Category: Musings

These 4 Questions Will Make You a Better Artist

How to use criticism and not let it cripple your creativity

If you’re creating things, at some point you’ll face criticism and how you deal with that can improve and inform the course of your work. Or, it can stop you in your tracks. Here’s how to receive and use criticism and not let it cripple your creativity.

Questions to ask

When faced with criticism of your creative projects, your first reaction is to ask a series of questions. The answers will guide you toward how to evaluate the criticism you’ve received and take the parts that are useful to you.

Did I Ask You?

Did you ask for the feedback? If you’re posting on the internet – anything, anywhere – you’re asking. There’s always someone willing to give their opinion on something that’s available. That includes personal posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, etc. Even if you think it’s private, you’ve still asked for feedback. It can come from surprising places, so be prepared.

Sometimes you show a new project to a friend, your spouse, significant other, mother, father, brother, or sister and the response isn’t as positive as you expected. That happens because you weren’t asking for a critique; you were sharing the excitement of creating.

That unexpected criticism can be shocking. The lesson for creators is that sharing something with someone who isn’t accustomed to giving knowledgeable feedback may be less than helpful. Knowing this can help you judge when and how to show your work.

What Do You Know?

Is this person qualified to give a useful criticism? While it’s nice to hear that someone loves your work and thinks it’s pretty – sometimes that may only be because it’s blue and that’s their favorite color. Worse is when they hate it because you’ve created a large abstract canvas and they really don’t understand abstraction.

Useful feedback generally comes from someone with knowledge in related areas. That doesn’t mean you can only get help from an art major, but judge the feedback against the expertise.

If your friend the graphic designer notes that your abstract canvas composition is static – that comment has merit even though she’s not a painter because design principles still apply. If your brother-in-law the attorney says he thinks it looks like something his kid could do and is too red – that comment isn’t so helpful.

What’s Your Agenda?

Does this person have an emotional interest? Friends and family often aren’t objective. While they may, or may not, have your best interests at heart, they can be working from their own agenda. Sometimes they aren’t even aware of their internal conflict over your work.

Less connected people are more helpful because of the lack of attachment. That’s not always the case but it’s best to be careful when soliciting advice and criticism from close friends and family.

Does This Make Sense?

Is any part of the criticism accurate? There can be a kernel of truth in even the most vague or mean spirited comment, but it’s up to you to find it. This part of using criticism is tricky because it requires you to be objective about your own work. One way it is to put the project, and the criticism, aside for a while and let it rest.

When you return, you’ll have a better distance from both and be able to discern the parts of the work that need attention and if the criticism has merit.

What do I do Now?

What do you feel is worth pursuing? Not every criticism, valid or otherwise, is worth altering your work for.

Some things correct themselves over time with practice and development such as message and voice. Others may be a part of your personal stylistic imagery such as rough sketchy drawing or particular images you use.

However, issues that hinder the development of your work need attention. These include working to improve your drawing skills or developing a more cohesive approach to color theory and management.

The balance is in choosing areas that strengthen your work rather than alter it to fit a particular perspective. My experience has been that deepening skills and knowledge is the way to improve rather than focusing on superficial issues like a particular color or style.

Have you had an encounter with unexpected or unfounded criticism? I’d like to hear how you handled it!

Quotes to Add Fuel to Your Creative Fire:


Fast Tips for Crisp Stencil Edges

I just got a great question via email and having sent the answer off, thought you might like to hear it too.
The question was about how to get crisp edges when using stencils and did I have any tips?
My Answer:
I’ll make an assumption that you’re having a problem with the edges when you use paint with a stencil – that’s the most common medium that causes problems. My experience has been there are two things that may be at fault: the application tool being too wet and the stencil moving around.
First, the application tool. Paint is inherently wet and stenciling is an inherently dry art form – thus the smudgy edges. I’ve found that using a sponge applicator (either a cosmetic wedge or special purpose sponge brush) is a better way to apply paint. Brushes are difficult to get dry enough and often “push” the paint under the stencil edges.
The trick with using a sponge is to dip it into the paint and then dab most of it right back off until the sponge is barely damp with paint. Then gently tap it onto the area straight up and down. Of course, it may take more than one coat to get the color build-up you want, but the edges will be crisp and, personally, I like the look of the differences in coverage – it gives the work a more lively quality.
Second, the stencil itself. If the stencil moves while you’re painting, the edges will smear. If you’re working on a project that allows, go ahead and tape the edges of the stencil down with low-tack blue tape. That will keep everything in place for the duration of the project.
But, if you’re like me and move that stencil around to get different angles, that won’t work. In that case, I hold the working area down firmly with one hand (up close to where I’m working) and apply paint with the other. One other tip with this is to gently twist your wrist as you lift the sponge so it doesn’t pull the stencil up with it. It takes a few times of practicing but it really does keep that stencil down so the edges stay secure. Finally, be sure to wait long enough before picking the stencil back up – it shouldn’t be long at all if the application was dry enough.
Now, this is just my experience and your results may vary – do you have something that’s worked for you?
Try out your stencil technique with this Paper Lantern Stencil in the shop!

Happy Friday – Special Digital Printable Card Bundle – Alice, Shells and Florals

Happy Friday – Special Digital Printable Card Bundle – Alice, Shells and Florals

Happy Friday!

It’s time to share this week’s bundle special. I heard you saying that a weekend wasn’t long enough, so special bundles will now be available for the whole week.

This pretty bundle has all your favorites on printable cards ready to make your journal and papercraft projects special. Each one is ready to print on letter size paper, then just cut them out and embellish!

You get all three card sets for the price of two! Best of all, they are ready to download immediately – no waiting!

Introducing the Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program

Shiny Designs Designer Program

The Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program

If you’re a digital designer interested in stepping up your game, the Shiny Designs Designer Debut Program is for you. Don’t worry, you don’t need a ton of experience packaging and selling your designs – you just need mad design skills and a passion for learning.

As a member of the Designer Debut Program, you’ll learn how to plan product collections, workflow tips and tricks, how to perfectly package the actual product, marketing and promotion ideas and so much more from a successful, experienced designer. No more fumbling around in the dark, wondering if you’re doing it right.

Best of all – you’ll earn an industry standard commission on your sales! You’ll get a monthly payment for your skills and talent. Just head on over to the Designer Program Information Page to learn more and sign up!

Nervous About Sharing Your Art?

Don’t be nervous about sharing your art – we’re all friends here.

It can be scary to share your art – especially if you’re just starting out. I want you to have the joy of creating and sharing without the fear of negativity, so I made a place for that.

Come join the Shiny Designs Creative Team .  It’s for art and journal enthusiasts of all types and skills.

It’s designed to be a welcoming place to share and expand your creative work as well as be the first to see new products and get special discounts as part of a private group.

I’m personally involved and will be answering questions and keeping an eye on things.

Just go to this page, enter your email address and click submit. Then, you’ll receive an email with the link to the private Facebook group and your first discount code for 10% off the entire shop.

We’re just getting started, but don’t wait – we’re making art right now and would love to see you!