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Author Topic: From the Big House to the Outhouse  (Read 22768 times)
dbell
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« Reply #20 on: November 22, 2006, 12:18:54 PM »
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Something about the article that hasn't been discussed much here: the association between success and money.

I think there's a lot of validity to the idea that an artist needs to keep himself distanced from people who will criticise his work based on its financial "success." I have personally encountered people who will say "What makes you think you're a good artist if you aren't mkaing lots of money doing it (for whatever THEIR value of "lots" is...)?."

 IMO, this sort of remark isn't actually criticism in any valid sense, and it CAN be destructive to someone who isn't confident enough in their work to brush it off.


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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2006, 12:19:56 PM »
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Ultimately I think an artist needs to get to the point where they recognise what is good about their work and what isn't so they can be their own critic.
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I think this was part of Pete's point.  I think the other part was that art is a communication of what the artist feels or felt and hence the artist his/herself is probably the best critic to decide if the work has actually succeeded in that...
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« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2006, 12:45:35 PM »
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I think this was part of Pete's point.  I think the other part was that art is a communication of what the artist feels or felt and hence the artist his/herself is probably the best critic to decide if the work has actually succeeded in that...
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Jack, because communication is normally bi-directional one measure of success needs to be the impact on the "communicatee". That much said, there is an underlying question about whether ALL art necessarily needs to communicate something to anybody. There is art that is intended to communicate, and art that is done for its own sake - say exercises in formal structure which communicate nothing more than a concept of a formal structure. In the latter case, successful communication is a non-issue, but not in the former.
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« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2006, 01:58:28 PM »
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Somehow a person has to improve, and it often takes other people looking at their work and offering feedback to do that.  At some point though, that person needs to find their own way, and criticism will probably not be much help.

I agree. At start you should have some guidance to point out obvious errors you are too inexperienced to notice. On the other hand if you after ten years of active shooting let people at forums and clubs tell you how you will shoot next time, you have missed the point totally, at least in my opinion.

Most experienced photographers can point out a few flaws and room for improvment on their own work. And you can bet they are not asking my opinion for modifications either..

Learning by shooting and looking for the opportunity is the name of the game. There are propably 1000000 different opinions of how this one should have been  cropped, lighted or composed better, but you got it *your* way and got the best of what the situation allowed. If you are considering every sound looking advice, your work can get very sound, but it propably will not be looking your work anymore.

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I see circles of photographers where work is put up for comment, and over time the end result is that all of their pictures look the same.  A lot of critcism is the critic telling you how to make your picture look like their picture, and that isn't really helpful.

I agree even more. For a total novice they are good places to get rid off the grand errors and understand basics. After you have looked around a while, it is better run away and go somewhere else. Nothing is more hilarious than a going on competition of whose work will most please the forum big guys.


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Rob C
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« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2006, 02:34:37 PM »
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Good article, Pete, but perhaps published in the wrong space. On the other hand, perhaps published in just the right space.

I think that it comes down to the individual 'artist' and his own sense of self-worth whether or not he choses to subject himself to criticism from others. I also believe that it makes a great difference if the 'artist' is in the amateur, as opposed to the professional world. Why so? Possibly because the amatuer has an interest in the opinions of his peers whilst the professional probably has not - his interest lies in the opinions of his market, something usually very different.

Before I became a pro I had a very brief flirtation with a camera club as a means to using a darkroom; the experience was not memorable in the finer sense: I was criticised, at least my photography was, for looking too 'commercial' (something I vaguely remember having mentioned here before) and I sensed at a very early stage that there was little common ground. Anyway, my heroes were clearly defined in my own mind and I knew it was going to be a little harder than just tough to join them. And no, in my own estimation I never did get to their stratospheric level of fame/achievement /money (but who really knows about the latter?) and whatever success I did have kept me and my wife and kids alive, housed and well fed if it didn't quite make it to the satisfaction of my own ego.

