Monday, April 23, 2018

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate Your Own Work - Part 6 - The List

It has been a pleasure for me to share my thoughts and the thoughts of my art friends during the past few weeks regarding how to evaluate your own work or perform what I call Self Critique.  Feeling good about what we do is really great but living in a state of delusion is unfortunate so we have to learn how to find what might be changed and celebrate what is perfect as it is.

Here is a list of ideas on how to help you hone your skill at looking at your work with a sharper eye.

  • There are many answers for any issue in art whether technical or conceptual.  Be willing to take a chance on your ideas.  Be brave and give yourself credit where it is warranted while remaining open to hearing the opinions of others.

  • Work with intention and then evaluate whether or not the finished work fulfilled your intention.

  • Be willing to occasionally suspend judgment and allow your intuition to lead the way.

  • When you view your finished work ask yourself if you would be engaged by this work if it weren't your own?

  • Compare your work to someone's work you admire.  What are the qualities in that work that you admire?  Can you find those qualities in your work?

  • If you attend workshops, look at your work and see if your work still carries too much influence from exercises you may have done.  Have you processed what you learned in a workshop or class in a personal way or does the work still carry the stamp of a workshop project?

  • Does the work have presence or soul?  Can you see or sense the "something special" factor?  

  • Consider how your work fits into today's world.  Does it look fresh or tired?

  • If you are unsure about a work, hang the work and study it over time.  Invite ONE respected friend to address specific questions or concerns you may have.  Remember when doing this, you're looking for input but you don't have to agree with all or any of the possible observations.

  • Be willing to put the work away and review again later.

  • Be willing to invest in your work by spending the time required to know yourself and what you want to say.
Thank you for spending time here at
Studio 24-7.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate Your Own Work - Part 5

A few weeks ago I received a request to repost this article series.  Enjoy

The name of this series is "Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate Your Own Work" but hopefully there comes a time when you are ready to cut your work free and let it go into the world thus allowing other people to view and make their evaluations of your work.  This coming out could likely be in the form of a juried show.  This is a new way to explore your work and evaluate what you have done in relation to what a specific show prospectus states as their mission.  If the show is interested in geometric abstraction and your work is floral you will want to save your money and keep looking for a better match for your work.  If you do work with geometric abstraction then you might want to check out who is doing the jurying.  Informing yourself about the juror does not insure that they will accept your work but I believe it makes the experience of allowing another person or persons to make a judgement on your work more personal and hopefully more meaningful.

The thing you must work hard to avoid is allowing either a positive or negative outcome to a show entry to influence what how you feel about your work.  I just received a rejection notice for a show I entered.  I was disappointed but I know that there are only so many spaces for any given show and the jurors must make their best choices to fill those spaces with a cohesive and lively representation of what was entered.  I don't think jurors can say they are not swayed by their own prejudices about work they are judging but then that's in some ways what they are hired to do.  

I asked the artist I worked with on this survey if they entered juried shows and how much importance they give to acceptance or rejection.  Here's a sample of their responses.

Jane Allen Nodine:  Yes I do, and I have for over 30 years.  I have been fortunate to be selected for quite a few major national and international competitions, which gets my work out and away from my region.  I don't however give too much weight to competitions because I know the judging process is subjective.

Judy Langille:  Depending on the exhibition and how much I want to be in a show establishes how much importance I put on acceptance or rejection.  The first time I was in Quilt National I had to keep pinching myself in order to believe it.  I actually missed my oldest sons graduation from Law School in order to be there for the festivities.

Leslie Avon Miller:  It always feels better to be accepted than rejected.  Other than the emotional component though, I doubt it means much of anything once you have reached a certain level of expertise.  I think it's more about the judges and the specific show than it is about the quality of the work.

Leslie Riley:  I am pleased and honored when accepted into an exhibition and disappointed when rejected.  I am well aware of the subjective nature of a juried exhibition so I do not take the results personally.  Rejection does not devalue my art.  Shows are an opportunity for exposure and recognition.


I hope you have been enjoying this series.  Next week I will be wrapping it up with my list of points to keep in mind relating to Self Critique.

Thank you for stopping by
Studio 24-7!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate You Own Work - Part 4

This is part 4 of  a series of articles I did several years ago.  This a reader inquired about this article so I decided to repost. 

