Saturday, July 16, 2011
Critique, yes or no?
Lupines in the Sky
Work in progress
10x30" gallery wrap
by Susan Roux
Where do you stand on the subject of critique?
My last post showed a painting before a critique and where I pushed it following a critique. A good critique is priceless, in my opinion. I wish I had one for every painting I paint. I find it elevates my work to new heights. It keeps me pushing, trying to achieve something beyond where I previously stopped. Just last night Mike and I were discussing this and he wished he had to a good photographer friend who could give him a good critique.
Odd thing is, as much as we would like to be continually critiqued, there are many who are opposed to it. It takes a tough skin to listen to your creative work be interpreted by another. We become tied and connected to the things we create.
It's a reflection of ourselves. Who has the right to tell us what's wrong with it?
Rejection in any form is difficult. It can knock the wind right out of you. But I don't think of a good critique as a rejection. Quite the contrary. When someone takes the time to analyze a work they usually already have an attraction to it. The critique isn't designed to crush an artist, but to urge him (her) to think of it in different terms and possibly see it differently as well. We get very close to our work. Especially those of us who work a painting for an extended period of time. So much of ourselves is invested in it.
Though just as love is blind, so often is the artist who has a certain goal in mind. We'll set parameters for ourselves. Things like a limited palette or brushstroke edges. Some soft, some hard, some blurred, some bold and distinct. We can focus so hard on certain aspects of our work, that we'll easily miss other things. Things we already know. They slip from memory temporarily. A good critique allows you to retain what you've captured and helps you push it to an even stronger finish.
Imagine all the paintings you've ever painted. If you could take the best things from them and put it all together in one work of art, wouldn't that be wonderful? This is the critique to me. No one is teaching you how to paint it, only allowing you the insight to add a bit more and turn your work into a wow. It's never about repainting the entire painting (though Don's sent me to do that a few times as well...). It's about taking what you have and adjusting it. It might be defining something or dulling something. Perhaps adding a punch of color or contrast.
There exists a fear of loosing what we've already captured and ruining it. Loosing that look of freshness. Getting it overworked. But returning to a painting for adjustments needn't be done with your largest brushes. Often tweaking with something tiny that can be blended with the existing work will do the trick.
The other factor that comes up in conversation is the qualifications of the one critiquing.
Yes, I'm very fortunate to have Don Hatfield as my mentor and critique-er. (I can make up words, right?) Yes, he is highly qualified. But often the gut instinct of someone not highly qualified can be as helpful. Your kids can be very honest. Painfully so sometimes when they don't get what this part is. Even after you explain it to them and they tell you well it doesn't look like that.
You'd be surprised how many people can give you a good critique. Many of us have the knowledge, it's getting it on canvas that's the challenge!
So where do you stand on critique? Is it a gift or an insult?