So what does this mean? I think it means that we are, indeed, our own best critics and also that we do not all march to the same drummer and nor can we. We may like, even obsess to similar visual ideals but that's about as homogenised as we can get - our personalities take care of that and the end product of our working is always something other than a copy of whatever has inspired us. Even blatant plagiarism doesn't always get close to the spirit of the exercise in plagiarism!

Pete, I think you are right; you speak from a pro point of view and that is going to be different to the view of a teacher whose remit is something else; different, again, to the view of a wannabe. I do believe you have to close your ears to the blandishments of the rest of the world, you have to follow your star or just sit down and watch television...

Ciao, and thanks for the article.

Rob C
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NeilFiertel
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« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2006, 02:48:23 PM »
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regarding The Big House

The writer is an artistic conservative. That we knew before the article.. from the series of images posted over the years..he is also clearly has a very thin skinned artistic temperment. His friends and admirers seem to suffer that dermatological problem as well if they agree that art schools universally suffer from a wet blanket syndrome.
Criticism is not a wet blanket...it is how one learns to be a better artist, poet, writer and so forth...being a friend to an artist is to to give them a true appraisal of the good and the not so good...anything else is patronising and worse, working against that person's improvement. A fine art instructor gives both the positive, if that exists, and the negative in as fair a manner as one can. Being human, one can give the colleague or student artist one's perceptions based upon experience along with context, other artists to look at, ask questions about intent and try to help the student or colleague to visualise more clearly or understand their own intentions more coherently...nothing more. A professor of art based upon my long and close professional experience with colleagues try to do much the same. They are not wet blankets, but they might very well rain upon the parade of egoistic types such as this author.
He would not prosper in an art school as he clearly has his way or the highway. Cosed minds do not expand with new ideas and those who lack the courage to grow and the humility to listen to other artists.
One must try to hone one's artistry to a higher level through feedback, positive and negative. Without this one will stagnate and do nothing really to push the art anywhere other than where it was in 1880. Alas..but it is harmless for the most part other than the defensiveness of the attitude. It is sad, really, to write off the hard work of teacher/ artists who choose to give back to their society with their immense knowledge and abilities as wet blankets. As a retired professor of nearly 40 years I can say that I have had the pleasure of many, many students of years past thank me for my honesty and integrity and, in turn, I bow to my teachers long dead for their dedication to me. They gave me critiques that could and did feel painful at the time but from them I became able to objectively look at my work and I believe improve it. I still give and receive crits from colleagues. I welcome honest critiques of my work and learn from it to this day. Artists do this. It is a normal thing and it is a fine way to sharpen one's ideas and keep them fresh. They are not always positive but they are always honest. It is a tradition that goes back thousands of years. Perhaps not the only way to learn to make art but surely a valid one. I better go out and hang up my blanket for the next call.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2006, 04:51:26 PM by Chrissand » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2006, 03:17:32 PM »
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The problem with the article is that it's more of a rant than an essay, and, like most rants, seems to be fired by anger rather than logic. For example, how can the author have known scores of artists who had the creativity choked out of them as students? Did they somehow get their creativity back (so it wasn't actually choked out of them, but simply misplaced?) Or were they wannabe artists who now claim the creativity was choked out of them (and if that's the case, how do you know that they had any in the first place?)

There's a difference between teaching and criticism. A good teacher is priceless, even if some of the teaching is couched as criticism. Though I've never really been a teacher, I've had several good ones. And if you don't have the simple courage to blow off pointless, irrelevant criticism, how are you going to make it as an artist, even if it's only in your own eyes? I have a feeling most good artists represent what's left after the bullshit has been burned off.

As to Bernard's comment about the way of the bow, the Zen-related arts incorporate some of the harshest, most unrelenting criticism to be found in any teaching system on the face of the earth. One of the fundamentals of most Asian art systems is that the student has a lot learn before he/she can become truly expressive. A master's art might be simple, but he'd never be mistaken for a beginner. The one thing they do have in common is freedom; the beginner is free because of his ignorance, the master is free because of his learning.

Americans/Europeans, on the other hand, have in the past few decades seemed to take the view that intention is good enough, and if one is sincere about his/her art, then it's art, no matter how poor the underlying skills or how little vision is involved. I disagree with that point of view. Genuinely valuable art is the result of unrelenting work.

