Defectology and PTCS


Nina's Adventures Cartoon Panel
Nina’s Adventures by Nina Paley 7-1-92

For this discussion, PTCS means “Post Traumatic Critique Syndrome” and Defectology, means focusing on lack and limitation.


A Story

I can still see my Beginning Painting instructor’s bushy 70s walrus mustache motating as he critiqued – no, outright criticized – my certainly awful attempt at the current assignment: paint a self-portrait as a famous person. On a 3’x4′ canvas I had modeled a full-bodied gesture of Greek-robed, barefooted Isadora Duncan in mid-bound and was having trouble putting my features onto it at all convincingly. I particularly remember the mustache’s emphatic contract/expand curl as he sneered the word “dumpy” in slow motion. “IS-a-dora DUN-can WAS NOT DUM-PEE! ” he intoned as he was actually looking down his nose at me.

Thing is, this guy worked hard in his critiques at tearing apart the whole line-up of our work. I was not singled out here, but by the time he got to me I was seething. At the sight of that slo-mo sneering ‘stache, I blinked. Out of hot shame and powerlessness, I sputtered back with all I had: my born fightin’ Ulster-Scot sense of justice and fairplay. “We already know our work is bad!!!!!” I yelped,  “Why don’t you help us see what’s good about it???? Or at least suggest what we could try to make it better????”

I wish I could tell you what happened afterwards, or even the rest of the semester, but soon after that episode I had an emergency appendectomy and took an Incomplete. Within the year allowed to remedy the INC, I returned to his office with several other paintings I had done without the torment of his criticism. I got a B. Not sure it’s a direct consequence, but I have never taken another painting class.

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