Are you SURE you want a critique? by M Theresa Brown

Critiques. If you are an artist, you cannot escape the universal  useage nor  overexposure of the word, "Critique."  It is used randomly about the art world to the point where you either embrace the concept or reject it entirely.  In art,  Critiques are used in grade school, in art lessons,  art lecturers and schools of every calibre. But without a doubt it has gained widespread usage on the Internet message boards! But is a critique really what all these artists are asking for?

A decription of the word: "Critique has been used as a verb meaning "to review or discuss critically" since the 18th century, but lately this usage has gained much wider currency, in part because the verb criticize, once neutral between praise and censure, is now mainly used in a negative sense. But this use of critique is still regarded by many as pretentious jargon....."

Ouch. But let's truly analyze what a Critique is supposed to do and I cannot say it any better than a friend of mine did when asked about a Critique on a message board recently:

"Ah, critiques...
critiques do two things--

1. Establishes that the work has come to the point where the artist's abilities have reached their limit with that particular vision,
(or they've run out of time as in a classroom environment or commission, e.g.)

2. The people who are critiquing have two issues--

     a. They are not all trained in the language of design and communication to reach clarity with the artist about what needs to be done and WHY,and because of that

     b. they then bring into the discussion their own personal tastes and responses to the work, which may alter the directional vision of the artist, or worse, totally obscure the need for any design changes that would improve the work. (All the "attaboys" without content.)

Sometimes critiques can be harsh if the person posting does it to receive positive response.  Many early learners face this reality when their design and drawing knowledge come to the fire and someone points out a design issue that needs correcting (in their opinion).

I don't offer critiques much any more, unless it is one-on-one where I can be certain the person hearing my words understands the reasons for my saying them."Elin P.

My friend's definition was so well put that there was no way to improve upon anything that she said!

So we go back to what the requester of a Critique is REALLY asking!  And this is where you must be critically honest with yourself!  Do you want a critique (possibly at the hands of someone you should NOT be taking advice from) or a pat on the back?

We  never outgrow the need (and fun) of Show and Tell.  That is good!

But whereas a real critique in a controlled environment by persons whose advice you respect can be invaluable to you as an artist, more than likely what you are going to get is someone's personal opinion.  And that will happen 99% of the time you open up your work and abilities to a mass critique or an art group.  Be careful what you wish for!

Want to know more? Join Theresa and Steve June 18 for an all day seminar in Raleigh! Laast one until the Art of the Carolinas!




PSoA Conference 2011

When I was in school, I got in ruts just like anyone else.  Sometimes you are just frustrated or uninspired.  But one of the great things about school is that you have teachers and classmates to inspire you.  I have written before about how different it is to paint after college.  You do

 not have deadlines to meet unless they are your own and you do not have teachers to impress or class critiques.  It is easy to become stagnant.  And that is where I was in my art.

After a few years of painting my "Creeper" series, I moved onto a series inspired by Bettie Page.  After a couple of paintings, I just was not into it and it was evident in my work.  I felt like my technique was slipping and I was no longer challenging myself in either execution or concept.

About two weeks ago I got to go to the Portrait Society of America's annual Art of the Portrait Conference in Atlanta.  One of the best ways to learn is by watching; and there was plenty of talent to watch and learn from throughout the weekend.  The face-off competition on the first night had 15 of the top portrait artists painting from live models for only 2 hours.  There were fantastic demos from artists such as Rose Frantzen and Jeremy Lipking.

One of the best experiences I had was at a place called Fat Matt's Rib Shack.  We went there for drinks the first night and a blues singer named Eddie

was performing and he was amazing.  He is 82 and has been performing since he was 14.  Alexey Steele asked if he would be willing to meet him there in the morning and model.  He agreed.  We saw him the next day when Jeremy and Alexey painted this genuinely sweet and talented man.  It is great to watch Alexey paint because he is equally concerned with catching the likeness of the person as well as their essence.  After meeting Eddie, I can say that he definitely achieved both.

So after three intense days of demos and fun, what did I bring back to the studio?

Well, for about five days…nothing.  I was on a high about what a great time I had, really disappointed about not still being there, and getting back in the groove of work.  But then I was ready.  The motivation and inspiration that I had been longing for was back.  Every night when I get off work I have been in my studio for 4-5 hours working on my newest painting, a 6'x6' oil on canvas.

Even though I have continued to paint the figure since school, I found myself attacking this painting in a completely different way.  I am by no means painting the same as the artists I watched, but I see differently.  My process has changed.  I have kept some of my own methods and I have added new ones.  There's more than one way to skin a cat and there's more than one way to paint a figure.  Changing the formula keeps it interesting and puts you in the mindset of innovation which is where failure and huge successes occur.  And that is definitely the place that I want to be.



Newest Piece in Progress... 72" x 72"





In the Lab by Heather Goldstein

One of the many perks of working at Jerry's is all of the new products that we bring in.  For certain items that are new to the market, we must test them before we can decide to bring them in.  And who better to test them than Jerry's employees who are also artists?! Sharon DiGiulio and I spent hours of "grueling work (haha)" testing the new products we may bring in.  Everything from acrylics made  by one of our finest oil paint vendors, Charvin, to new gel mediums and colors premixed with these mediums from a great paint company, Lukas! 

First task....Charvin Inks.  These inks are a shellac based Egyptian ink similar to the Sennelier shellac based inks.  Testing and comparing these inks, we were extremely pleased with how comparable they were to the most popular Sennelier inks.  In the photo you can see the sest of these inks on raw canvas, watercolor paper, and printmaking paper.  Sharon also tested the inks on canvas board, our Soho boards, as well as practicing stamping.  We found that the inks were best suited for the printmaking paper and then second, the watercolor paper.  Although she was able to get a decent stamp by using a brayer, I would not recommend this over printmaking inks.

Next was my favorite to try...Charvin Acrylics.  I am an oil painter and I swear by Charvin!  I am not very comfortable with acrylics and so I wanted to see how this paint compared to other acrylic paint as Charvin has a very special grinding process that gets the pigments so fine and is the reason for their buttery consisitency.  The piictures below show the colors we used that Sharon painted in her sketchbook as well as a picture I painted on canvas panel of an eye.  I will say that I am still an oil painter through and through (as I have difficulty with a medium that dries so quickly) but of the paints I've used I was most pleased with these.  The mixablitity was very suprising and as long as the colors were mixed on the palette, it was very easy to create your own colors.  In addition, although acrylics tend to dry very flat, I was suprised by the comparative luster of these paints (although i wish the photograph reflected this better.


Last, but not least, Sharon tested the Lukas Art Gels.  This was really a fantastic product that can be used for both painting and stampling.  First, Sharon tested all of the colors on both white gesso canvas and black gesso canvas.  You can see that the colors retain their vibrancy on both surfaces.  The paint uses the new Lukas Artist Gels with equal pigmentaiton to paint in order to allow the artist to keep from diluting their colors by adding clear mediums.  You can see that the paint holds its peak extremely well in these examples.

To test this further, Sharon used stampes to see how well it cannot only retain its peak, but retain impasto shape.  She first used a this stencil  made of foam (the green stamp) and filled the cut-outs with paint.  Peeling the stamp off slowly, she was able to create a perfect stamp.  Then, as true art supply testers, we wanted to see how far it would go.  Sharon got a 1/2" thick piece of material, similar to foam core, cut out some shapes and repeated the same process.  To our amazement, the paint was able to keep it's shape with so much more applied.  Needless to say, we were extremely impressed with this product!


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