Ep 054 Featured Image Podcast

Don’t Be a Baby and Keep Making Your Art – Jerry Saltz – Ep 54

November 2, 2022


Making art is hard enough, but hearing from others whether it is good or not is especially so. Every artist I know already has, hard-wired within them, a pretty tough critic. I certainly do. So I never have been particularly drawn to listening to more of them. I know, of course, art criticism is essential in the art world. I get all that, but truthfully, I have always been a little leery of outside criticism in case it made me stop making art. It feels safer to hear more from those who are actually making art. They were the ones I thought whose voices mattered. At least for me. 

But today you are going to meet an art critic. But not the kind I imagined. Not at all. His name is Jerry Saltz. He is the Pulitzer Prize-winning, senior art critic and columnist for New York Magazine. He has a bajillion followers on Instagram and is a New York Times bestselling author. He also cares a ton about art and especially artists. Which isn’t surprising because he was one. He switched mid-career because, ironically, his inner critic wouldn’t leave him alone, and it all became too much. 

Jerry is whip-smart, funny, and at times, daringly truthful. But this is what I love about him: he just tells the truth. Or rather his truth. That is rare these days. Jerry is the artist’s art critic. He is so on our side and wants nothing more for us than to simply stay together and above all else, to keep making our art. Join me now for this startlingly vulnerable and caring conversation about art and life with one of the most revered voices in the art world: Jerry Saltz.

Listen if you are interested in…

  • How Jerry became a bestselling author and why you need to read his books [3:19]
  • Becoming a different kind of artist and recognizing the respect in art criticism [15:05]
  • Why artists need one another [25:48]
  • Making an enemy of envy and why we need to just keep making our art [32:01]
  • Where Jerry feels the art world is heading [39:15]
  • Jerry’s advice for artists when they receive criticism and the time Jerry criticized my work [46:47]

Don’t let the demons win

Jerry Saltz’s meteoric rise in the art world is the stuff of legends. He opened the N.A.M.E Gallery with his friends in 1973 and blew up as an artist himself with his first show there. He then won the National Endowment for the Arts and moved to New York City to further pursue his exponentially growing art career. And then, Jerry recalls hearing the same voices that all artists struggle to flush out of their heads. The demons that tell us we’re inadequate and destined to fail. That our art is terrible, and we don’t know how to make it, let alone sell it or build a life with it. On the outside, Jerry was pulling it off! He was already everything that so many artists spend their lives working towards. But on the inside, he was falling apart and chose to leave the art world for what he thought would be forever. But don’t worry! This story has a happy ending. Listen to this episode to hear how Jerry made his way back and became a different kind of artist.

Make bad art

Though Jerry walked away from the art world as an artist, he loves being a part of the community as an art critic. However, Jerry is not a critic that desires to prop up the Art Institution. His goal is to provide the kind of criticism that inspires artists to fulfill their potential. Jerry believes that the best art education comes from artists doing the art journey together. We have to equally argue with and support one another because that is where the art movements come from. We’re all learning on the job. In front of each other, no less! Not everything will be great, so just finish and apply this painting’s lessons to the next one. More than anything, Jerry wants everyone to keep making bad art for him. Because if we work together and don’t give up, we might just change history.

A grain of Saltz

Receiving criticism can be one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist. Our art comes from us and in many ways, IS us. And yet, it’s separate from us and is no longer ours when we release it into the world. So when someone criticizes our work, it can feel like our child is under attack. We can become defensive and even allow others’ opinions about our art to discourage us. While not all criticism is fair or necessary, valid criticism does exist and is essential to our growth as artists. Jerry views art criticism as a form of showing art respect. You can’t push artists or the art world forward without any feedback. His biggest piece of advice for artists is to take criticism with a grain of salt. No, you are not the worst artist ever. However, you need the humility to know that you’re not the best either. You can be a perfectly capable artist and recognize where your work needs to improve. But no matter what, don’t stop doing what you were called to do. Especially if it’s not perfect.

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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