I know criticism all too well. I pulled away from drawing on a few occasions because I couldn’t handle it at the time, once a few years back when I was told I was "drawing the same pathetic sh*t over and over," and another time later on when I got accused of being a no-talent, whiny cookie-cutter mary-sue fangirl that had absolutely no right to call herself an artist (from someone that would just not let up, he even created a second account just so he could keep on attacking me). Heh . . . harsh, right?
The thing about drawing is that it's all subjective, just like anything else. It's about sharing what you love and connecting with people. And because it's such a time-consuming, cumulative talent involved with emotions and expressing one's self, criticism can be really hard to take. I was on shaky ground when I first started posting my art online. I had no formal training outside of the solitary year of art school I flunked out of (which was full of harsh criticisms over my non-confrontational style and lack of hard angles), and I was rusty as hell anyway since I'd basically given up on drawing many years before. It absolutely crushed me once when a well-respected friend and much more established artist told me that it was too bad I’d made the mistake of switching the left and right feet on a semi-reclined character (he assumed from the angle that they were crossed at the ankles, but it was my intention to depict them as being parallel). And it was really nothing personal on his part, he was just trying to help by pointing out something. I couldn’t even look at that drawing for months, that’s how sensitive I was about it back then!
So as you can tell, criticism was the hardest part for me. Accepting criticism gracefully requires many things, including having an objective eye, not taking things personally, and not falling in love with your own work. It's really, really hard to be objective about your own work. No matter how personally satisfied you feel with a piece, that doesn’t make it untouchable once you post it somewhere for all to see, and just because you’ve received a lot of praise for a specific piece, it doesn’t mean someone else’s criticism isn’t valid. Keep in mind that anything you post online is up for grabs. I mean, even though I’m not looking for criticism with my commission work (so I totally understand where you’re coming from in this case, as it’s the commissioner’s opinion that takes priority over anyone else’s), it doesn’t mean I won’t expect to get any when I post it in any public forum. If I disagree with a criticism and am truly confident in my work, I thank them kindly for their opinion and move on. Getting defensive and dragging it out only gives the criticism more substantial weight and highlights my insecurities over the piece in question. And if I find I do agree with the criticism (which is more often than not), I'm typically uninterested in "fixing" the piece and usually just try to improve upon that aspect in the future. Oh, and if I feel someone's being snippy, rude, or outright mean, I usually just ignore them. If I hadn't reached this current comfort level with criticism, I'd still be a complete trainwreck every time I posted something new like I was back in the day.
I also personally have a hard time giving criticism, mainly because I rarely feel like I'm qualified to do so since I really suck at anatomy and partially because I remember how it made me feel in the early days. I left another forum because I was expected to dish out critiques like they were Halloween candy, and that's really not my personality (I also left because I didn't want to be associated with such an elitist group of control-freaks that banned members for giving too much “unnecessary” praise and encouragement to “unworthy” artists, but that's a story for another time). Now if someone asks for my help/criticism or if there's a debate going on, that's a different story. And since Duster brought this up, I have to agree that Belle's eyes don't feel right. Now I hope you don't take that personally or feel the need to get defensive, because it's not a reflection on what I think of you nor is it an attempt to pad my own ego, it just is what it is. Typically when a character is distressed, startled, or scared, and is given big eyes to express the emotion, they're depicted with smaller pupils/irises. Here you seem to have emphasized the pupils themselves, and given the overall look that you seem to be going for, it can be a little unsettling.
I totally agree that no character has to be "on-model" in order to have appeal and be drawn well. However, I do know a great many artists that would jump in on a circumstance such as this to state that one cannot excuse anything because it's "your style."
But that's where it gets really tricky and subjective, of course. Just keep in mind that constructive
criticism isn’t bad, mean, nor snippy, and the source doesn’t have to be an expert or even have the more popular opinion in order to be valid. There’s an enormous difference between what Duster said here and some attention-whoring troll hiding behind their screen and typing out insults out of jealousy, boredom, or ego-inflation.
Nathan, I know you've been through a lot of heartbreak lately. I won't comment on that, but I suspect that's one of the reasons why you've been rearranging your online social life. I can’t blame you, as I’ve totally been there myself. But at the very least, please consider that you shouldn't ever feel like you're not part of the group here. As Duster basically said, you’re welcome to join in and post anytime, just like any other member, and I personally don’t feel you need to completely separate yourself from this site. You love Disney and you belong just as much as anyone else.
I do hope the things I said to you earlier haven’t influenced your decision to leave; as I tried to clarify before, if I didn’t like you and think of you as a friend, I wouldn’t have bothered to say anything at all, then or now. And although I haven’t commented nearly as much as I probably should have on your art, I want to point out that I’ve always enjoyed your work, ever since I first saw your Black Cauldron piece way back in 2006.
I hope you’ll stick around. We've already lost too many members and this site needs more friendly and passionate people like you.