Back in March I had received my fourth professional portfolio critique. It’s been a couple months since then, but I needed to let the feedback settle in my brain before I started following the advice.
As always, I think back to my first conference and how much I failed myself then. Now… well I’m still a failure, but a better failure!
Here’s why with the Dos:
- TAKE EVERY ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. It’s very easy to just take in all the criticism and get down on yourself. Quitting is easy, “I’m garbage because this ‘professional’ person says I am, might as well become an electrician like Pa said.” A lot of the critique is based off what that person likes and doesn’t like, not necessarily you as an illustrator.
- GO IN WITH A SMILE. This sounds lame but it actually worked for me. If I’m smiling and being social, a lot of that heart clenching tension dissipates. Smiling and talking gets me ready to be open minded and prepares me for change. Try it.
- DRESS NICE, BUT CASUAL. I was rocking a nice sweater with a lacy tank top beneath, maroon colored jeans, and cute brown boots. All was comfortable to wear and I looked like a real human that could possibly be in public!
- BRING YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST WORK. Sounds obvious, but it helps if you feel good about what you’re bringing to the table. If you don’t, you need to do more work or just have a short portfolio. Feedback might actually be good for you if you are not satisfied with your work, it helped me a year ago when I felt awful about mine.
- RESEARCH YOUR CRITIQUE. Courtney Pippin-Mathur gave me my portfolio critique. I chose her specifically because she worked in watercolor and digital mix, which is what I was doing. I also liked her cute style. The rest of the illustrators there had a bit of a realistic style and were mixed media for the most part. I wanted someone who worked with what I was trying to work with, and the feedback I got was very helpful because I took the time to look at her website.
- COMMUNICATE WITH THE ILLUSTRATOR. I mean, join in their rambling about your artwork. Sometimes asking questions can help guide the one critiquing you. Lets face it, they’re human too so helping them will help you. Even if it’s just simple questions such as, “What are my strengths? Should I be working in this medium? Am I ready to look for an agent?”
- WRITE DOWN WHAT THEY SAY AFTER THE CRITIQUE IS OVER. Sometimes it’s okay to jot down notes, but make sure you look like you’re paying attention. It’s good to write some more after your critique so you can look at it later. (later that day, later that week, two months from then…)
- SEND AN EMAIL THANKING THEM. I was bad and didn’t email Pippin-Mathur. I emailed my manuscript critique though! But still, email them. It’s good to do that. I shall email mine next time.
My first critique went horribly and it had me crying in the shower for an hour after.
Here’s why with the Don’ts:
- DON’T GO IN THINKING YOUR STUFF IS GOOD. Unless it is of course, but if you’re new to this field you probably aren’t quite there yet. Even if you are good and you go in thinking that you’re good but the one giving you a critique says they don’t like something, this could possibly lead you to…
- IGNORING ALL ADVICE BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU KNOW BETTER. Everyone can improve. EVERYONE. If there is something off with your work and you choose to ignore it, like I did with my messy backgrounds for forever, your work will suffer for it.
- DON’T NOT SAY ANYTHING. Silence is second worse compared to cutting off the critique with your arrogance. I practically said nothing my first critique and that just built tension between the us and it led to me tearing up. That got awkward. Don’t do it.
- DON’T OVER DRESS, BUT DON’T WALK IN WITH JEANS AND A T-SHIRT. Okay I didn’t really do this one. I mean, I had jeans and tennis shoes on but at least I had a sweater that didn’t look too bad. You’ll feel better if you look better though.
- DON’T TALK BAD ABOUT THE ONE GIVING YOUR CRITIQUE. I’ve never done this but I’ve read pretty bad blog posts and it just never looked good to me. It just looked butt hurt.
- DON’T THINK ABOUT YOUR CRITIQUE AND RUIN THE WHOLE DAY. This is the most challenging one. Its one thing to anticipate your critique and prepare yourself. It’s another thing to stew over a bad critique for the entire weekend and ruin the experience. Take your notes, store them away, and come back to them once your mind has cleared. Maybe get drunk that night and go see a friend who knows nothing about the field, but don’t stew in disappointment.
And that’s all I got! I wrote this blog post because I decided to do something that was suggested in my critique. Apparently I succeeded in last years goal of practicing line work because that was one of my strengths with, actually, my traditional pieces. So she wanted me to recreate some images that were digital in watercolor and here’s one she suggested.
These are so different, but I like both! I was told to move away from digital but I’ll take that with a grain of salt. 😉