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Submitted on
March 24, 2012
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This statement is, to be blunt, incredibly stupid. I see it repeated around DevianART and, as bad as it is hearing it from the general public, I have to laugh uproarously when I see it coming from an artist. I usually try to be more diplomatic, but sometimes my inner Snape just can't be contained.  

Here is the reality of the situation. A person who is building a set of skills can improve without feedback of any kind. Through trial and error, a human being can identify their own mistakes and, with honest work, rectify those mistakes. To say that this is not possible is so counter to reality as to be absurd. I could give thousands of examples but I'll just say this:  if it were not for an individual's ability to invent skills from within themselves we would have absolutely no skills to pass on to other people.

Is this a good reason to reject any kind of negative criticism or criticism in general? Does this mean that criticism is useless? Absolutely not. This idea is equally stupid, and while an individual has every right not to listen to criticism, they are giving themselves a big and unecessary handicap. If artistic improvement is the goal, taking in any information, including the input of others, is a very very good idea. It will help the artist get much further much faster than if they worked only out of their own head.  An artist might make a mistake a hundred times before they finally catch on whereas an observer will spot it and point it out immediately,  sparing the artist many hours and much harrass. Having others giving advice saves an artist from having to reinvent the wheel over and over again. This is super valuable.

What actually handicaps an artist the most is avoiding hard work. A person who studies on their own can improve, but only if they approach their own work honestly, see their own mistakes, and fix them. When an artist flounders and does not improve, it is often because they are lazy or frightened of appearing inept and prefer to pretend the mistakes don't exist. It is because they are not studying on their own and not making a serious effort.  Yes, this cowardly approach to making artwork often coincides with rejecting and overreacting to criticism, but it is not the rejecting of criticism that causes them not to improve.  (I'd like to insert a little caveat to say that there are some situations where a person is earnestly trying to improve but just doesn't know where to go next and it is not because they are willfully avoiding learning. In this case, an instructor, or at least a good book, is very useful. I'd like also to say, because there was some confusion in the purpose of my statement, that those people who choose not to improve simply because they do not want to or because they do art as a hobby are not being cowardly.)

On the other hand, those artists who DO accept criticism and utilize it are usually already working hard. The criticism is supplemental, not the sole driving force improving their work.

The danger of tricking artists, especially new artists, into believing that they absolutely need criticism and nothing else is that they spend all of their time hunting (often fruitlessly) for feedback instead of actually working on their art or learning to be serious and critical about their own art. They sometimes become so tied up in what everyone else is telling them that they are eventually divorced from their own artwork until they lose all interest. I have seen a lot of younger artists who have been made positively helpless by the idea that they will improve only through criticism, unable to move forward until someone else tells them what to do, and it's always incredibly sad.  MOST of an artist's time should be spent working very hard, doing serious research, listening and responding to the inner critic. After that, criticism and comments from others is a very helpful bonus that should never be ignored.

I have no problem with people telling artists to learn to accept and use criticism. This is good. Keep it up. But for heaven's sakes, approach the problem with reality in mind.

tl;dr: Think more critically about those threadbare statements that drift around DeviantART and consider the impact of passing on something that is obviously untrue. Be a human; not a parrot.

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:iconfabulouskingsnail:
FabulousKingSnail Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
I know im a few years late on this, but because it's far and few between that I see a perspective on improving without requiring feedback, I'd like to share that I don't ask for critique not because I don't like it, but because I eventually will see my mistakes.
Sometimes I need to sleep on it and look at the piece with fresh eyes and give it time until I can actually see what needs to be edited.
Another reason is perspective i feel. What I see as correct, another person might see it as wrong. Sometimes, I may see a mistake another person can't see or I can't see the mistake another person is talking about.
I feel it's a matter of how we keep an open mind to critique as well.
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:iconkalinereine:
KalineReine Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Professional Writer
Yes, I agree completely. :nod:
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:iconcrypticmachine:
CrypticMachine Featured By Owner Edited Aug 16, 2014  Student General Artist
I am not sure if I agree with this 100%...I don't know where you are getting at and i did read the whole thing. I admit I did get far on my own.Sometimes I need some people to look at my work and tell me what they think..

I can only get so far on my own.I need a fresh pair of eyes.Accepting criticism is important to me.I wouldn't have known what was wrong with my anatomy.

