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Feedback is your Friend

March 9, 2011

It is important to get Feedback.

We have to hear the bad with the good no matter how much we don’t want to.

Critiques are a great way to learn from other’s comments and their work and gain new perspective.

It’s never easy, but it gets easier.

I just came back from a critique held at a monthly meeting of the Montgomery Art Association. This month we had a watercolor teacher do the critique. I was a little embarrassed because I arrived a few minutes late and the critique was under way.

There was a varied assortment of media: oils, acrylics, watercolors, color pencils, and line drawings. The subjects were mostly landscapes (water), portraits, and flower still life.

I brought a watercolor of palm trees in Florida and an acrylic painting I’m still working on that doesn’t have a name yet. It is a highly textured painting of two fantail goldfish. One is swimming towards the other; both are above the anacharis plants.

I feel it is important to get feedback no matter hard it is to hear you need to keep working on something or that you need to make some adjustments. Feedback in general helps us grow as individuals and allows us to know what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. We can learn from our mistakes and see things from others’ perspectives.

In college we had a critique almost every week for every art related class I was in. It can be nerve racking, but you get used to them (if they are done right). You don’t want a critique where there is nothing constructive said. You want to hear what is good and what is bad. What I liked about the critique this evening was that she said something to the effect that “we know you are good (or we know this is good), we want to talk about what is bad.” So we quickly identify what is working in a painting and move right into how we can improve it.

Art is subjective, but there are certain fundamentals to good art. The lady doing the critique discussed:

  • Line  
  • Shape and Form  
  • Value  
  • Space  
  • Color  
  • Texture

She also discussed how we all LOVE color. (if you know me I love color), but it is important to keep in mind all the other elements in their order of importance.

Many of the pieces received comments regarding, “harsh lines.” She was very concerned about softening harsh lines and not drawing attention to areas that didn’t need attention. OR not having a harsh line develop optical illusions that skew an otherwise correctly drawn perspective. She discussed how we don’t want harsh lines everywhere. It doesn’t allow for an area of focus, an area of beauty.

Most of us had to be aware of our negative space and make sure we were using it appropriately.

The topic of “artistic license” vs. painting strict reality came up as well. “An overcast day is not an excuse to not make light sources clear.”  

My paintings faired pretty well. My fish painting had very good texture and the fish were good (still not finished though), but the plants in the bottom corner were not quite there yet. It is suggested I add something else in the area that is open or add some darker blue. She also suggested trying things out in collage to see what would work. I may use Photoshop to test out placement of another plant or leaf. My palm trees painting didn’t get any comments for improvement. She was very pleased with it and my use of red in the palm trees and the placement of the trees. I am glad! I considered that painting finished and it is for sale. I just wanted to learn from her and see if she had ideas. It took me all night to paint and I was feeling unsure.

So, it’s never easy to have your work judged, especially after you’ve spent long hours toiling over your work. Nonetheless, it is highly beneficial to work through the temporary uneasiness to gain some perspective and reminders on how to improve your art. I couldn’t decide whether or not to attend… but decided one should never pass up the opportunity for quality feedback.

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