JC
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pss
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« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2006, 04:34:08 PM »
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it is the right of the artist to put out his art the way he/she wants it...it is the right of the audience to have an opinion and it is also their right to share this opinion....
it is up to the artist how to deal with this opinion and how to read it.....
art is about evoking an opinon...but saying "i want you to only respond positive to this" is completely ridiculous....
is an artist without an audience an artist?

i think that most high end art galleries around the world laugh all the way to the bank if some "regular people" wonder in, look at a canvas with paint splattered on it, say to themselves "my kid can do better" and leave....and that canvas is by some "important" artist and sells for one million....does that make it art? are the "ignorant people" stupid or really smart?
the art world is full of smaller markets and you have to know how to play them if you want to succeed....does not matter if you sell your prints on the boardwalk or at the hippest gallery in chelsea...
but either way you have to face critics....anyone looking at your work is a critic, if they tell you or don't....the important thing is to get the important critics in your market on your side....

there is nothing worse then your aunt looking at a photo you have up on the wall and says "how nice"...or even worse, your uncle (who owns a camera) starting to talk about the technical merits or what f-stop you were shooting at....they obviously did not get the "feeling" or "essence" or whatever "makes" a shot and it is up to you to put that reaction into perspective....do i care what they say? are they my audience? more wine please!
if you can't handle what people might say, don't put it up....
there is nothing better IMHO then good, hard, constructive critizism... hard to find but essential to   artistic development...  

about teacher and art:
i don't think you can teach art..teaching art is opening peoples mind to the world and teaching how to look at things in a different way, which can be anything from how to cook to how to fix an engine....looking at all the art books in the world will not make you an artist....
but technique can be taught and makes the difference between a lucky accident and a thought out concept with a certain technique applied which gets a point across (and makes the artist marketable for gallerists)
but like picasso said: it took me 5 years to learn how to paint like rembrandt, but it took me 30 years to learn how to paint like a child (i apologize if i butchered the quote, the meaning stays the same) of course it easy for picasso to say that, he had very serious technical training....
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Ken Tanaka
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« Reply #28 on: November 22, 2006, 05:02:12 PM »
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The problem with the article is that it's more of a rant than an essay, and, like most rants, seems to be fired by anger rather than logic. [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86626\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
It is indeed more of a stream-of-consciousness "rant" than a carefully constructed essay.  The threads of money and insistence that artistic value does not equate to financial reward are also woven deeply throughout the piece.  I do not know Mr. Myers or his situation but I couldn't help wondering if we weren't actually eavesdropping on a self-lecture conducted through the keyboard.

"Financial success" eludes most artists I've known.  At some point, usually well before middle-age, life's realities usually sublimate higher objectives in favor of a more comfortable and predictable life.   What many, maybe most, artists seem not to realize or to acknowledge is that the art world has a very well established business structure.  Behind every "financially successful" artist is an aggressive, savvy, well-connected gallery owner and/or agent arranging public and private showings, planting articles, and generally creating opportunities to build a long-term market for the artist.  

One of the many, but essential, keys to establishing a productive relationship with such a person is, frankly, not to be a prick.  Be honest, be creatively interesting, perhaps be quirky, always be flexible and open-minded.  But there are just too many talented, marketable "artists" out there for a gallery owner or agent worth a darn to put up with a nauseating egocentric.  (I am not suggesting that Mr. Myers fits such a profile, just making this general observation.)  Of late I've come into contact with more and more gallery owners and museum curators, many or whom seem to have many "gee, s/he is talented but impossible to deal with" stories.
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« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2006, 05:24:23 PM »
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Jack, because communication is normally bi-directional one measure of success needs to be the impact on the "communicatee". [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86608\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Fine, but on whose time scale does that communication need to take place???  I use the cave paintings in Chauvet Pont d'Arc as one example.  They were painted thousands of years ago and who knows why.  Maybe they were nothing more than bored cave-kids winter kindergarten work...  Regardless, today they are protected and viewed as very significant art treasures.

