The other day a very talented writer wrote me asking for some feedback regarding his recent work. I kind of liked the response I gave him and decided to share a portion of it here…

“I kinda thought I was being a bit pushy on people with my feedback? Never quite sure if it’s welcomed or not? In LA, Jay later got on me and said I was being an asshole to you when we were discussing aspects of your piece. I didn’t realize I was? I guess I can be aggressive or overly enthusiastic with my opinions.. but I never mean to insult. I just get so tired of the blah comb over comments. Everything is described as “cool” or “looks good” never any real digging or anything to build off of. People prefer to wait for a hand to lead them out. Out to a neutral way of being, just a few steps behind someone who is winging it. A lot can be said with a straight face.

Most people don’t offer up any solid opinions. It’s like I force it out of people and they respond out of guilt. I wish more people would comment on my own work. Outside eyes offering a fresh perspective is great, even if disagreeable. You never quite know if something truly works, if people are just being nice. The thought that “it’s cool” has been pushed on you for so many years that it really isn’t? It’s outdated or lacks the genuine connection you had to your work ten years ago? That constant doubt IS a good thing. That feeling of boredom in your routine/habit IS a necessary ingredient for growth. When committed to the same, for so long, it’s all about the perverse ingredients, the odd or wrong, the mind fucking opposites that you avoided all your life. Going to that because you have been afraid of it. A good artist isn’t concerned about looking bad. A good artist is unapologetic… A straight face goes a long way.

So, does the above help in any way regarding the attached pieces? What I’m getting at is the idea of letting your emotions do all the work. Painting with attitude or enthusiasm is easy when you are moved or excited about what you are doing. As a master of your craft, it’s no longer about marrying yourself to the standard. Breaking rules, breaking your own moral guidelines and laughing about it because it’s so wrong! Not being afraid and pulling an emotion is key. At your stage and at your level of talent, there is no point in painting something that makes you feel nothing. It is more exciting to destroy the piece in some fashion then to leave it as a drop in the bucket.”

16 thoughts on “WHAT DO YOU THINK?

  1. this is cool. ha just kidding. I understand what you mean, it doesn’t give you real feedback to think about doing it differently or to challenge yourself and others further–Evolving, Constructive criticism, et al. We had this convo no? hehe

  2. Glad you made a post like this. The “cool piece” comments are in full blast mode on flickr.
    People don’t really look into the piece, and if you do drop a non conformist comment, people get all sensitive and what have you.

  3. I’m always happy to take criticism from writers that are better, or have been writing longer than me. It doesn’t make sense for people to be ultra-sensitive about an art that is constantly evolving. Either evolve and progress along with it, or fade away. Hold true to the roots of the art form, but exploration should always be encouraged.

    I would gladly take a RIME critique any day of the week. Bet your ass I’d learn a thing or two just from having my ‘best’ piece torn apart by one of the best writers in the game.

    • @trudust Good for you! I am very impressed. wow ironic too, i just had this conversation recently [though it was under a different topic — jealousy vs envy]. I gave similar feedback to yours saying that
      I kind of enjoy when someone out-does me (i.e. work, creativity, etc.) I respect a persons will to evolve in challenging themselves and others. we’d most likely remain in homeostasis and die out if there weren’t beautiful people like that. Plus it gives me something new to learn.

  4. Jersey Joe,

    Great passage. I did not read the post of the original critique, although I do believe we need more constructive criticism.

    Critique is necessary and unfortunately, as you stated so eloquently, it rarely ever happens. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone told me the the piece I just painted was “fresh”, “ill”,”dope”, or whatever other adjective countless people have uttered throughout the years. The positive feedback becomes mundane (especially when you know the piece is not up to par)- this provokes complacency. The constant stroking of one’s ego inhibits growth as an artist; at least in my case it did. I realized that I was just bouncing along in the graff world reproducing similar work as all the writers who came before me. With my peers repeatedly telling me that my letter style was “fresh”, it left me spinning my wheels continually rehashing past styles. It seems as though we are so concerned with hurting someone’s feelings that we rarely give any honest feedback; I am guilty of this crime, as well. I believe this ultimately slows down the natural evolution of our chosen passion, graffiti.

    In the past year or so I decided to move away from traditional graffiti. I stopped painting letters and started painting character-based work on freight cars only (mostly top to bottom scale). Forcing myself to think outside of the box has provided the spark I needed to evolve as an artist and has reignited passion towards my work that I haven’t felt since I first started writing. After having read the preceding passage, I wonder if I would have tried pushing the boundaries of graffiti 10 years ago had there been any true critiques instead of, “damn that piece is ILL” or “that hot pink border really makes it pop!”.

    5, MSG

  5. I think the final comment about better to risk losing your work to failure than playing safe and never going anywhere or being anyone is pretty interesting. For people who’s work is part of them that’s a really hard step to take (not to mention those who live in expensive countries and pay for every drop of paint they use!!).

    However if you never take that risk you take away the possibility to progress and the chance of greatness. Interesting thoughts, mate, thanks.

  6. Couldn’t have said it better…sometimes the truth hurts but is what allows us to grow. flickr is funny when it comes to this yet i dont think it is for critique… hmm what is it for?

  7. Thanks for sharing. I wish there was more of a forum for real graffiti criticism.
    I think real criticism is appreciated when asked for and it sounds like it was asked for. I like that Flickr for the most part is positive. It’s good for the community. I think it’s the kind of place where a quick respectful comment is welcome and a public criticism can cause unneeded beef.

  8. I thought the link below is an example of just what you’re talking about. But your response was quite the contrary. Although the comment could have been worded a little better, it was just someone’s opinion.


  9. Personally speaking, it’s your unapologetic honesty, head-strong ways and clear sense of individuality that I really enjoy about you as a person. People take it wrong sometimes but interaction is like that – we all have our own baggage. Life, like art is boring if it’s all agreeable all the time…

  10. flickr, the place to troll for positivity, big up your friends, graffiti hand jobs and pier recognition. because lets face it, with out all that your nothing. if you dont have 50plus comments under your photo your not cool5 and if your not cool5 your not doing it right!

  11. As a young writer, hearing “that’s cool” or “that’s nice” amongst my peers is extremely annoying. Yes, we may be crew, but that doesn’t give someone the obligation of being nice and saying something sugar-coated. I enjoy thorough criticism.. so much that i have sent pieces to established writers in the game via their website. Also, when I do hear that’s cool, it leads me to believe that there is something more to that opinion,but that person does not want to go into depth about that comment for the sake of my feelings? All in all, criticism makes one’s work exponentially better because there will always be an interesting idea tossed about.

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