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Whose Opinion Should You Trust? Many Artistic Mentors

Neve Rechan

I was introduced to my creative side by my mother, who handed me crayons and a sketchbook on a snow day in first grade. Although I admired her ability to draw and paint, she never pressured me to please her with my art. I created whatever my tiny little hands felt like doing.

In high school, I started receiving opinions on my artwork from art teachers, friends, and my parents. I started having trouble connecting to my own ideas. I was clouded with doubt that my art was not going to be considered ‘good’ by my art teachers.

As I develop as an artist, I am fortunate to have so many artistic mentors who have a large say in what I create. Some of my art teachers have been extremely technical, some are conceptually based, and others are a mix of both.

I have had art teachers that have been so specific about how realistic my drawings had to be, and some who were only concerned with the conceptual ideas behind my pieces. Although it is great to have access to so many opinions, it can be difficult to know whose opinion I should trust.  

In the past, I have had mentors show me art techniques which they said would make my portfolio “impressive.” Later, I studied with professors at universities and colleges, who told me that those same pieces were not good to include.

Mixed Media Collage, Neve Rechan
Digital Illustration, Neve Rechan

I used to paint on T-shirts, jeans, and other clothes, which I sold in a big pop up shop. Junior year, I thought to myself,  ‘Wow! Art schools are going to think this work is great’, but I was wrong. I showed the work to one of my teachers, who was a college professor, and she said that the work wasn’t doing much artistically, because really, anyone can paint on clothes. To get more sophisticated, I needed to make the clothes myself first, and then paint them.

So that’s  what I did. I created my own clothing and fashion designs.  I used silk screen to show my style in a unique way. Although I was disappointed that all of my hard work in junior year was not going to be beneficial to my portfolio, I am beyond happy that I was able to get advice from my teacher, who had the best insight on the basis of my portfolio.

I have had to decide who to really listen to, and in what situations. For example, I am taking AP Art, and my art teacher recommends that I do five pieces that all combine one central theme in order to get the highest mark. Since my work is being graded, I need to create what is being asked for.  Although being marked can be tedious, I actually love having guidelines! I am still a young artist, so sometimes I need some help to come up with bigger and greater ideas.

I really appreciate the opinion of my art teachers, because if I work on something for a long time, I become biased and I cannot even point out what is wrong with the piece. In a drawing class, I was assigned to create a self portrait out of charcoal. I worked over eight hours on this specific piece, but I needed my teacher to tell me that my neck was too thin. I looked back on the drawing, and my neck did in fact look like a giraffe!

I have also had some teachers who are not able to adapt to my personal way of working.  Instead, they try to make me change my art style. Working on some of fashion designs for my portfolio, one of my teachers wanted me to change the cut of my pants and add some crafty jewelry. Although these ideas were cool, they just weren’t my style. I felt awkward disagreeing and dismissing her ideas, but I realized that my clothes are here to show what I like, not what she likes.

Despite disagreeing with some art teachers, I learn different things from each one. I have learned how to take critique with a grain of salt and use it as constructive criticism, instead of a negative comment. If I am having trouble deciding if an opinion is worth trusting, I can simply consider what the person is saying and then take it or leave it.

Neve Rechan

Recently, I had an instructor who I respected very highly, yet they were so specific about aspects of my work that I began to feel constricted. If anyone in the class had a fingerprint or scratch on our graphic design posters, or any other project papers, we would immediately receive 5 % off our mark. Instead of beating myself down when I received lower grades than usual in this class, I decided to use it as a learning opportunity. The class helped me become more of a perfectionist (I am usually incredibly messy), yet at the same time, I did not consider myself a ‘horrible artist,’ if I had one smudge.

Technically, no one has a better knowledge of my art than me. Rather than picking which artistic mentor has a better opinion than another,or ranking their academic degrees, I use each teacher’s opinion to the extent that it is helpful. I cannot let one person, no matter who it is, declare that my artwork is good or bad. I can consider all recommendations and decide on my own what will help me become a better artist. In the end, what is most important is that I am creating art for the same reasons I always have: to share my emotions, thoughts, and intent with my audience. With that, I know I can always be proud of what I create.

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