Another more contemporary example might be Van Gogh. He sold like one painting while he was alive and for the most part his work was scorned by the critics of the day as childish and unimaginative.  A little over a hundred years later now and we all know how that story ended...
« Last Edit: November 22, 2006, 05:31:07 PM by Jack Flesher » Logged

BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #30 on: November 22, 2006, 06:55:30 PM »
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Hi Bernard,
Good point. It is one of the foundational aspects of effective teaching.
Can you expand on that, in particular on how you see "the way of the bow" applied to photography?

Thank you.

Alain
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Alain,

OK, I'll give it a try. This is only my personnal understanding based on a limited knowledge of both photography and Kyuudou. Just a step along a multi-dimensioned learning curve.

Kyuudou (made up of 2 Chinese characters kyuu - the bow - and dou - the way), usually called Japanese archery in English, attempts to reach the effortless achievement of a perfect form.

One of the reasons why it is the "way" of the bow, is because the important part is more in the learning process that can result - or not - in reaching that perfect form.

I feel that the whole process pertains to photography at 3 levels at least:

- The personnal nature of the experience mostly away from any competitive aspect,
- The metrics used to measure excellence is essentially the true piece of mind that lets one express himself beyond the mastery of technique. The outcome is a naive genious that produces amazing work in a "natural", intuitive way. Using another analogy, a rainmanlike approach to performance where an extremely complex task end up being synthetized in a fraction of a second,
- Teaching is an essential part of learning in Kyuudo, even beginners that have started just a few weeks ago are already encouraged to teach to others. I feel that in photography also, teaching helps learning in that teaching requires a certain form of formalization that helps taking "luck" out of the equation.

Obviously, it would be possible to draw such parallels between kyuudo and other domains besides photography, but I have always found the connection itself to be rather natural.

Cheers,
Bernard
« Last Edit: November 22, 2006, 06:58:02 PM by BernardLanguillier » Logged

A few images online here!
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« Reply #31 on: November 22, 2006, 08:30:50 PM »
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I feel that the whole process pertains to photography at 3 levels at least:

- The personnal nature of the experience mostly away from any competitive aspect,
- The metrics used to measure excellence is essentially the true piece of mind that lets one express himself beyond the mastery of technique. The outcome is a naive genious that produces amazing work in a "natural", intuitive way. Using another analogy, a rainmanlike approach to performance where an extremely complex task end up being synthetized in a fraction of a second,
- Teaching is an essential part of learning in Kyuudo, even beginners that have started just a few weeks ago are already encouraged to teach to others. I feel that in photography also, teaching helps learning in that teaching requires a certain form of formalization that helps taking "luck" out of the equation.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86648\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Bernard,

Thank you.

Alain
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #32 on: November 22, 2006, 09:44:30 PM »
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Photographer/writer Roger Hicks has a great line in one of his books on the subject of exposing oneself to criticism. The gist of it is that it's fun to produce stuff that pleases you personally, but eventually it's time to "lift your head above the parapet". Only by seeing if your work can withstand the scrutiny of a visually/photographically sophisticated audience will you ever know if...well, if it's any good, or if it's crap. We are often lousy judges of the quality of our own work. Its ability to survive informed criticism, or even attract some praise, is a powerful incentive to keep improving. Just because my work makes me feel good is no indication that I'm on to anything.
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« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2006, 12:25:21 AM »
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Just because my work makes me feel good is no indication that I'm on to anything.

I thought that this was the very idea and utmost goal in amateur photography: to feel good about your pictures and the process? Personally I don't want to feel bad about my work, nor alter my style more acceptable for critique forums.
If you are working pro looking for an assignment or going to enter into high-art gallery society, I understand your point.

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Another more contemporary example might be Van Gogh. He sold like one painting while he was alive and for the most part his work was scorned by the critics of the day as childish and unimaginative.  A little over a hundred years later now and we all know how that story ended...

