TITLE: Goal Setting - Artist Feedback
DATE: 2/28/2006 06:00:00 AM
When I started out in art school, I looked around with Freshman eyes and knew I had one thing that most of the other students in my class didn't... I knew that critique was something I would rarely receive once I graduated and left college. With few rare exceptions, I enjoyed every critique in four years. I even found enjoyment in the ones that left me in tears, slammed for poor execution or flimsy ideas. Most of my peers attended critiques with dread.
Consider that a chef-in-training is critiqued with every mouth that encounters their work.
Art is very similar, with just as many subtleties and nuances to perfect and control with finesse.
So why then, when we leave the art school realm and begin to promote or sell our work, do we stand back and assume we have all the tools and are now capable of critiquing our own work? Does a BFA really put a stamp of approval on our critical eye? Is self feedback really the same as outside feedback?
Any honest artist or craftsperson would say, "No!"
In order to achieve our art sales or promotion goals, we have to find a way of receiving reliable, reflective critique.
I suggest every serious artist or craftsperson BE RELENTLESS IN SEEKING HONEST FEEDBACK using these guidelines:
1 - Avoid friends and family. Your mother doesn't want to hurt your feelings. Neither does your boyfriend or girlfriend. Look for objectivity.
2 - Seek out experts in your field of interest. Find successful artists you admire, people whose work you feel inspired by, or gallery owners or curators who are interested in contributing in small ways to artists in their community. The first time I called an artist I admired, I was stumped at what to say. But, I made the call, she laughed, and we had a great talk. It wasn't complicated or impossible. Don't psyche yourself out of asking for feedback from the best in the business.
3 - Make a habit of revisiting your own work and your own ideas. Sketchbooks are powerful. So are journals. But their power isn't in immediacy. What is incredible is when you pick up a sketchbook from 3 years ago and see similar forms, shapes, or ideas that relate to where you are today. Make a habit of journaling and sketching. Then put your ideas away on a shelf or in a box. Revisit these ideas now and then, and you will be surprised how peeking at the past is a form of review or reflection!
4 - Use a physical or online questionnaire to depersonalize the process. Ok, I know it may seem silly to send a questionnaire out about your work. But consider how busy people are today! I once received a package in the mail with 4 wooden jewelry chests and a paper questionnaire. It was from an artist I knew who was working on a new line and wanted feedback. By testing the piece, writing down what I liked and disliked, I was providing valuable impact that later was incorporated into his final designs. I've seen weavers do this by having people test their scarves or painters who allow friends to "house" their work for a month or two. Why not use a free service like Survey Monkey to make the feedback process seemless?
5 - Dig out the Polaroid or digital camera and give distance to design. One of my favorite tools is a Polaroid camera. I have two in the studio, and always back-up film. There is nothing better than being able to arrange something - snap. Rearrange it - snap. Flip it all around again - snap! Then, I line up all my photos and can stand back to review them. Other people can then also see what you saw in that quick moment. This speeds the critique process up. You waste less time on poor design ideas.
6 - Create a critique wall. Art schools have walls covered in cork or painted homosote. My studio also has this on one wall. It also has excellent lighting for the critique or display wall. I can put up pieces in progress or finished work and step back, with a strong lighting scenario, and review what is before me. Even the smallest of studios needs a blank space for review, reflection... and semi-formal critique.