Welcoming and embracing critique is part of maturing as an artist. Once I graduated from school, the instruction I depended on to move forward fell silent and I was left to navigate the transition into the “real” world on my own. This loss of input and guidance, previously dreaded at times, became all the more valued and missed.
” As an older artist, opportunities to receive solid formal critiques are few and far between. And while the same doubts and fears persist, there is an assumption that because one now gives analysis and visual feedback on a regular basis, he no longer needs to be evaluated…” – Barry Krammes, Artist
Feedback helps me to hear how others are interpreting my work and challenges me to learn how to articulate my artistic intentions.
I have come to realize, through working with many artists, that we all have had different experiences with people speaking into our artwork. Various institutions we may have attended can have vastly different approaches to artistic critique. Some see critique as a time to tear down. This attempt to de-construct in order to propel forward can instead backfire, squelching one’s ambition, and further planting a seed of distrust and competition among artists. Then some on the opposite end of the spectrum do not see the value in critique at all, supporting the view of who’s to say what art is or isn’t. Yet, have you ever had a solid, thought provoking, art-bettering critique? It is life-giving to the artistic process.
While I have experienced a variety of critiques in my own artistic life, the environment I had in college was most impactful; not only in helping me to embrace critique but also in modeling how to give critique. For every negative comment made about someone’s artwork, there had to be a positive. In learning how to critique fellow student’s work, we were taught to look for things to genuinely appreciate and esteem (even if we had to look hard).
“Artists are often too close to their own work to see it objectively…we continually need each other’s eyes and ideas to elucidate the visual decisions that we are making no matter how long we have been at it.”
– Barry Krammes, Artist
I believe critique should be about honoring each other’s investments as artists, encouraging each other’s unique voice and spurring each other on to greater deeds. This type of critique is what I desire to receive throughout my artistic journey and should also be willing to give to my fellow artists. Such authentic critique will hopefully leave a much more impactful influence on the art… and the artist.
Great thoughts! Critiquing is one of those things I’m always curious about getting better at. For me, and many others, it’s hard to know where to start.
Have any quick tips on what to look at and evaluate?
Hey James, sorry for the delay. OY! But even at this late date, I want to address your question about critique. I really can’t say it any better than the 2 articles I posted on critique under “Articles of Interest”. Check those out if you haven’t already. And then the tip that I find good to highlight from one of them is to “Remember, there are no incorrect descriptions when you critique artwork. Your goal is not to say whether or not the art is good, but rather to impart as best you can the visceral response the artwork incites.” Just simply communicating what I see and feel back to the artist seems to take off the pressure of having to give an official assessment of a work’s success or failure. Critique really can be a service we offer to each other if done in love and honor.