismissing. Not just art, but all of life…and all of the people in it.

This is not to say that successful artists do not have their own tastes and obsessions, their loves and hates! They most certainly do. Some artists who are incredibly successful and productive do have a few noteworthy rivals or love-to-hate books or movies which they delight in tearing apart.

The overwhelming majority of feedback you see from really successful artists about the art they consume, however, is not negative. Most of what you’ll see them say about the art they consume is enthusiastic, appreciative, thoughtful, or at worst critical in a completely constructive way–”This may be a flawed work, but it is also brilliant and the time I spent with it was well spent.”

This is why, whenever I see a friend or a younger artist sliding into the abyss of the Constant Critic…I am sad. Because it really is unnecessary. Not to mention unhealthy for their art.

If you don’t like the Thing Du Jour…that’s ok. Almost anything may not be Your Thing, at the end of the day. But the best way to cope with whatever you don’t like–Disney movies, superhero flicks, boy bands, Beat poets, or whatever other icons of high or low culture you dislike–is to ignore them.

Yes, the masses have a mass media! The elite have their snobby snobberkins art and gold toilets and paper doilies on their junk!

And that’s fine. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to validate it. But you do have to make sure that you’re spending about 5 times more time and energy on the things you love than the things you hate.

It’s important that the right dogs get fed.

About Arinn

Author, Game Developer, Anthropologist, reformed Supervillainess.
This entry was posted in Essays, Slice of Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Dog of Judgment

  1. Mat says:

    While not an artist myself, I’ve always regarded creativity with a mix of adoration and respect. And, I can say from firsthand experience that those who would label everything as disatisfactory are, in most cases, simply projecting their own disatisfaction with themselves.

    Perphaps they simply want some recognition, or need a hand. Unfortunately, wanton complainery has a tendency to keep at bay those who are most able to help. It is just another one of those cycles who don’t end unless something outstanding happens.

    On a lighter note, I found the bit about professional critics particularly interesting. I always thought it was curious how someone with many references and much technical knowledge wasn’t an artist himself. This provides interesting insight as to why, and it is also a valuable tip for someone looking to dable in both art and criticism.

  2. MTaur says:

    Someone needed to tell me this 20 years ago. It’s not too late by any stretch, but that would’ve been close to the best possible time.

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