Sunday, August 23, 2020

Critiqueing one's own work


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.    

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'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 successful 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 or painting or piece of music is the 17th, or 70th or 700th iteration of something we've seen/heard 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.

Once you've developed your critiquing  skills on other people's work, it becomes easier  to see your own and judge it.  BUT to aid the transition, put your work into the same format as that which you used for others' work. ie. if you looked at all the images on line - on your computer monitor, then put your work up there.  If you printed it out...then print it out.  Also I strongly recommend having more than one piece to look at at a least 3 is good.  And that has the added benefit of having you make more work!!  More work is always one of the best ways of improving in anything.

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


Ellen Lindner said...

I'd love to see examples of this. For example, "flaws" in your own work that you corrected in-process.

Denny1600 said...

These are excellent suggestions. And the cute “cleaner” at the top of the page is an attention grabber.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Ellen! and thanks for commenting....I don't have any before and after pictures...though with hindsight that would have been an excellent thing to do.
Nowadays I try to work out major flaws at the design stage - saves wasting fabric!! and labor...
I have overdyed a whole quilt, more than once! Where i got the color scheme wrong and it wasn't pulling together...and that worked really well...though you have to be careful you don't dull everything down...howeveer a bit of textile paint for the highlights will help correct that.
Frequently very frequently in fact, I've cut big sections off quilts.
I had one in Quilt National a few years back that was a wide black and white stripe with a red edge at the was big...but the original was about 2/3 bigger! I cut masses off the side.
I've also sliced a quilt vertically into 5 strips and rearranged them...and that gave me the mystery and unexpectedness I wanted.

Hope this gives you some idea!!! thanks for writing! Elizabeth

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Denny, and thank you for commenting.
yes that was unexpected!! my grandson...I was thinking where the heck has that little tyke gone and there he was in the bathroom preparing to clean!!!
Get them trained early I reckon!!!! Elizabeth

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

These are great ideas. I can tell whether or not I like my piece, but developing a vocabulary for what went wrong would help a lot in knowing the best way to fix and what to look for ongoing. I too admire your photo. Cute grandson. I have a picture of my daughter cleaning the toilet. Unfortunately, that stage didn't last.

Studio TBF said...

Before Covid 19, I took an ongoing watercolor class. At the start of each class we hung our work, no matter where we were in the process, for critique. First we had to say what we liked about our classmates work - colors, composition etc. It was hard for some people to only point out the good things, they wanted to jump into the negatives immediately. Next we had to say Is it finished? Why or why not. Sometimes it was easy to tell that a piece wasn’t finished but hard to explain why you felt that way. Finally, which areas are good, which need work, what’s missing etc. Only after the whole class commented was the artist able to speak up. Many times the artist was focused on something that no one else even noticed.I learned soooo much from this! Both giving and receiving the critiques.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hi Shasta, thank you for writing...yes it's a shame...the toilet cleaning stage doesn't last very long at all!!!
Developing the vocabulary is so helpful, it gives you a structure within which to work...I learned this early on when I was learning statistics...and floundering!!!
That if I had a basic structure within which to organize the questions/tests/principle it would make finding the solution much easier.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Hello Studio TBF! thank you for commenting.
Yes one can learn a whole lot about how to look at something....and how NOT!...from a group discussion situation. This is used quite a lot in formal art classes, I never understood why the same thing wasn't commonplace with quilters.
I certainly did something like it in my weeklong workshops and i think it was very helpful. Like I said to Shasta, you do need the structure of How to look at something from a design point of view...Form, not content....and what words you can use to describe your reactions and observations.
Good point!!! Elizabeth