Episode 029 – Artist Critiques – The lighter side of Opinion vs Expertise


Episode 029 – What to expect if you attend an art critique. 

Greetings everyone, I am Sonya Paz your professional artist, business person, entrepreneur and podcaster! I have been doing been in this art business a loooong time and today we are talking about art critiques, a quick insight on both ends of the spectrum, getting your work art critiqued and critiquing others artwork.

You might ask, if I have I ever been part of the artist critique and have had my work reviewed by someone like this? Yes, I have volunteered my art to be part of a critique many many moons ago. It was an education experience from all levels.

If you have an opportunity to be part of a critique where a local artist museum or gallery is hosting an artist critique it might be an interesting insight to go and get your work critiqued. If you choose not to go for yourself perhaps attend and just observe and just see what it is like. Or go with a friend who’s an artist and sit in during the process if you don’t feel that this is for you at this time. But I say go for it, jump in with both both feet, it’s just opinion and insight, it’s always good to get a perspectives of someone that’s not emotionally attached to you or your work. 

Early in my art career there was a local museum that was offering critiques for a very small fee, I believe it was $10. A well-known art curator had about a dozen artist attend the critique with their work (The work was a variety of paintings, watercolor, sculpture, 3-D, jewelry etc.) and he offered a very kind and positive critique. It was not his mission or intention to bash the art and it was not his mission to criticize, he didn’t demean the Artists and it was in a group setting with their peers. 

The entire critique lasted a couple of hours and he went through each person’s artwork asked some questions about the work, valued questions like; “what it meant to you?”, “what was your state of mind when creating it?”, and “what was inspiring?” etc. He then gently deconstructed the work in a way that was positive and encouraging.

I will admit that in the late 90s when my work was really finding it’s voice with a cross of cubism and modern American pop art I felt somewhat intimidated by the critique because everyone’s artwork that was being presented at this session was very serious, lifelike drawings, plein air painting’s, still life’s etc. there wasn’t a lot of abstract works that was being presented was, at the time I remember feeling that the works that were being critiqued were “serious art”. LOL

A couple of years later there was another critique in downtown San Jose area and that I thought I would attend. With some other art friends of mine, and I don’t want to say that I attended for fun but I attended just to see the process in a different light. 

I’m not going to say that my art was ripped apart, torn up, chewed up and spit out at me but I did find it interesting that the person that was doing the critique didn’t ask the questions that I had been asked a couple years earlier,  those questions being for me to describe what I was feeling while creating the work, where the idea, concept or inspiration derived from, instead the woman was quite vocal and or confusion about my work and when I opened up my portfolio she practically gasp out loud with I’m not quite sure if it was a gasp of horror, or a shock of the colors, but it certainly was a reaction and it was a process that I made sure I paid attention to. I was just going to enjoy the ride….

She proceeded to tell me that my work was “different”, that I needed a better “perspective”, and I will tell you that this was a very abstract painting of the Vineyard at the time, a funky vineyard composition, wild crazy grapes, and wine bottles and glasses popping out from the horizon. She told me “that in the real world a wine bottle would not be popping out from behind a mountain”. Yeah, ok… duh.  Ha ha!

She reached for her notepad and told me to go take a perspective class… And that someday when I get to be really good I could probably sell my artwork. I had to contain myself from laughing out loud but I quickly said thanked her for the information, I also told her that I was already selling my artwork and had been for a few years already.

I didn’t say that to her because I felt I wanted to outperform her, but it was evident to me that even though she had avery formal art education, and she had been teaching figurative drawing classes. She had never sold any of her work before. 

I took my portfolio and I took her note and decided to stick around to watch and listen to what other people at this critique were telling others, I found most of the folks that were performing the other critiques to have been encouraging.

All I can say, is it is what it is, I have had people asking me throughout my art career to critique their work. The first thing I will say is “I am not a critic”, for me I want to be encouraging, I have seen too many artists get one bad critique decide to fold up the colored pencils and give up an opportunity to really express themselves.

I will say that I’m a pretty tough cookie, I have been told great things about my art in my life and I have been told awful things about my art in my life, the work and the art is in the eye of the holder, there are just some people who really get off on dissing peoples dreams and feeling that there is a sense of loss in their life that they want to not encourage others for whatever reasons that they have. 

I am pretty honest also when people ask “can I come by and show you my work” and you tell me what you think and right off the bat I will tell them that I will be I would love to look at the work but I don’t feel that I’m in a position to give a critique, I want people to have the artistic freedom that they have while creating, I don’t want them to feel stifled or persuaded in a direction that may not necessarily be who they are as an artist. 

If you are a professional artist who has an opportunity to offer a critique to students, upcoming artist, folks who are contemplating a new hobby or career change. Be true to yourself and be true to them. 

Give advice that you know what only excel their interest in being an artist, give advice that you would have liked to have received when you were up coming and getting your work out there. And not every artist is going to end up selling their work a lot of people just want to get a critique and something other than family and friends, they want a neutral opinion about their work. 

And just remember, the person offering or giving the critique is giving a critique and chances are they are doing it as a volunteer, perhaps they might receive a small stipend for their efforts. And everyone, all of your rock stars I want you to know that these are just opinions, I’ve had great critiques and I’ve had lousy critiques the thing that you have to remember is that it’s just an opinion and you need to go there with an open mind.

Your family and friends are always going to say something and most people are going to be encouraging,  take your work into the light of somebody else, someone that is not emotionally attached to you, someone that is a neutral opinion that can offer. A good sign is for someone Who is curating or offering a critique to ask you questions about your work.

All righty rock stars, I hope that these this inside will help you with what to look out for and how to condition yourself prior to attending an artist critique!

And for all you painters out there remember that our sponsor, the brush guys at the brush guys.com have amazing specials on brushes, whether you work at oils, watercolors, acrylic, cosmetic, there is a brush out there for you and they have amazing specials and deals. Use the promo code rockstar to receive an instant 5% off with no minimums. 

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That’s it for today everyone, I hope you’re going to have an amazing week next week I hope to have another interview set up for you to be inspired by! 

Peace out everyone!

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