Critiques Not Papercuts
Papercut by Craig Ward
I don't know what this title means, exactly, but I feel in a distance synapse somewhere, it makes sense (which may be something I've said before because my titles aren't always, um, intuitive).
Anyway, last night was our first critique in Mixed Media with James Fish. I've been critiqued many times before but usually on my writing or, more recently, my trapeze sets.
It went well.
And well not as in everyone loved it, no one had suggestions and I felt praised as only an only child can feel by a grade mongering mother. There were plenty of suggestions and one person even used "a little much" to describe a choice I had made. As in, "The border is a little much." Hey, so it goes. Your little much is my just right, which is true too of my feelings about fresh strawberries and pre-tax retirement savings.
But that idea about adding some blue to soften the white, that I liked.
What struck me last evening was how well James handled the range of feelings and questions people brought to class. Some graciously solicited feedback, some wanted choices made for them, some were really hard on themselves, some weren't finished. James juggled it all with aplomb while I marveled at his probing questions, agility in not getting pulled into an emotional brew, and smooth skill in placing the onus gently on students to create their own solutions.
For example, when a student asks a class to imagine... a large lime-green bee flying over a medium-sized pyramid logo with a tropical ocean behind it... or something... How would that look?
The simple answer is we don't know until we see it.
So, critiques. When I'm observing courses I often marvel at how wildly different this critical (ha!) part of instruction can go, depending on the instructor. Some are super structured and offer three points that will be commented on per project with each student getting five minutes of response time, while others are looser and review the entirety of the work. Either and more methods can work well depending on the class.
On the student's end, I find it's really helpful to disconnect from the work. The intention of a critique is to explore options and potentially improve the piece. It can help to remember that it's about the piece, not about me, and that I've got a lot to learn, and that there are people who have a lot of ideas to offer. I can try them on and accept and dismiss and alter as I wish. It's actually kind of exciting. Working on creative projects is often such an isolated experience, just me and my gesso imagining I'm in the French countryside making my living selling fresh bread and short stories, like a real artist who owns only one pair of shoes. It can be freeing to get some other perspectives.
On a related note, there is a site called Please Critique Me where you can submit your work for feedback. They also cite an article on what goes into a good critique, which can be useful when responding to others' work or looking at your own.