Painting of a dead koala

You will never succeed as an #artist without someone to tell you you’re shit.

Painting of a dead koala
Wreck 71cm x 81cm oil on linen, Guy Maestri

You see it on Instagram all the time, artist’s posting their latest work, getting thumbs up and endless praise. None of those followers say ‘You’re shit’ – or very few of them. I’ve seen an endless amount of rubbish being gushed over like it’s the new The women of Algiers.

As artists, our insecurities mean we love praise, we need it, hunger for it, but what we really need is a kick up the arse. Brutal harsh constructive criticism makes us reassess our work – and decide if it’s right or was shit all along.

There’s a great read in this month’s Artist Profile by Elizabeth Fortescue about Guy Maestri and Luke Sciberras. When they think the other’s work is a bit suspect, they say ‘there it is’. It’s a beautiful way of letting the other one know that they might need to rethink.

And when I think about it, this is a critical tradition for all great artists. A necessity. Look at Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and the Reeds. Warhol and Basquiat.

You need someone to give you a kick up the arse when you need it but it needs to be someone who’s within arm’s length. Someone who is under your skin and you value their opinion, no matter how uncomfortable that’s going to be.

The big question for me is how did they find each other? How do we find that person who has the skills and the honesty we need? When we’re beavering away in our studios, how do we find someone to tell us we’re shit?

Do great artists magically gravitate towards each other? How did Maestri, Sciberras and Quilty all end up in this circle of influence with each other? They didn’t study together, they just coalesced like colours on their canvas.

Who is your critical eye? How did you find them? And do you think your work is better for it? I’d love to know!

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