I agree though studying hard and looking at references through trial and error can help.I am my worst critic but,I would at least hear what people have to say.
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:iconhibbary:
hibbary Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Professional General Artist
I'm not saying it isn't good to have artists and other people to help you look at your work from a different perspective. It's VERY good. But a lot of people have made up this really strict narrative that you HAVE to, and you really don't. 
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:iconcrypticmachine:
CrypticMachine Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Student General Artist
Ah, I see.Now I get what you mean now.I honestly didn't get it at first.I misinterpreted somethings,but thanks for clearing that up. I can see what you mean about hard work though it's very important.
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:icontotallydeviantlisa:
TotallyDeviantLisa Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Let this be a lesson to all of us.
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:iconrujiidragon:
rujiidragon Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2013  Student General Artist
I don't think its a problem of not accepting criticism, its a problem of "getting" criticism.
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:iconelmenora:
elmenora Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2012  Student General Artist
The reasoning behind the "accept criticism or never improve" statement is, it seems, to get people to look critically at their own work. If you can accept criticism from others, it means you can accept the idea that you have things to work on... and will then start looking for things to improve all on your own. Criticism doesn't necessarily come only from the outside. The frantic search for someone to give feedback comes in the gap between not accepting any advice and trusting your own eye.


IDK, what really bugs me is when people who ought to be giving criticism (teachers, classmates, etc) don't. I don't expect help from online - especially DA - but if teachers don't give feedback why take a class? Might as well study at home.
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:iconfalcolf:
Falcolf Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Hear hear Hibbary! :)
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:iconanotalenthack:
anotalenthack Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
Accepting criticism doesn't necessarily mean bowing to it.

Yes, an artist MUST be able to accept criticism in order to improve. But sometimes that means ignoring it-- or even better, defying it. :)

An artist's sensitivity is the stuff of legend-- after all, they need such sensitivity in order to create.
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:iconnominus-expers:
Nominus-Expers Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2012
"Be a human, not a parrot." Very good advice.

Something that bothers me about critique is that it's unusual to find someone who is both willing and able to give accurate and constructive criticism. Very few people ever critique my work and find something at fault that I'm not aware of, and among those who have, two individuals stand out. One person never gives me any advice other than that my work "needs more polish", and the other person went over my entire FA gallery and ripped me to shreds; I lost my creative drive for weeks. It was emotionally devastating, and I'm not even sure why anymore, but as a result of all the useless and negative feedback I've gotten I don't usually invite it at all.

It's also worth noting that many people these days don't seem to be all that capable of critical thinking. It's not a skill that's emphasized in the public school system as far as my limited recollection of my education goes, but it's so important, I can't stress it enough. And all you have to do to think critically is apply one maxim to your everyday life: question everything. The key to productive self-appraisal and thus growth is to question whether you're really happy with your work, and to change things if the answer is no; at least, that's what I find. Experimenting is vital. Mistakes are vital. Neither, however, is any good if you can't learn from them.
I hope any of that makes sense x3
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:iconaxisenigma:
AxisEnigma Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Well, I would say constructive criticism is good, but some people are just destructive, and others misinterpret the constructive stuff
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:iconinktiger:
InkTiger Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconclappingplz:
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:iconkai-ni:
Kai-ni Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2012  Student Digital Artist
:iconbravoplz:

Well said. I couldn't agree more, Although I admit I'm guilty of getting upset over crit, I always take it to heart and strive to fix it. It simply bothers me when people crit and make no attempt to be helpful with it... "Your coloring needs work"

Ok...? how so?? I know that, now tell me something useful, ha.
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:iconxjoltix:
xJoltix Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Though drawing is just a hobby for me, some critique is always welcome. There's just some mistakes that I don't see in my own art until I come back later and look at it again.
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:iconsilvertales:
silvertales Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012
THANK YOU!

That said, I take issue with what some people perceive is critique, for there is a difference between criticism and critique. A well-thought out critique that (helpfully) points out weak points as opposed to just slamming on a piece because it is not to someone's taste are two completely different things. Sad to say, most people have no idea how to give a good critique (and most artists have no idea how to USE a good critique.) DeviantArt is actually a prime example. There are plenty of people here who are capable of providing useful critique, but usually don't unless it's specifically requested (fine) and others who simple squee all over stuff (not helpful OR useful) and artists who whine about being attacked when any sort of flaw or error is pointed out in their work.

The heart of the matter is that an artist needs to understand that there is ALWAYS room for improvement and learning.
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:iconlunarflight:
lunarflight Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012
I read your title, I liked it.

I read your first paragraph. I was dubious.

I read the whole rant. I loved it.

Sound advice. Finding good critique is one of the hardest things an artist can do, which means they can't rely on others' opinions to drive their growth.
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:iconyukiseitaookami:
YukiSeitaOokami Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012
My problem is people don't give me enough criticism :'(

But really I don't get why people don't get this!
Reply
:icongraceofbass:
graceofbass Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012
Hm, I'd never really thought about it that way, but you're right. I love to cook and bake, and whenever something doesn't turn out right I figure out how to fix it next time. For me, criticism of my food drags me down so I don't feel like making anything else (thankfully this rarely if ever happens). I can imagine the parallels to art as well, although I'm a complete amateur and no one has ever really critiqued my art. Thanks for the insight.
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:iconmeganbednarz:
meganbednarz Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012   General Artist
What about "An artist is his own worst critic"? ;)
For some reason I always counted my own criticism as a default, or as part of the "must accept criticism" clause. But you make some very good points here, worth telling others. So I'll make sure to mention them!

