From a sophomore student looking back at his freshman year at SCAD comes Fresh Advice, the run down on all of the SCAD programs, operations and secret tricks you need to know to make a smooth transition to SCAD life.

So, you’ve finally finished your first real project. You’ve stayed up late, no doubt; maybe even experienced the dreaded “all-nighter” that you’ve read so much about in your young adult novels about shiny college kids that may or may not be vampires. I’m not sure what kids read about anymore.

Anyway, it wasn’t easy, right? And art supplies are expensive, but hey, you’ve made something really cool with all those charcoal pencils, paint tubes and hair barrettes (yes, really). So now, there’s only one more thing left to do. It’s time for your first critique.

In case you don’t know what a critique is yet, think back to those lovely high school exams. You’ve studied hard, and now you’re finally taking the test. Instead of handing it in and leaving the class behind, you’re going to pick up your test booklet, pin it up on the wall and let everybody in the room, both students and professors, tell you exactly what they think of your test-taking abilities.

This time, it’s your art under scrutiny. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories; unfinished projects being torn off the wall,  tears, that one kid who never seems to have anything nice to say. Now I know that you’re nervous, but that’s why you’re reading this, right? So now that I’ve got your attention, here is some advice from a fellow Bee to help get you through your first couple of crits.

First things first: don’t take everything personally! Everybody knows how much time and effort went into your project. We all know how hard you worked on this baby.  At least, you better have, because there is a lot that’s going to get thrown at you. Why did you make this decision? Why is that purple? Is that an eyeball or a football? Don’t worry, everybody just wants to understand your final product.

Unfortunately, not everybody will. Sometimes, people might just not like it, sure; but sometimes, you’ll miss the mark. It just takes a thick skin to get through it and get better. Maybe your professor will have different taste than you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to offer you honest, objective feedback.

Secondly, try your best not to make it a competition. I know that one kid in the front row was tough on your self-portrait, but that doesn’t make it okay for you to take out your frustration on his fruit basket painting. Always be fair, and always, always be constructive. There’s nothing quite as unhelpful as a complaint without a proposed solution. If you don’t think a certain aspect of somebody’s project was quite as successful as it could have been, offer them ways to remedy it. You might even see your advice in their next project. Maybe that gets put in a gallery. That’s your advice, hanging up there. Be proud of helping your fellow budding artists. Go you!

Believe it or not, at the end of the day, everybody wants you to improve. It’s like my older sister used to say when she would pinch me as a kid: I hurt you because I care. Sounds weird, but it really is true. Human beings, artists especially, grow by struggling. Also, always remember, one bad critique isn’t the end of the world. You shouldn’t ignore any critique, but don’t let anything cripple the artist inside you. Critiques are meant to help you. But that means that you’ve got to be willing to help other people, too.

So be proud of that first all-nighter, take a picture of your project once it’s up on the wall, and really try to use your critiques to your advantage. Good luck, Bees. You got this.

Written by Calvin Scott.