|Unexpectedness is a great way to attract attention!|
The last time I taught a class I asked for suggestions for an upcoming blog. When later I read through the suggestions I was surprised by how many people mentioned self-evaluation as being important. This is one time when the mote in the other person's eye is probably more helpful than the beam in your own!
As a first step, I'd suggest really training your eye by critiquing other people's work. The problem with critiquing your own is that it's really hard to be objective. When we look at the piece on the wall we see not only the actual pattern of shapes in cloth but also all our hopes, beliefs, intentions, inspirations etc. It's very difficult to shut off those. Especially if you're learning how to evaluate the strength of a piece.
Therefore, I suggest getting together with friends and bringing examples to the get-togethers of Truly awful work (in your opinion) and fabulously brilliant work. Take images from the internet, or from books or magazines. You're not going to be publishing these, your comments will go nowhere but the group! So don't worry about that...but when you show the others the work and make your comments you have to totally justify and say why you think the piece is Awful, or boring, or exciting or fabulous. Gradually you'll learn ways of expressing these things...and you are training your eye...it's like wine tasting!! you've got to have the wine!
The most important thing about a work of art - which you'll notice immediately you go out surfing on the 'net - is whether or not it attracts your attention. D'you want to look at it for more than the standard 3 second glance that most images create? d'you lean forward, and hit Ctrl + to see it better? D'you want to "pin it" or save it in some way? D'you want to come back to it later to look at it again? These are the key hallmarks to a successful piece.
All the rest is the nitty gritty of how the artist achieved a succesful work...those "principles" we've all heard about? They are the means by which the artist caught and held our attention. They've been derived by critics and teachers looking at artwork that has stood the test of time figuring out what characteristics those artworks have in common.
Some are technical: unity/harmony, variety/tension, rhythm/movement, balance/proportion, economy.
Some are more emotional: does the work make us feel? Is an emotion created within us? whether it's delight, or despair - does the work affect us? what is the artist communicating?
or is the emotion we sense one of boredom? this piece is boring, it's empty, it's been seen before. As human beings we are definitely hard wired to be attracted by something novel. If the quilt is the 17th, or 70th or 700th iteration of something we've seen before, it's not going to have much effect on us.
If the piece is interesting but somehow doesn't feel quite right, the problem is likely to be something technical.
If the piece is boring, the problem is likely to be that the artist is not able to communicate something to us...possibly because they have nothing to communicate...or that they are so inarticulate that they have failed to do so but more likely the former.
And now I shall go and make yet another cup of tea, I'm sure it will be better than the last one!
If you have been, thanks for reading!
And do - please! - comment! Elizabeth