… a privilege and an art!
I recently witnessed a lengthy critique session. It was my first meeting at an organization I just joined. My personal philosophy is to embrace critique sessions as learning opportunities. Not only do we learn about the work itself, we also get to observe a panel of jurors/judges interact and communicate their feedback. Being asked to critique an artist’s work is an honor and a privilege. To communicate ones observations while providing constructive feedback is an art.
With this in mind I approach any open critique with caution. In the past I have had excellent experiences where the judges take on the role of mentors, speaking about each work of art with deep respect, taking time to point out areas that could be improved upon. At the same time I have witnessed open critique sessions conducted by well-respected artists where the tone was aggressive, even downright combative and discouraging to a number of artists who entered work. I realize that it is important to “grow a thick skin” when it comes to surviving in the art world. However, a critique session is not the time or place to let a personal dislike or even jealousy shine through.
Robert Genn’s recent post on Creative Darwinism elaborates on group critiques. He also offers several valuable options for successful critiques and ways to ask for input. Check out his writing – if you are not familiar with his Painter’s Keys.
Getting back to the critique session from Tuesday night: It was as if the panel of judges had been briefed by Robert Genn in person. Images were presented in an anonymous fashion. Each professional had previewed the images on their computers, made personal notes and was well prepared. Each judge briefly evaluated the image projected on the large screen. He/she proceeded with excellent suggestions for improvement, ranging from cropping to overall composition, the position of the focal point or the absence of one, texture and how it related to the subject on hand and the context of each image. This was a great opportunity to revisit elements and principles of design.
Once again I learned a lot. If I have one criticism… two hours of sitting in a dark room on uncomfortable chairs was somewhat taxing. In addition I am very aware of the use of everyday phrases: As a judge it is important to stay impartial. “I like” and “I don’t like” are subjective and make any feedback lack in objectivity. For now, the images are vivid in my mind and I am confident that I will remember many of the excellent suggestions from the professional judges.
Meanwhile, Lao Tzu’s words will resonate within me “Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.”
What is your experience with juries and/or judging? Do you have a personal story to share – please weigh in with a comment. This is a topic that needs more open discussion: here is YOUR chance!