Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture? The Value of a Good Critique.

Being an artist can be tough.  Art school can be cruel.  You have to develop a tough skin if you want to be an artist!  That being said, there is a line between a valuable piece of criticism and an opinion.  And the difference is: who delivers it!!  Because every criticism is really only an opinionThe bottom line is there are really no hard and fast rules in art by which we can measure its worth.  Art is personal and subjective.  And everyone has an opinion. 

I think it's very valuable to surround yourself with people who's opinions and criticism is constructive and delivered in the right way.   I have friends whom I respect as artists and have credibility with me because I know their work and trust their eye.  These artists have raised my art to a higher level.  They give their opinion only when asked.  And we  support one another and have a safe place to do what we do, without judgement.

Yet there are those self appointed critics who feel the need to let you know what you lack.  I am always amazed when fellow artists or others give me unsolicited advice or criticism.  If you do that, you had better be Picasso yourself or you are only making enemies.  Again, advice, criticism, opinion or whatever you call it may have value and be legitimate, but only if the person delivering it is someone you respect.  Someone you want to learn from.  Those generous with their time and talent and interested in helping me be a better artist.  

Artists are sensitive people.  But the truth is when you put your art out there you are essentially asking the world to look at what you do and to judge it. I don't paint them to put them in a drawer. It would be very mature and together of me to say that others opinions of my work do not bother me. That wouldn't be the truth and I don't really believe artists who say that.  My paintings all carry a part of me, so it is personal. If they love them, I'm happy. If they hate them, I have to decide if I value their assessment.  If I do, I could be bruised.  But I've learned from entering juried shows, from being in critique groups or having them in a class that these situations can lend objectivity to my work and teach me valuable things.   And- that it's not always valid.  Ultimately I need to learn to find those who can reliably help me and keep growing as an artist.  Just realize that if your paintings have no flaws, then you have arrived and now you have no where to go. And most likely, no one to go with!

13 comments:

  1. So very true & you expressed it beautifully. Posting my sketches is opening up a new aspect of vulnerability but also creating a new healthy skin...What you wrote applies to my inner critic. I'm seeing with new eyes some directions for growth, while learning again how to stay centered & constructive. Thanks for your note! Yes, learning here, so great!!

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  2. I had posted a comment here before...not sure what happened. Your thoughts here are so well expressed. Thank you. Making art, an ongoing process of learning...Your picture here has a strong emotional quality for me.

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  3. I can totally relate to this post. Lately I had a bad critique,not at all constructive in one of my latest post, from a fellow blogger and I wondered, why would she even bother to comment if it was only to tell me something negative? I have seen her doing the same in other blogs, so probably she just puts herself above other artists.
    Oh, and by the way, I do love your portrait, the freshness of the colors.

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  4. Jane, if you write it-they will comment! Part 2 speaks to putting yourself out there. Most comments are possitive. Focus on those and ask yourself-not why she posted it (because you'll never know and does that matter?),but if her comment has any merrit. If it does, take it for what it's worth. If you don't think it does, move on! You can also moderate your comments, which I do in case there might be something offensive in a comment. So, Ink! That's why you didn't see your comment posted. I have been busy and a bad little blog moderator! So sorry!
    Thank you both for reading and your wonderful comments. I hope you are encouraged. Living a creative life can be rewarding, but putting ourselves out there makes us vulnerable!

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  5. You said it eloquently! Just came across your blog and enjoying your art and words! About art criticism --Recently at our local art league meeting, a juror for a future show was invited to give critiques on two paintings we chose to bring that afternoon. I came home disgusted and outraged because all she could say about my paintings (which I think were very decent ) that the plastic sleeve I put it in was a bit wrinkled (there was a small crease at the edge over the mat) and the other had a good mat :( -- not a single thing about composition, color, or overall look) As I sat and listened I realized she said 'nice painting- I like it' one too many times as her entire critique! I have had both the paintings posted on my blog and had received the most number of positive comments on them! And like you said I had to make myself open to the fact that I do not have give her comments much weight and see the positive feedback I have received! thanks for letting me vent :)

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    1. Meera, somehow I missed all these comments! It's been a whole year, but I still want to write and say that we must mine the criticism for truth and realize that we all have room to improve. I say get feedback from an artist who's work you admire. Most of all, enjoy the process! Thanks for commenting, so long ago!

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  6. Your portrait is striking, and especially because of the sensitive treatment of the color areas...Cezanne-esque!! A compliment. If only the hat were not floating away, dragging me out of the painting! :)

    Congratulations on a nice piece of work.

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    1. Lol, always something! Thanks for reading!

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  7. I needed to find this...thanks for putting it into perspective. I had a very long hiatus from painting (due to my father being on hospice) and just when I started to come back to my work, I got hit hard by unasked for critiques. I almost stopped painting again. Then I felt this strong need to get out there and express myself and not to let the thoughts of negative people get to me. Then another recent critique was given when I asked another artist what they thought of some new painting. They told me if I had to ask then I needed to go back to school and become a better painter and learn to figure it out for myself. To say the lest I was set back by the bluntness and bruised is only touching it lightly. Anyway, like I said, I needed this posting to get myself back up off the floor and get to work. As far as your portrait...nothing is wrong in my opinion. The colors, the mood you struck. the intensity of the eyes...tells me that there is a story behind this painting, and one worth listening too.

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    1. We tend to feel our art is like a child or even more personal still, part of ourselves. You also have to realize if you put it out there for others to comment, they surely will. And in a way, we asked for it. I think if we are too sensitive we need to be more selective about who we ask to judge our work. Again, I have come to the conclusion that most of the time, its someone opinion. I do want to get better, so there is a lot of value to a good critique from someone who's work I admire.
      Thank you for your kind words about my painting and I hope you paint for yourself and not for others approval.

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  8. I sort of ran through a lot of these quickly and what struck me the most was how offended people were when they received a less than positive critique. Firstly, many (not all, but many) artists think that their work is absolutely wonderful when in fact, it is not and they are really looking for affirmation of what they think. If you cannot handle the truth, do not ask for an honest critique. But having said that, if you do get a negative critique, think about what they said and perhaps make the correct adjustments. Yes, artists are sensitive souls...but you have to be able to take the heat.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree. If we put our art out there we need to be ready for the good and the bad. I don't think you can grow if you don't open yourself to looking objectively and critically at your work. I hope I made that clear. But lets face it. Art is very subjective and so are the rules for judging it. I think we should do our work with a goal of excellence but also because we love to create it. ( It takes time to get so good that no one can find anything wrong with your work! Right? ) If we do that, then who cares what the public thinks? Does that make sense? Thanks for the feedback and dialogue!

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  9. I think this is a wonderful painting. The only thing I would change is the red strip on the hat. Red is such a powerful color that it takes our eyes away from the wonderful face and hand which is where our main focus should be.

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