Actually a while back I got tired of giving criticism to people who were always looking for critique but already knew what they had to fix. I would just tell them "just keep working on it until it's as awesome as you want it to be." Teaching an artist to self-criticize is probably the most valuable thing, from what you've said here. (Like the "teach a man to fish" proverb.) The most critical question: "It feels wrong... WHY does it feel wrong?" Then the artist can discover that by careful analysis (or someone pointing it out), fix it, and improve :)
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:iconchristine-e:
Christine-E Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Criticism about technique or anything else EXCEPT the theme,the subject, is more than welcome. If you like making, let's say fractals, would you stop making fractals because someone told you that fractals are not a cool subject? I had a teacher who had illustrated more than 80 children's books (at least he said so) and I drew an amazon killing another amazon (I was into that stuff back then) and all he commented about was the blood and the subject was too "gore". He should encourage my art, by helping me making it better in technique, color, etc. THAT was his job. To help you express your subjects in a better way, not change subject because he doesn't like it.
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:iconliciandragon:
LicianDragon Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I need to do more honest to God studying with my work and less critique searching ^^; I think I'm at a point now where I truly do not know where to go next though. I can do fine with traditional work but my digital work is lacking, not just with coloring and shading(since it's different than traditional work) but with the whole drawing process in general. I don't know if it's the disconnect with the tablet and computer screen or what. It also doesn't help when you see artists so much younger than you here on DA who are leagues ahead of you in skill. A lot of the critiques I've gotten don't even apply since most people are stating things I've explained within my artists comments. Not to say I'm an exception to any rule but when I've my own species who live in their own world and would have evolved differently than species here, it gets really annoying when people are constantly pointing out things that are "wrong" because they wouldn't work on earth. Sorry I'm ranting.
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:iconkelii:
Kelii Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I wish people would criticize my work, nicely of course. I totally agree with you.
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:iconmuttinkdreams:
MuttInkDreams Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Student General Artist
very good
I approve!
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:iconzyden:
Zyden Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
I dont have issues with crit, just with the people who don't know how to give it properly. I could waste more time trying to sort out the valid feedback from the rubbish, but Id rather be actually drawing.
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:iconjianre-m:
Jianre-M Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012
well said! I've been trying to explain that one for ages!
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:iconenigmaticworld:
enigmaticworld Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks Hib. This clears out some heavy, pessimistic clouds drifting around in my head.
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:iconteavian:
Teavian Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012   Digital Artist
This is so very true! It's good to accept criticism but it's also important to research anatomy and other things on your own! I've been trying to do this more often.
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:iconflowerfreak:
FlowerFreak Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I've only had a couple of helpful critiques (not asking for them but it shows people are interested in trying to help :blushes:) and a couple trolls (both were butthurt art thieves getting back at thief hunters. They hit everybody before their ban). I don't know about others on here, but I do two "types" of art...art that comes from my heart and soul, and art to try to kind of "impress" others. Mine is mostly from the heart...which is why if I know what I'm doing (the art looks that way on purpose, I do have a "style", but I'm trying to improve) and it gets picked apart, I feel they are attacking ME. It takes balls to upload our personal creations anywhere...be it online or in a private gallery. Hell, even a flea market. Because we leave ourselves open to criticism (some we might really need).
This is a far out journal...you hit so many points on the head. :) I do art for myself. If others like it, okay. We're not going to please everyone, and would die if we tried. (I see there is a difference between "critique" and "criticism". One hurts, one helps. :painter:
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:iconpaganfiresnake:
PaganFireSnake Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Professional Photographer
I do not have the critiques enabled and I think I have improved DRAMATICALLY pretty much on my own, just in the short few yrs I have been on dA. Though I always except any suggestions or constructive criticism in the normal comments I don't feel like I need to ask for it. I also feel that everyone has their own style. Someone may post their critique b/c they just don't like the style...giving suggestions that go totally against what the artist likes and is trying to accomplish. So I think it can hurt an artist in that respect too.
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:iconotiar:
Otiar Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Student General Artist
those were wise words - what I need right now :D
I haven't received any criticism in a while which got me worried, but I am going to keep working hard :)
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:icon326andwataru:
326andwataru Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Haha tru Dat!
I write stories, so I'm always hungry for feedback wether its negative or positive XD

Well, criticism is really important to me, because I tend to lack the ability to identify my mistakes or keep overlooking points that I could obviously improve. But I must agree that criticism that points out EVERYTHING is irritating(not that I've got one before) and it is a pain to read through it all.
And yes, those artists that reject criticism. They do exist. "So be it" is my answer and I will move on. Only thing that bothers me with this is that some artists tend to block people in stead of disabling the comment function in the first place D:
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:iconnekofever:
NekoFever Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I would be nodding furiously but you wouldn't be able to see that!

