The start of this article came from a disturbing email sent to me by a guy called Tony, who was at art school in San Francisco. He said he has a vivid imagination and sometimes paints "odd things". The problem was the responses of fellow students, who have laughed at his paintings (most recently at one of a clown in a cemetery) and suggested he "must be stoned" to paint what he does.
He said: "I was shocked and offended. I didn't know how to respond, so I've stopped speaking to them. I guess artists need to build up a thick skin [but] are there any good 'comebacks' or simply, ways to deal with criticism?"
My response was this: "I think you're right to be offended. Don't let them get to you, and don't buy into their views by saying you've a silly imagination -- offbeat, original, quirky, yes. Like the Magritte. If they believe you need to be stoned to think of such things, you should pity them for their very limited imaginations.
"I personally think the idea of a clown in a graveyard is very intriguing and worth exploring. At both my father and my grandmother's funerals we kept having very dark yet humorous moments, using laughter to keep our sorrow controlled.
"It is hard when peers dismiss and laugh at you and what you're doing, but believe in yourself and draw strength from the fact that you're not just a sheep following the herd. It isn't easy, but you'll get far more out of life than they ever will."