If you describe someone as self-centered, that is probably taken as a negative. It often is, but there is another way to see it. If you are a “fine art” artist, I believe you have to be self-centered to really be true to yourself.
Who do you listen to?
It’s a problem these days that people are so “connected” to social media that it can be hard to maintain our identity. Is all your work instantly posted, tweeted, shared to “the world”? Do you measure your success by the “likes” or lifts or re-tweets you get?
This echo chamber of voices can make it hard to listen to your own. If a significant number of your followers don’t like something you post, is it bad? As with any criticism, you have to try to be objective.
These people giving you feedback – what do they know of your intent, your feelings, the direction you feel your art should go? What do they know about the process you followed to get there?
Most pictures on the internet don’t get more than 1-2 seconds of attention. When someone hits the “thumbs down”, what does that mean? Is that a well reasoned, critical evaluation based on objective knowledge?
Likewise, when most people gush over your post and give you glowing praise, what does that mean? Unless they are an artist who takes the time to look more deeply, probably very little. If they follow the praise with “and I will contact you to buy it,” that carries weight.
Who should you listen to?
The feedback of random people on the internet probably will not take you to where you need to go as an artist.
Do you have a small set of trusted friends who will give you reasoned and honest feedback? If so, you are lucky. I desperately wish I did. Try to build such a group. If they really are good friends their honesty will be valuable for you, even when it hurts. If they really are good friends, they will hurt you occasionally.
Do you work with one or more galleries? Ask them for evaluations, especially of your new work. I haven’t tried it, but I understand portfolio reviews can be good. Your mileage may vary, depending on which ones you choose. I know of successful artists who still go to them for the feedback. Read Cole Thompson’s portfolio review by Mr. X that changed his art.
Are there artists in your area who you trust? Your style may be totally different and you may not even like what they do, but that is not the point. Can they give you objective and well reasoned feedback? Try to put a group together. I am looking to collect such a group in my area.
Can you be objective about your own work? Some people can, some can’t. Learn to. Since you are the only one responsible for your work, you have to be able to make your own decisions.
Sean Tucker used the term unashamed in a discussion of this problem in his book The Meaning in the Making. I think it is a good word choice. This is where the self-centered aspect comes in. It is understanding who we are and what we are trying to do, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Not arrogance but confidence. We have to realize that only we own our results and are responsible for our decisions.
Anyone who does anything publicly will be criticized for it. That is true for us when we present our art to the world. A lot of people will hate it. Some will love it. The ones who don’t like it will be quick to tell us what is wrong and how to fix it or why we should quit. As an artist, we must be able to say “thank you for the feedback, but I am going in this other direction.” We have to believe it and in our self.
Do you believe in you? Are you confident to the point of seeming self-centered? Good. Your opinion of your art is ultimately what matters. That doesn’t mean you will get rich or famous. But you will be at peace with yourself.