One very good method to avoid criticism in general is to steadily improve and polish your craft. This includes learning new things and also maybe new skills that you feel a bit anxious about. It obviously not only broadens your horizon and adds new quality to your work but it also gives you confidence.
Confidence is very important in this industry. If you are insecure about your work and its worth why should anyone else take the time and try to understand and like it? That's at least my take on things.
It is something I try to teach my art students (children from prep to grade 7) every time we get together - we have one very important rule in our little groups and that is not to put yourself or your work down. If you do this and the other kids or myself hear of it it means a certain amount of push-ups for that artist. I am basically just trying to get my students into a habit of appreciating their work in a playful way and so far it has been going quite well. That doesn't mean I don't want them to be critical of their art. In my point of view, however, you can break the habit of putting yourself/your art down by substituting the words "I'm not good at this..." with "I'm not quite happy with this YET...". It's a good start.
Personally, I've felt for quite some time that something was missing in my illustrations. I had a certain idea of how things should look like in the end and they just didn't (but it had absolutely nothing to do with a certain photographer, of this I assure you...) Hence I wasn't as confident about my work any more as I could have been.
My personal nemesis has always been computers and despite the fact that my husband loves to 'cheer' me up with a jolly "The problem usually sits IN FRONT of the computer, not inside it.", I am convinced it's not my fault and that I am forever dealing with technology plotting against me. Computers seek my failure, it's their secret source of energy and when their energy levels reach a certain degree the machines will take over and mankind has to....ok maybe I am exaggerating here. Let me just say computers and I don't exactly complete each other. I had a sneaking suspicion, though, that Photoshop would need to be on my list of skills to learn in order to push my work further. It was time to face my fears!!
Luckily for me, my husband's cousin Gosia and her husband Jarek had just moved from Poland to Brisbane. Gosia is not only one of the most lovely and patient persons I know, she also has a very keen artistic eye - check out her Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/ms.krata/ and she knows how to work with Photoshop. So she taught me. We spent hours together in front of the mean machine aka computer practising Gosia's English and my Photoshop skills whilst consuming crazy amounts of coffee and chocolate. I am pretty sure she will not admit or see it like that, but for me Gosia is one of the key figures in my journey to becoming and being a self-taught illustrator as she has always supported, encouraged and believed in me. That is something you can't measure in chocolate.
Just about around the same time and with my newly acquired Photoshop skills I decided to enter my very first illustration competition, Brisbane's annual CYA conference in 2015. The deadline for the competition and its theme gave me the focus I needed to look for the techniques I wanted to learn in Photoshop for my entry and so it worked quite beautifully. In my next blog I will talk about such conferences in more detail as for me they have proofed to be an immensely precious experience. For now, however, just let me finish here by telling you that I showed Photoshop and technology who's boss as my CYA entry made second place and this (apart from not being defeated by machines and rescuing manind once more from falling prey to technology upsurge...) meant a very big deal to me on so many levels. Most of all it proofed to me the point I made earlier - don't be scared to learn new skills and push yourself through the difficulties that come with it. Use chocolate for help if you must. You will feel stronger and more confident for it afterwards.
Illustration Competition Entry