Friday, November 22, 2013

The Art of the Critique of Art

Sycamore Shadows 9x12 oil
Available at the Holiday Clearance Extravaganza

A student this week praised me for my mild, helpful criticism of her paintings.  "You're very gentle, and it's nice to have someone who doesn't just tear you down."  She has been to several art schools and has suffered at the hands of many, less gentle teachers.  Her words got us to talking about how teachers go about critiquing work.

My personal method is, praise first where praise is due, and then offer suggestions for improvement or for new directions.  I also gear my praise and suggestions to what the student seems to require; some souls are gentler and are just happy to have created something, but others are thicker-skinned and want more aggressive criticism.  If a student asks for a no-holds-barred critique, I will gladly give it.

Sometimes, when a student seems particularly down on her work, I will say, "Tell me one thing you do like about the painting."  Almost always, she can come up with something!  Then I say, "Now tell me one thing you don't like."  These two points give us something to work with.

Once in a blue moon, I get the sad student who can't even find one good thing.  With that student, I let her know that the fact she actually set brush to canvas is a good thing. It's the first step.  And of course, from that first step, the possibilities are rich.  (You can experience my critiques yourself by taking one of my Paint Sedona plein air workshops this winter.)

While I've got your attention, I want to mention a couple of things.  First, as a reminder, I will be one of three Master Signature artists from SAGA (Sedona Area Guild of Artists) speaking on Sunday, November 24, from 3-5 pm in conjunction with the SAGA: Visions of Fine Art show at the Old Marketplace Plaza in Sedona.  I am buffing up my PowerPoint skills for a nice presentation.  I'll be talking about the tools and trade of the pastel painter.  Fellow artists John Warren Oakes will be speaking on encaustics and John Soderberg, on sculpture.  For all the details, please visit this link.

Also, a visit to the dentist shows I need a crown plus a little periodontal work.  Who has dental insurance these days?  I pay out of pocket, and this work will be a not insignificant percentage of this year's income.  If you'd like to help this successful but still somewhat needy artist, please pay a visit to my Holiday Clearance Extravaganza.  But who really cares about my dental problems?  You'll get good prices and good work.  Treat yourself, or help out Santa.

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