Monday, January 12, 2015

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

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.


  1. The best or at least most humorous input I ever received was, "Ohhh, I love the fabric on the back."

  2. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

  3. Interesting reading - this topic - thank you for exploring it in depth.

    I also find it [personally] interesting that a couple of the responses by the artists here directly correspond with my own feelings about their work. Vulnerability, to me, is one of the most important paths to creating work that will resonate with many [work that will sell, live well on gallery walls, collections etc.] ... and this includes vulnerability to critiques. Without vulnerability an artist is hiding their truth. For me, if I can't *feel* someone's truth in their work, there is no emotional response to it.

    Not meaning to open a can of worms here, but this post has set my thoughts to wondering so thought I'd toss in two cents.

    1. I couldn't agree more. Owning your work and still having vulnerability is a perfect response. There is some "elevator art" in the lobby area of a department store I occasionally shop. I never walk by that work without thinking how much potential the works has but how totally cold and lifeless it is in reality. I think it lacks the "feeling of truth" or vulnerability you speak of. It's just design with no heart. Well done but meaningless.

      I like your worms. Thanks for sharing them ;-)

  4. Terry, your blog is something of a lesson every time I read it. It has given advise, stirred up new ideas, and given new ways of thinking. Your willingness to share your wisdom is something to be commended. You are a special mentor and I hope you never get tired of doing it no matter what the count is. Thank you very much - sincerely.

  5. Thank you Deb. I' m so happy that my thoughts are meaningful to you. Xo,t