TITLE: Visible Skill
DATE: 12/23/2004 02:04:00 PM
I consider myself a rare breed in the art world. When reviewing someone’s work, I give honest critique and rarely color my comments with personal opinion. Politeness and personal aesthetic has little role, if any, in molding artistic development.
In honestly appraising an artist’s career development, only one roadblock has ever popped up: explaining to an artist that their “visual skill level” is not nearly as high as they imagine it to be.
More plainly said… The artist sees their work in one way. I see something entirely different that isn’t necessarily ready to be sold or promoted on a broad scale. The work needs more development.
Why am I pointing this out?
All artists and craftspeople have one thing in common, no matter their medium or approach. They are selling their visible skill.
If you are a glass blower, you likely began by taking classes or (if you were lucky) apprenticing with an artist. Your first year probably produced dozens of paperweights and a few obnoxiously heavy vessels. Learning to throw on the wheel usually has the same first year result. Slowly you realized you weren’t cut out for your chosen medium or you stubbornly pressed on, determined to achieve success.
Even if glass wasn’t the medium you trained in, there was a point where you were at the crossroads and had to make that decision. Should I continue on? Do I stop now and try something else? Can I really make anything of this?
So, what happens when you chose to continue on with the medium? You hit a comfortable stride. This is the point where things truly get murky. Your head is in the studio. You are focused. You may even receive compliments on your work (especially from prior paperweight recipients!).
Then you sit down with someone like me for critique and advice. You feel ready to do this full time. And, sitting across from you (or via email), I say, “Your visible skill could use further development.”
What I (or anyone who has told you this about your work) mean is that you need more time. You should keep at it. You should continue to look for honest critique. You should ask me specifically what ‘gives you away’ as a new artist in the medium. In working on these areas you should also make a point to come back and ask for more critique on your newest pieces. Press on. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t focus on your timeline. Focus on your final goal.
After all, if I didn’t see any skill at all in your work, my critique would have began with, “Sooooooo, do you have a day job?”