Friday, May 16, 2008
IF: Wide Gap in Reality: The Squidward Principle
I will attempt to deal with what I call the Squidward Principle, of which I believe most of us have been through at one point in our life...however it seems to be much more prevalent today and to last longer periods...some never getting out of it.
Squidward...great artist, 1st Chair Clarinet player, above all lifeforms on the planet...But the reality is much different and I will focus on one particular area that seems to be at the forefront. The Clarinet. Squidward plays it and does so horribly...and really doesn't see how bad he is...To him, the rest of the world just hasn't tuned their ears to his greatness...So when you see him practicing you have to understand that he really isn't practicing at all! He THINKS he has already arrived and needs no practice...He is playing for the benefit of the world and for himself to rejoice in his melodious sonnets...so he makes the same mistakes over and over...and is a cashier at a fast food restaurant. (NOT that there's anything wrong with that.)
Note that Squidward isn't really playing this instrument as a hobby. We can all have 'hobbies' with varying degree of capability and do it just for enjoyment's sake...but he has dreams of making a full-fledged living (and being an aristocrat it is indeed a high standard of living to uphold) playing the clarinet. If Sir Squidward might take the time to not only listen to critiques but also to self-analyze, who knows where his potential might lie...or perhaps he stinks at the clarinet because he just doesn't have the fingers for it...
So how does that relate to the Squidward Principle. Many times I have seen artists refuse constructive criticism that would help them grow as an artist and they limit their own progress because they are sure they have already arrived. When they do things it is not with the focused intent of challenging themselves, working on areas of weakness and hoping to get better, but they are already the best and the rest of the world needs glasses. Criticism results in an emotional torrent of one sort or the other. Or perhaps there isn't a true understanding of how the 'system' works and they think the world will instantly conform to them. If they want to sit at the table watching Oprah, eating Ho-Ho's, and do medical illustration using poorly rendered stick figures then someone will HAVE to hire them because they want to be hired.
Real World Story #1. (One of my favorites on myself I must say). In college during my freshman year a teacher gave me a grade I didn't feel I deserved...unleash the hounds!!! While I didn't go to her and raise all kinds of chaos as some did (there were students that would throw verbal tantrums, sobbing at times, people running out of the room throwing things, curling up in the fetal position in the corner, quitting the college, etc) I privately stewed but told myself I was going to adhere and listen and see what happened. 2nd year in college as I got better I looked back on my freshman work and during mixed critiques with freshman when tempers flared I would brake out a piece of pooh work (and not the Disney character variety) and say, "Yeah, I used to defend this too." I'm always thankful for the teachers that stopped me in my tracks and said "LOOK at what you are doing and ANALYZE the reality of your work". I'm equally thankful for the teachers that let me know the difference between a hobby, a career, and how to play up to strengths while working on areas I stunk at...as well as avoiding areas I had no shot at being able to do. To think I wanted to fly commercial aircraft with no sense of physics, not able to do exceptionally deep math, topped off by the world's worst fear of flying. Thank my 1st year graphic design teacher for not having a 747 parked in your roof right about now...
Real World Story #2. (Probably told elsewhere on this site). In a class we were required to submit design projects of our own devising every two weeks. One student never liked their grade and went so far as to have their parents lobbying for their grade to be changed. It was of utmost importance that they maintained a 4.0...apparently it was of lesser importance to have a good portfolio...teachers would often relent and just give the grade because it wasn't worth the hassle. Guess what the person is doing now...Cashier...and can't understand why they can't get a job in the field for which they have not one, but TWO degrees. And the parents? Well the student made a 4.0, it doesn't make any sense to them either.
The artists that I have seen grow and be successful are the ones that broke out of the Squidward Principle early. Sure, as artists sometimes it stings a little to get critiqued. But it usually takes about two seconds of seeing some of my favorite artists to realize I myself have a lot of room to grow. Compliments are great, but an open valid discussion of both strengths AND weaknesses is priceless and vital.