In a previous article, we started our look at the creative mind. We discovered that artists tend to see the world differently than the rest of us. They’re dreamers. They tend to be more emotional. And they have a deeply personal connection to their work. They see little to no distinction between who they are and their artistic endeavors—which is why they often take criticism of their work so personally.

Now let’s take our discussion to a more practical realm and look at some constructive ways to live with your artist.

There are three ways we can react to the truth that there is a highly personal connection between an artist and his work. First, I’ve given you a powerful and dangerous weapon with which you can literally—unintentionally or deliberately—destroy your artistic child’s self-esteem. I sure hope this secret is never wielded in that fashion. Second, you can have the “Aha!” moment that helps you realize why your child, or husband, or friend, or next-door neighbor, responds like he does when you discuss his Art. In his mind, you are not discussing his Art. You are discussing him!

A highly acclaimed author friend of ours once said, “Writing is easy. I simply sit down, roll up my sleeve, and cut an artery. The blood that comes out is the story.” While your budding artist may not have the language ability to verbalize in that way, that’s how every gifted creator I’ve met sees the creation process. 

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, while these comments are likely applicable for all creative people, they are specially being offered in the context of the truly gifted artist, not merely someone who enjoys the pursuit of Art as a hobby. I don’t mean to put artists on a pedestal by any means, but it behooves those of us who live with them to understand that they truly are hardwired in a different way than we are. You can no more stop them from being artists than you can stop a fish from swimming.

With that said, it’s possible to critique an artist’s work in a way that’s geared for receptivity without seeming like you are attacking the artist. In truth, this works well about 90 percent of the time!

Before you can critique the work of an artist, you need to show the artist that you are knowledgeable about his or her medium. “Well, I don’t know why, I just don’t like it” is a guaranteed fail. If you can’t adequately discuss the painting or song or play or design in the context of the Art world, then you probably need to keep your criticism to yourself. 

And that’s one of the reasons I (and all professionals in the Art world) push so strongly the concept that artistic talent needs to be honed under the guidance of already established masters. I’ve eaten at top flight restaurants, and while the meal had some areas that were not perfectly suited to me, my response to the chef was always, “Well done” in the overall context of the meal. I’ll let someone far more knowledgeable about the culinary Arts place his or her finger on what could be improved.

That’s not to say that no parent can ever offer suggestions, but when dealing with a truly talented budding artist, you need to get a professional involved in guiding early on. One more tip in this area is to sit in on the lessons if at all possible. Not to hamper the process, but so that you learn the vocabulary and concepts. Nothing is better than being able to use words like “following the form” or “I like the way it reads” or “seems like the weighting is off” when discussing your child’s work.

Using professional industry-standard language means that you will be communicating with your child in the specific Art language he or she is being taught to understand. It’s much easier for a musician to hear words like “tempo” and “pitch,” as opposed to “you’re playing too fast” and “it sounds too much like a frog.”