Hearing Voices Instead Of Solid Critiques From Teachers

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“What do you mean my aureola’s are too aggressive?” Shane Wolf – another great painter and teacher.

I have a friend, Jules Arthur, who is a phenomenal painter. He critiques my work and gives me crazy good advice. The problem is my response. I say things like, “Well, I was going to do that, but then the paint exploded, and went all over my canvas, and this guy fell, and then my shoe became untied, and I had to tie it and then….” And when I was done, he calmly said, “What are you doing?  Why are you giving me excuses?”  

Why is it so hard to hear good constructive criticism?” I hear it from my classmates when genius teachers like Max Ginsburg or Ricky Mujica try to help someone in class and they make a comment like, “Your values are off.   Look at the model, then look at your canvas.” The student then begins to do what I do: argue, make excuses, and sometimes even get defensive.  

Everyone loves Max. He always gives you a little love with each critique.

Overhearing an example of my own behavior in class the other day, I thought to myself, “Why are they doing that?  It’s so clear they’re wrong and they’re just being insecure.”  Yet I do the same thing.  Personally, I think in the flash of an instant while receiving the criticism, “I feel ashamed and embarrassed.”  

“No, really, I’m listening.” Joâo Henrique Brandâo my wonderful MET teacher.








It’s so crazy because everyone in the room is there to learn, and receiving criticism is one of the ways we do so.  Clearly I need to listen to understand, and not to react. Wouldn’t we all be much better painters if we would just do this?

My dad used to tell me, “No one cares about what you are doing, wearing, etc, because they are too busy thinking about themselves and what everyone else is thinking of them.”  Moral of this story: Be your best self for you.  

A workshop with Scott Waddell. He is a beautiful academic painter. My friend Robin
Williamson is a good listener and doesn’t look away or argue. That’s how you get better and she certainly has.




Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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