Tip 7. Critiques

Anthony O'Keefe Uncategorized 0 Comments

We all receive critiques, it’s part of exhibiting our work, it’s important that we treat them as fuel to enhance our work and develop as an artist. To be able to judge the value of the critique we need to understand what type it is and then to treat accordingly.

I classify critiques into three groups; objective, subjective and self-criticism. Each is very important and can provide valuable fuel to drive us forward.

Objective criticism.
Usually from a fellow artist and can be very valuable as it is often expressed in phrases we understand or will suggest a way we might want to develop. Take this criticism seriously, write it down in your sketch book and think about it. Do not immediately follow the advice, unless you are on a course and your tutor is giving it, but do a little research, mull it over, try it out and if after this time you agree,¬†accept it. This could be after a day, or after a few years but do not forget the advice. The best artist I’ve ever had honestly critique my work was Ashley Bestibier, a South African portrait artist. I would sometimes mull over what she’d said for a long time before introducing the advice into my work. It always improved my work without changing the direction I want to go in.

Subjective criticism.
Usually from someone who is not artistically trained or active and the opinions can be based on nothing at all but purely their likes and dis-likes. I once had a guy come to an equine painting show of mine, when I asked him if he liked my work he said “No, I do not like horses”. As you can imagine I did not take his opinion as valid. However my wife Christine is the most subjective critic I most cherish. She will tell me straight if she does not like something I’ve done or say something like “That ear does not look right”. She may not know technically what’s wrong, that’s for me to figure out, but she is invariably right. I take subjective criticism seriously but I still make my own mind up. Chris does not like what she calls my jazz paintings, but I do and they are great for keeping me loose. They’ve also improved technically and Chris is starting to like them, well a bit anyway.

Self criticism.
The most important person to listen too. You need to constantly critique your work if you do not want to end up in a dead-end without creativity reproducing the same work over and over again. Be brutally honest with yourself without beating your self up. During a painting critique your progress all the time, take short breaks from painting to examine how you’re getting on and listen to your inner voice. When not painting study other artists work and techniques, see if there is something you can learn and adapt to your own style. Think about you compositions, colours, tones, edges in fact everything and ask yourself “Can I do it better” more often than not you can. When I’ve nearly completed a painting I take it out of the studio and hang it in the living room where I can see it from “my chair” and have a notepad next to me. Over a few days I’ll not down things that need improving,often just tweaks to the painting but sometimes there are some more fundamental issues. Live with your painting and get to know its weaknesses so you can improve the next time. When accepting a commission I aways quote 2 months even if I know I can complete it in a month, this gives me time to live with the painting.

We produce art because we enjoy it so do not beat yourself up when criticising your work or when receiving criticism. Keep some of your work or photograph it so that you can look back over the years and see how by dealing with criticism in the right way it has improved your work. Next time you receive criticism use it to your advantage.

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