Have you ever had the experience of having an amazing day in your studio where you feel you are on a cloud and can do no wrong then have a spouse, friend or the delivery man show up, see what you are doing and with one off-hand remark bring your world crashing down?  If so, you are not alone.  I have listened to more than one conversation where a person describes that they really like to work with with abstract compositions but their spouse doesn't understand them and prefers more pictorial work so that's what they do.  What!!!!  Who's the artist here?  If this is where you are in your art life you have a long way to go to fulfill your personal vision and make your best work.

We are all tender about our work.  At least in the beginning when we haven't established a direction or build our art muscles but off-hand remarks or disparaging remarks by people we love and or respect (such as workshop teachers or other artist friends) can be painful and potentially damaging.  We can shrink back from our inspirations and discoveries to safer ground never to venture to these ideas again.  So I asked the artists involved in this project: Do you allow other people to critique your work?  If so, who?  How do you decide who has this priviledge?

Jeanne Raffer Beck responded regarding serious, invited critiques and says, "Each person who has given me input on my work has provided a clue or key to some question that I have had. I realize that artists vary in their aesthetics, focus and ability to communicate ideas, so I do temper their critiques with the understanding that I am the creator and need to make my own choices."

Several people mentioned critique groups or groups of artists to which they belong as being sources of feedback.  Judy Langille says, " I belong to two critique groups.  Some of the people are very good at this and others are not that helpful.  I have been in one group for many years so I have a lot of trust in them.  One of my sons is a painter and he is probably my most thoughtful and helpful critic.  He has taken the time to understand my processes and is very helpful to me in evaluating my work.  I sometimes wait to see him before I continue on a piece."

Another participant, Christine Mauersberger, had a slightly different response.  She felt it was important to have people who know her area and are aligned to textiles or contemporary art.  She further stated that she did not want to waste her time with people who are not actively involved in some form of formal art critique in their own lives.  She explained that she waits for people she respects and seeks opportunities to have private conversations.

Another question I posted was, "How Affected are you by criticism of other people especially if it is coming from someone you respect?"  I want to remind you that all of the artists responding are professional and have been working for many years in their chosen fields.

Jane Nodine said, " I'm an observer and I always take things into consideration.  Most of that material is filed away in mind, and then it percolates to the surface in the work process.  Criticism by others is not something of emphasis for me because I have my own critical standards and I'm my hardest critic."

Leslie Avon Miller responded, "I can be blown off course by mean spirited or misguided criticism, so I don't invite just any old person to comment on my art.  I learned long ago not to expect my family to get it.  I try to be curious, very curious.  Why do they think that I wonder? But that only comes a few days later."

Others mentioned connecting with other artists on Facebook, blogs and people they have known for years and whose opinions they trust.

The most important thing is to hold your ideas and creations close until you feel strong enough to understand and trust your own feelings of the worth of your creativity.

Thank you for stopping by
Studio 24-7.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate You Own Work - Part 3

This is part 3 of  a series of articles I did several years ago.  This a reader inquired about this article so I decided to repost. 
A nice surprise for the New Year, I just noticed that this is either my 400th or 401st post here at Studio 24-7!  Wow.  I had no idea when I began that I would get this far.  I promise to stop when I don't feel I have anything interesting or meaningful to say or I just need to put my time into other things.

So Self Critique.  I've spoken a great deal about looking and studying what you have done but what are you looking for?  In my original questions to the artists involved I asked several questions relating to this.

1.  What kinds of elements do you look for in a successful piece?  Good composition?  Good color? A sense of content or theme? How the work fits into your body of work? etc. ( I should have said great composition, great color, content and theme and a relationship to your current body of work or a new direction)

While each of these questions can be answered with a simple response, the deeper answers are not so simple.  I think all of the mentioned elements are important and contribute to making a work of art complete and a work with quality.  While each element will be dealt with differently by each individual artists, each element must be there (in my opinion).  I have to say here that there is a world of work being made today that doesn't address any of these issues.  You can see this work in many of the still published art magazines.  Most of that work does not interest me and I cannot address its' making.

I am of the opinion that art always has content but that content may not make itself known until the artist is deep into the work.  Content does not have to be a "story" or a recognizable series of objects.  It doesn't have to be photographic or easily understood or recognized.  It can be flexible, elusive, secret or very non-objective. It can express feelings, emotions, relationships, dreams etc. etc.

As to design, the elements in your work will always have a relationship to one another but the design can be off handed or considered,  good or awful ... generally the good is more appealing and should support your ideas better.  

