"Why Are You Hiding? What Are You Holding Back? " She Asked Me--- The Unsolicited Critique

Recently, I asked a revered artist who I admire if she’d mentor me because it was a service she was offering. I was excited to hear she was doing it and jumped on it. I told her I wanted help with the business side of art and needed as much help as I could get with that. When we had our first meeting, she went over everything she could think of about the art business. I was already doing most of it.

Then she turned to my artwork. I told her I didn’t want any help with it. She hinted that maybe, that was the thing that was keeping me from success. I wanted success, so I asked what she meant. Instead of her giving me some brief ideas or a general overview. She went into a long and winding critique of my artwork which amounted to my whole style (illustrative and storybook-like, gothic, fairytale and Alice in Wonderland inspired) was holding me back from the success that I sought after. She gave me suggestions of how to remedy that which amounted to choosing a less-stylized way of doing art and in a more realistic, more emotional way.

Over and over again, she looked at my art and said, “Why are you hiding? What are you holding back?” I left the meeting overwhelmed with grief and pain. I had no idea what she was talking about. I felt traumatized and cried on the floor of my art studio for a good hour.

Do-You-Think-You-Know-Me-Art by Melissa Kojima.jpg

A few days later, I gained some perspective on the matter when I talked to friends about it and they told me to ignore what she said. I began to forgive her and understood that she just didn’t know what I was trying to do. She didn’t grasp what my artistic goals were. That made it easier to let go of the painful things she told me.

A few weeks later, I still have the things she told me nagging at the corners of my mind. Could I do something to push my artwork? I would do it if I knew what it was. Studying my artwork, I noticed one of my patterns: many of my pieces are full of people who are half hidden or only partly seen. Some wear masks. Others are hidden in shadow. Still others have their backs turned to the viewer. I did it to capture the distrust of being seen when you are a stranger in a strange land. I did it to show the need for privacy….at least….my need for privacy in this show-all-tell-all culture. I did it to show it can be hard to trust and it can be hard to get to know someone who has been treated as a stranger her whole life. I wonder if my would-be mentor knew this, if she would have told me anything differently. I don’t know.

This is not the end of my self-doubt about my art. But realizing these things has helped to move on and keep going, keep doing artwork. If you want to see more of my art, please click here.