In my country many successfull, and later largely accepted, artists have been many times first rejected (or should I say assasinated) by major newspaper critiques. These critiques are educated and true professionals, but they are not immune to conservatism or subjective attitudes hidden in well polished objective sentences. After the artist has established, the bell is ringing very differently.
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« Reply #34 on: November 23, 2006, 03:43:59 AM »
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The only way to avoid all criticism is to never show the work to anyone - and then what is the point?

Therefore any artist must be prepared to deal with criticism, no matter what form it takes. If they fail to take something from the process then they are the ultimate loser.

This is also only relavent to amateurs - professionals are subjected to criticism daily,  and from the most demanding critics of all - clients! If you have ever shown your book around ad agencies then you will know what I mean...

Anyone who has a really serious problem with criticism will find it hard to make a living in photography.
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Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: November 23, 2006, 04:12:07 AM »
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The only way to avoid all criticism is to never show the work to anyone - and then what is the point?

Therefore any artist must be prepared to deal with criticism, no matter what form it takes. If they fail to take something from the process then they are the ultimate loser.

This is also only relavent to amateurs - professionals are subjected to criticism daily,  and from the most demanding critics of all - clients! If you have ever shown your book around ad agencies then you will know what I mean...

Anyone who has a really serious problem with criticism will find it hard to make a living in photography.
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Absolutely, Nick, exactly what I underlined in my post earlier: the pro/am fields are totally different and the shamateur fits neither - messing about with the odd sale does not a pro make.

Also, there is a hell of a lot more truth to the old 'those who can do, those who can't teach' than some would care to admit. I have seen this in my own experience via photography school (an obligatory diversion for me due to employer ignorance during a very early stage of my life) where, the classic quotation arose through my mentioning, somewhat devil's advocate-wise, that I admired David Bailey's oeuvre. The tutor responded that if his photography was similar, he'd get out of the business... oh dear! I have also seen another problem which I doubt is unique: the clever art student who leaves art college to move instantly into teaching. That is not a measure of talent, more a measure of confidence, or the lack of it.

As far as Pete Myers is concerned, I think he is entitled to his views as the rest of us are; he would seem to have a route to personal success as valid as Alain's for Alain; perhaps rather than discounting his writing we should be pleased that he has given us food for thought or, at the very least, for discussion. Do we all want to spend life talking only f-stops and pixels? I would far rather read what makes your souls tick!

Ciao - Rob C
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« Reply #36 on: November 23, 2006, 01:53:37 PM »
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There is nothing more apt to deceive us than our own judgment, in deciding on our own works; and we should derive more advantage from having our faults pointed out by our enemies, than by hearing the opinions of our friends, because they are too much like ourselves, and may deceive us as much as our own judgment.
Leonardo da Vinci
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« Reply #37 on: November 23, 2006, 02:00:04 PM »
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There is nothing more apt to deceive us than our own judgment, in deciding on our own works; and we should derive more advantage from having our faults pointed out by our enemies, than by hearing the opinions of our friends, because they are too much like ourselves, and may deceive us as much as our own judgment.
Leonardo da Vinci

Bravo!
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« Reply #38 on: November 23, 2006, 02:17:47 PM »
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There is nothing more apt to deceive us than our own judgment, in deciding on our own works; and we should derive more advantage from having our faults pointed out by our enemies, than by hearing the opinions of our friends, because they are too much like ourselves, and may deceive us as much as our own judgment.
Leonardo da Vinci
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Alain, with all due respect to Leonardo - and I support the intent of the comment - there is an underlying presumption that only enemies criticize or that critics are enemies - an inference I have a bit of trouble with. True friends are people who  offer constructive criticism knowing that it will be received as well-intentioned and worth considering.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #39 on: November 23, 2006, 03:06:28 PM »
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There is nothing more apt to deceive us than our own judgment, in deciding on our own works; and we should derive more advantage from having our faults pointed out by our enemies, than by hearing the opinions of our friends, because they are too much like ourselves, and may deceive us as much as our own judgment.
Leonardo da Vinci
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Great quote!  Thank you for sharing it.

It leaves me to wonder if through art (and/or criticism), enemies could eventually become friends?

Regards,
« Last Edit: November 23, 2006, 03:08:41 PM by Jack Flesher » Logged

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