Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture? The Value of a Good Critique-Pt.2

Tom - Alla Prima

What's Wrong with this Picture? The Value of a Good Critique-Pt.2

First, let me say thank you to all of you who commented on this blog--and there were a lot of you!!  Most of you receive my blog on an email list serve so your responses come to my inbox and not directly to the comment area on my blog for all to see.   It would be nice for you all to see the comments that land in my inbox and have a dialogue.  There is a setting I need to change for that, but like so much else--someday, maybe...

The number one response I got asked if a bad experience caused me to write this.  The short answer is no. Have I had bad experiences? Sure, I have.  My first college watercolor class was a disaster and I received a D!  I've sat through many a scourging critique and have been rejected for memberships and shows. People have said unflattering things.  (and why is that what we remember?)  That, my friends, is the life of an artist.  It comes with the territory.  You must develop a thick skin or never let your work see the light of day.  So many of you do that very thing. I still feel the sting of negative feedback, as do my most accomplished friends.  You will never avoid it, you must learn to deal with it.

My aim is to encourage you and your talent.  Life is process and so is our art.  Robert Henri wrote in The Art Spirit "A thing that has not been begun cannot be finished".  Yet how many an artist has pulled their toe from the water to avoid getting wet?  They begin, but they let criticism stop them from finishing.  If criticism is what you fear, I say you must just jump in feet first and brave the water- get yourself all wet! Or if that's not your style, wade in slowly, getting used to the water slowly.  Let's face it, repeated exposure will desensitize you. You also can't finish if you quit!  While Mr. Henri was talking about a single painting, I would add that as artists we are never "finished" with our art.  We continue to grow and evolve.  And "constructive" criticism helps us do just that.

A few of you thought I wanted feedback on the painting I posted because of the title of the blog "What's Wrong with this Picture?"  You were very kind in your comments.  I love the painting (I always love the latest one that finished well) and only threw it up there because my readers want to see my artwork.  The title was really a metaphor.  By definition Critique means "the art or practice of criticism"  and Criticism means  "the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone".  While a little convoluted, the idea was that most often feedback is negative and some of those doling it out have dubious motives.  So "What's Wrong with this Picture" has two meanings.  Sneaky, huh?

I try now to look at criticism from any source with objectivity.  I ask myself if there is any merit to their view, even if I don't like what I'm hearing.  I try to separate my personal feelings from their reaction to my art.  And I try to remember that for everyone who loves my art, there will be those who don't.  And that's OK.  I don't like everyone's art myself.  You have opinions, don't you? 
Find a safe place to nurture your creativity.  A place where you can grow.  Don't let criticism stop you from doing what you love and expressing yourself through your art and showing the world.  Do learn to use it to make you and your art better, remembering that there is always room to grow and improve.  That's the value of a good critique.


  1. Your last post was influential in me taking a next step. I'm now in a drawing class! I'll be closing my blog & focusing on drawing for awhile. I love that you reveal the feelings that we go through. I've finally learned that even if I get stung, or think i've gotten stung, I go on for the sheer joy & my journey. My new class is about drawing for accuracy, a lovely safe space & wonderful teacher. So, thank you so much, & I'll keep reading your blog & enjoying your art!!

  2. Ink! PLEASE don't close your blog! Just post less often. I find it very inspirational. Besides, there will be new adventures to write about and share with your followers. I'm glad to have you as a reader, but will miss you if you go!

  3. I like this painting a lot Michelle, he is so absorbed in his thoughts ( seems to be ) and relaxed, and I love the light in his face