I've been working on plans for a new workshop, called Critique Class, that I will be offering for the first time for two days in late April at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. This idea has been simmering on the back burner for years and I am happy to bring it forward this spring. The class will be open to artists working in any 2-D medium, and will focus on developing methods of self-critique, getting the most out of studio visits and formal critiques, and being able to offer constructive criticism to others.
While "critique" is a word that tends to imply heavy baggage, my goal is for everyone in the class to practice communicating about their own art and that of other class members in a non-threatening, direct and helpful way.
My interest in teaching this topic comes from a belief that self-evaluation is one of the most essential skills for artistic growth. Figuring out some clear goals and fair standards for your own work leads to healthy self-regard--feeling confident and unafraid, yet also humble. Neither insecure nor arrogant. Just "this is where I am...and this is what I believe is important and will continue to seek in my work."
Almost everyone runs into harsh or self-serving criticism at some point in an art career, and the knowledge and confidence that comes from self-evaluation can be strong protection. At the same time, this knowledge allows an artist to be open to criticism that is credible and constructive. A self-aware artist is in a good position to understand the context of criticism and whether it fits and is useful.
Sensitivity to the nuances, strengths and weaknesses of your own work is also helpful when a friend or colleague asks for feedback. It's a lot easier to be articulate and compassionate with another person when you have had similar conversations in your own head.
I speak from experience on all of this...I'm a strong critic of my own work, but not a harsh one. Although of course I have frustrating and infuriating times in the studio, I try to have patience, trust in the process, and an understanding of what I'm after in the big picture.
(The painting above, Ireland #2
, 10"x8," has met my self-imposed painting criteria...)