It’s so great to get good feedback on your work! That’s why I like having a critique group. I asked a few artist friends to get together once a month to share current work – finished or not – and to get some comments. This group has been continuing to meet for the past 3 years, and we have all gained so much from the interaction. Most artists are comfortable seeing and commenting on work-in-process, while non-artists tend to have problems understanding the “in-process” part unless the work is finished. By meeting regularly everyone gets to see your work over a long period, and so the comments get even more worthwhile and valuable.
The advantage of having a critique group is that you no longer have to get those worthless comments on your work – like from relatives, non-artist friends, gallery owners, and spouses or significant others. These comments from those who do not understand visual language will not be helpful at all. The disadvantage is that too many comments may block your progress, so it’s important not to bring work that’s still in infancy, and to wait until it has coalesced into a substantial image.
In my group we have a system that works well for us. There are about 6 of us, and we meet for about 3 hours in the morning, once a month, at my studio. Each person takes a turn by putting one piece up by itself. If an artist has several pieces to show, each piece is still seen separately unless it’s part of a series. We set a timer for one minute for everyone to be silent and just look at the painting. We found that without this step some fast reaction folks yell out their comments before someone else who needs more time can formulate their own opinion. It also keeps the artist from feeling like they need to talk about, defend or otherwise comment on their work. In our group the artist doesn’t need to tell their story – the “critters” aren’t interested in it, at least at first – and don’t want to cloud their view. After all, if you want feedback on your painting wouldn’t you prefer hearing what someone thinks without your influence? After the one minute beeper goes off we just take turns, one person at a time, saying opinions. We avoid comments such as “I like it, I don’t like it, It needs some red over there”. Instead we concentrate on the overall impact, and any visual impediments to movement and focus. Each person has vastly different work than the next, and it doesn’t matter whether you prefer that type of work or not – it only matters whether you think that artist has succeeded in doing what they set out to do. The BEST part of this whole process is that we end up “mirroring” our own individual creative needs by commenting. For instance, when an individual from the group makes a comment on another artist’s work that’s on display, it almost always turns out to be a key issue in their own work.