That statement was repeated to me so many times when I was young.
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:iconsilverwerewolf09:
SilverWerewolf09 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
"...What actually handicaps an artist the most is avoiding hard work. A person who studies on their own can improve, but only if they approach their own work honestly, see their own mistakes, and fix them. When an artist flounders and does not improve, it is often because they are lazy or frightened of appearing inept and prefer to pretend the mistakes don't exist. It is because they are not studying on their own and not making a serious effort..."

"...I have no problem with people telling artists to learn to accept and use criticism. This is good. Keep it up. But for heaven's sakes, approach the problem with reality in mind."

These pretty much embody the best parts of this, in my opinion. Otherwise...I have mixed feelings about the post overall.

Given the message, which is a mostly neutral stance on criticism, the title is a bit misleading to me. (DA's title limit lengths I guess.) "Why living off criticism is a trap." would fit it better. Or even better, "Why criticism is needed, but not a replacement for learning and study."
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:iconearthcookies:
EarthCookies Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Well said :clap:

What bothers me a lot with critique is when people write like, entire essays, pointing out every single little thing that's wrong. That's never happened to me but it's something I see every now and then. I also don't like it when it seems to be overly negative. I believe that pointing out at least 1 positive thing is much more encouraging for the artist. I dunno, that's just my opinion.
Reply
:iconmimose-stock:
mimose-stock Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
:clap: totally agree with this
Reply
:iconenyaadiemus:
EnyaAdiemus Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thank you for posting this! I go to an art school now, but before it I was at any regular school where I really couldn't get help. So I decided to learn and improve myself by studying various books and I enjoyed finding my own improvements. Though when I get criticism I don't usually enjoy it unless it is from a teacher or a student above me, which is considered snobby to some.
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:iconmehen:
Mehen Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
This is amazingly well written and very true, however I'm curious.

What about artists who aren't entirely interested in improving because they're artists because they enjoy making art, and want to improve at their own pace if they're going to improve at all from where they are. Is it foolish or wrong of them to not want criticism on their work, or since they don't have an ultimate goal of improvement set for themselves is it acceptable?
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:icon333hf333:
333hf333 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It's normal to want to work by yourself, it is possible, but it's better to accept criticism.
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:iconmehen:
Mehen Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012
But again, the goal wouldn't be to improve, the goal is simply to draw and have fun drawing.
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:icon333hf333:
333hf333 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I find it easier to enjoy drawing if I improve. I guess I'm just weird. :|
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:iconmehen:
Mehen Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012
I suppose so. I just know there's some artists out there who draw to draw because it's fun, and share it because they had fun making it.
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:icon333hf333:
333hf333 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Hm... I guess art is art, and the thing that really goes into it is effort.
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:iconmehen:
Mehen Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012
Yep :>
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:icon333hf333:
333hf333 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
.

I don't know. That just felt like a suitable thing to write.
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:icontimbergray:
timbergray Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
:) So well said! Expertly written piece of logic!
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:iconkampfly:
kampfly Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012  Student Artisan Crafter
i see the point you're making. i always try to offer critique, because i feel like artists seldom get good, focused critique, but i totally agree that by no means should an artist center their work around criticism. critics come from all different backgrounds and angles, and if you try to please everyone, you'll please absolutely no one. i, for one, appreciate comments that are more focused, such as "i love how the lines come together to form [insert good ending here]" rather than "OMG!!!!!!! :+fav:!", (not that i get either of those too often :XD:). i just like a little more thought.


though all comments are welcome *hint hint*
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:iconasatrart:
AsatrArt Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
Here, here :iconkovusmirkplz:
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:iconrinokami:
RinOkami Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
Awesome. Although, I have to say, I really don't understand the "hobby" artists. The ones who say "I don't care about getting better, I just do art as a hobby." How can you not care? If you enjoy doing something, why on earth wouldn't you want to be better at it? Isn't that kinda the whole point?
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:icontimbergray:
timbergray Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2012
As a hobby artist myself, I think I can explain some of it. :) It's not necessarily that we don't want to improve, but more that we're not looking to invest a significant amount of time to do so. Improvement comes through practice, and hobby artists do get practice. It's just more spread out than more driven artists. So we're not doing art with an eye to improve, just to enjoy it. We get better as we go along, but it's not a driving force for us or a goal to obtain quickly. It's just something that happens naturally.

That being said, don't think that all hobby artists ignore constructive criticism. If they read it, it will be in their minds when they're doing their next picture and they may decide to try a few of the options they were given to try. :)
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