This Is Why Artists Need Criticism.

How my painting rose to great heights.

It’s my turn.

My stomach ties in knots as my teacher and classmates stare at my 3 ft by 4 ft painting.

Am I ready for this?

A classmate finally speaks, placing her hand halfway down the canvas, 
“You have two paintings here. This top portion of your piece is excellent. This is you. But the bottom half is a different artist.”

The feedback starts weighing heavily on me.

What? Only half my painting is good? I feel as if I’ve wasted half my time.

I cringe inside as she points out parts of the painting she doesn’t understand.

“It just doesn’t fit with the rest.”

The others nod in agreement.

I want to crawl into a hole. Better yet, I want to throw my painting into a hole.

Finally home, I let my tears fall. I need a bucket to hold them all.

I place my painting on the easel and consider painting over it. I’m tired of looking at it. This piece that took hours to create. This piece that I liked, till I heard the critique.

What was I thinking? I feel embarrassed. All I can think about is my wasted time, and paint.

Fast forward two months

It’s February, when ArtPop announces they are looking for artists again. It’s a contest where the winners get their art displayed on billboards in certain cities. Peoria, Illinois is one of them.

Nonchalantly, I decide to show my artist friend my “failed painting.” I don’t disclose the negative feedback. I don’t tell her anything.

I’ve been hiding my painting from everyone. But I could trust Dana.

“You should enter this into that ArtPop contest,” she tells me, without me mentioning the contest at all.

Is she serious?

Now it’s just a few days before the deadline of the contest. I pace back and forth.

My mom nudges me, “You should enter.”

“Mom, it’s $20.00, and I don’t have the money.”

“Then put it on your card, this is an investment,” she says.

I walk away promising to think about it.

Well, the top part of my painting is about the right size for a billboard… Maybe I could just send in the top part.

Almost time

It’s the day before the deadline. My heart is racing as I think about hitting the submit button.

I decide this might be something I regret if I DON’T try. So I hit submit, kissing my $20.00 goodbye.

A week goes by, and I’m checking my email.


“Congratulations! Your entry, A Windy Day, is one of the winners of ArtPop 2017!”

My mom is about to burst, but I am cautious. “Mom, don’t get excited,” I tell her, “Maybe it’s not true…”

June 13th. Tears fill my eyes as I watch two men on a scaffold stretch my painting across a 48 foot billboard. The very piece I wanted to hide, is now displayed for all of Peoria to see.

Adams Outdoor Advertising setting up my billboard.
20 second video, driving past the billboard one night

What I learned

We have to take risks.

We need to listen to feedback from others.

Half a bad painting is not a reason to throw it out.

Criticism is important, even if it hurts.

What about you?

What mistakes have you made that eventually worked out?

Do you have successes that dressed as failures?

Writing is just one thing I do.

If I’m not behind my camera, I’m probably messing with charcoal or paint.

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