Color is an element that expresses emotion like no other.  It is also the element that most people use poorly.  If you want to be a good colorist you may have to do a lot of study, experimentation, more looking and use a very critical eye when looking at your work and the work of those you admire.  Are the colors quiet, loud, strange, ordinary, pale, bright, eye popping, subtle, and again etc. etc.  There is more to it than giving the color wheel a spin but that is a place to start.

Working in a series is a very positive way to develop your work and add depth to your body of work.  I'm not talking about a series which is made of 99 pieces so similar that one can't be identified from another but work that shows the development of an idea.  I will also say that how big the leap is from one piece to another by any given artist is very individual (even if it's 99 pieces you can't tell apart from one another).  Some people work in a very lateral way and others move forward quickly.  Either is great but jumping from one style or technique to another in every piece will leave you drained and with no direction.

2.  Is there a "something special" that completes a work that is more elusive than the identifiable elements of design?

This is a more difficult question.  Several of the artists responded that the "something special" was simply that there wasn't anything else for them to do.  This is where giving yourself time to view and absorb your work will come in handy.  Several also mentioned looking and experiencing a feeling of satisfaction or excitement.  I personally believe this "feeling" is some of the things that keeps us going.  I played golf for a brief time.  I recall one shot where I hit the ball in what is called the "sweet spot" and how amazing that specific shot felt.  It is sometimes what keeps golfers playing as golf is a difficult game.  So when you get it right in a work perhaps that is a type of sweet spot.  I think you also know when a piece is done when it pushes you ahead to a new work.  New York artist Pat Pauley responded , " Successful works are more than the sum of their elemental design parts.  But I would not be able to describe that!"  Rebecca Howdeshellsays she is always looking for a resolution where every mark or design choice contributes to the whole.  She further states that if she feels the work has moved her forward in her search she is happy.

And lastly:

3.  When do you know a work is resolved?  What does resolved mean to you?

One good response to this was given by Rebecca, that you may feel a piece is resolved when it moves you ahead in your work.  I often think of my life's work as a road or path.  Sometimes the path peters out or you don't like where you end up or every piece leads to another and it is exciting and fulfilling.  The important thing is that it doesn't become stale or ho-hum.  There are artists whose work is so expected that I just can't look at it any more.  My personal belief is they just don't have anything more to say but it has gotten very comfortable in one spot (especially if they have received recognition for a specific way of working.)  If you complete a piece and you aren't sure if it is all you want it to be then likely it isn't all it should be OR you need to spend more time with the piece.....we are back to looking.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate Your Own Work - Part 2

Self Critique - Learning to Evaluate Your Own Work - Part 2

This is part 2 of  a series of articles I did several years ago.  This a reader inquired about this article so I decided to repost. 
One aspect of evaluating work which I spoke about last week was spending time looking at your work.  I can't tell you how critical this is.  Some of the artists who participated in this project mentioned hanging their work and looking at the work at a distance.  This is good practice.  Most good work will appear somewhat different close up or at a distance.  If the work is large you have to get some distance in order to see the work with some perspective.  A small piece presents an opportunity for a more intimite experience and may not be very engaging at a distance but until you hang the work for review you may not be fully aware of how the work will show.

Even after all this looking you may not be sure if the work is finished and you may just have to give yourself time to see the work with what I call "fresh eyes".  These are the eyes that aren't "in love" with what you think the piece looks like or what you want the piece to be.  The fresh eyes are more removed and more objective allowing you to see the flaws if there are any and the beauty or statement or attitude that you are seeking in your work.

It's kind of fun to hang the work and stroll by it pretending you are visiting a gallery or museum and seeing the work for the first time.  Are you engaged?  Does it make an impression?  Does it require you to stop and think or does it give you the full story in one glance?  Leslie Riley says she likes to question herself to make sure the work has met the criteria and objectives she establishes before she begins a work. 

With all of this evaluation going on I was curious as to how many of the artists kept notes, journals or sketchbooks which might later be used to refresh their thoughts when a specific work was made.  Here the responses were more varied.  While some of the artists mentioned keeping technical notes or making sketches Kathleen Loomis revealed that she often writes about her work on her blog: Art With A Needle.  She stated that while she writes about work in progress she does not post photographs of a piece until it is complete and often not until it has been accepted into a show.  Her decision is based on the fact that if you show a picture of a work and mention that you are trying resolve some issue readers often want to comment and help you solve the problem.  Kathy feels solving the problems is her job.  I agree but appreciate her writing about her process.

More on this next week.